Propane? Electric? Oil? Gas? Here's Our Guide to Choosing the Home Heating That’s Right for You.
Your furnace. It’s the heartbeat of your home, keeping the kitchen humming and your living spaces cozy. You need it to work perfectly, all day, every day. That means it needs to be not only reliable, but efficient as well. And no matter how you measure it – by comfort level, carbon footprint, or monthly heating bill – the level of warmth and efficiency your home heating system provides starts with one thing: the fuel you choose.
We’re here to walk you through four steps to choosing a heating source – so you can keep toasty, reduce your carbon footprint, and stay within your budget.
1. Set your priorities.
With so many options and features, it’s a good idea to start by asking yourself some questions:
- How much space do you need to heat? A five-bedroom house has very different requirements than a small cottage. The more space you need to heat, the harder your heater has to work – and the more reliable the entire home heating system has to be.
- How important is it to use a cleaner-burning fuel? Home heating requires fuel, which creates carbon emissions. As new, cleaner fuel sources become available, you may want to take advantage of opportunities to reduce your household’s carbon footprint.
- Is reducing long-term heating costs a priority? Energy Star ratings assure that your appliances are energy efficient.
- Do you want to lower your monthly heating bill? This one may go without saying.
Establishing some parameters around the basics can help you start narrowing down your options.
2. Do your part for the environment … while saving on heating costs.
As the world moves toward cleaner-burning fuels and lower emissions, the cost of some green technologies can seem like a tradeoff: A zero-emissions electric vehicle may be more expensive than a traditional SUV, for example. What about alternative fuels? A geothermal heat pump system, designed to limit fossil fuel consumption, requires extra power to generate and circulate adequate heat and can cost upwards of $10,000 to install. What if there were a fuel source that was both cleaner burning and affordable?
We believe there is. A high-efficiency propane furnace may reduce your average annual energy costs and CO2 emissions compared with heating oil -- without having to install a costly new geothermal heating system.
Propane has advantages over electric-powered furnaces, too. In addition to offering high-energy output (it takes less propane than other fuels to generate the same heat), propane-fueled furnaces emit up to 50 percent fewer nitrogen oxide and 82 percent fewer sulfur oxide emissions than electric ones.
3. When it comes to cost, take the long view.
When considering any major household purchase, it can be tempting to go with the least expensive short-term option – a lower monthly heating bill or the lowest upfront equipment cost, for instance. But you’ll be in your home for years, possibly decades, and you want the highest return on your investment over time. It’s worthwhile, then, to choose a home heating fuel that will deliver the greatest rewards in fuel efficiency and clean-burning energy long term. And when it comes to efficiency, safety, and cleaner energy, that choice is propane.
Installation costs depend on many factors. However, we do know that geothermal systems have some of the highest upfront installation costs of any heating system – potentially into the tens of thousands, depending on the area you need to heat and other factors – while a propane tank system is typically a more affordable heating system to purchase and install. (For more guidance on how to select the right propane setup for you, read our guide to getting started with propane.)
4. Look at your monthly heating bill
After you’ve done some price comparison on the upfront costs of making a transition, think about the number you want to see on your monthly home heating bill. There’s a lot that can affect that figure, everything from oven use to weather patterns. For comparison’s sake, let’s zoom in on one item in particular: Your water heater — that essential device that makes bath time bearable.
Your water heater alone makes up about 13 percent of your total bill. But by switching to an Energy Star–certified propane water heater, you can reduce those annual costs by 13 to 20 percent compared with an electric water heater, according to the Propane Energy and Resource Council. Propane water heaters also reduce annual carbon emissions by 1,700 pounds compared to standard electric units. That adds up to a whole lot of savings — and that’s just one appliance.