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Furnace options for rural homes

Rural Home? Compare Electric, Propane and Oil Furnaces

Many homes located in rural areas are often not near a source of natural gas, the fuel of choice for modern heating equipment. They commonly have three options for a fuel source: electric, propane, or oil. We’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each type of heat, and considerations on whether or not you should switch your system the next time you upgrade.

Furnace Installation Cost

Furnace installation costs can vary considerably for the different types of fuel. An electric furnace is usually the least expensive to purchase and install. Propane gas and fuel oil furnaces need a method to exhaust the burned byproducts, storage systems and plumbing for the fuel, in addition to electric wiring for the system controls. These factors all add to the install expenses for furnaces with these two types of fuels.

Some high efficiency fossil fuel-burning furnaces are eligible for tax rebates or other incentive programs or utility company rebates. Contact Greg at our office or visit the Energy.gov website to find out about local tax credits.

Like most HVAC contractors, we bundle the installation costs into the total cost of furnace installation.

Ongoing Furnace Operating Costs

Average costs to operate each type of furnace vary from place to place. Some areas may find that electricity is the cheapest to heat with; in other areas, propane and fuel oil cost less to heat than electric furnaces. We recommend you check and compare costs from your local utility and fuel source to see which is the best bargain. Here’s a great comparison chart to give you a general idea of fuel costs compared: https://energykinetics.com/savingsheatingfuelcomparisons/

Efficiency is the Key

The way we measure furnace output is the British Thermal Units (BTUs). An energy source that produces more BTUs, the more efficient the furnace. Electricity is delivered and paid in terms of kilowatt-hours (kWh). Turns out electricity is fairly efficient, with almost 100 percent of the electricity converting to heat. Fossil fuels, however, never convert 100% of the fuel into heat; there’s always a loss involved. Between five percent and 30 percent of a fossil fuel furnace’s efficiency is lost when converting fuel oil, propane or natural gas to heat. When considering which type of furnace to install, compare the energy efficiency ratio found on the furnace’s labeling to get the most efficient system. Or, you can simply talk to our sales guy Greg to get an exact

Environmental Impact Considerations

In a properly maintained furnace, propane and fuel oil emit about the same amount of emissions or waste. Of course, electric furnaces emit no direct waste, but you have to consider the electricity generated by a fuel-burning power plant could create a significant amount of pollutants. The environmental impact depends on how electricity is generated in your area. In addition, demand for electricity has been steadily increasing, which could affect the availability and cost of service.

The Big Issue: Availability

Even in the most rural areas, electricity is readily available in our service area in central Ohio. Other fuel types, like fuel oil or propane, can vary in availability based on where you live, but for the most part can be delivered to most locations. If your home is in an urban area, your best bet is to go with natural gas if it’s available, since storage of propane and fuel oil can be difficult in the city. Availability can be a big deciding factor on the type of furnace you install.

Maintenance Considerations

Fuel oil, propane and natural gas all have many moving parts; they produce combustion and get dirty; and they need exhaust installed. Electric furnaces have fewer moving parts, don’t burn fossil fuels (so have no exhaust gases), and have no need for exhaust. Furnaces that burn fossil fuels are much higher-maintenance than electric, so be sure to factor maintenance costs into the price of a new furnace.

Quick Comparison

Here’s a comparison chart to show advantages and disadvantages of each type of furnace.
AdvantagesDisadvantages
ElectricElectricity is widely available. Installation costs tend to be lower for an electric furnace (because no exhaust is required). Electricity has no emissions (at the home), runs quieter, and requires much less maintenance than a fossil fuel furnace.Generally, the cost to heat the same space compared to a fossil fuel furnace can be almost double in some areas. Environmental impact of an electric furnace can be greater if the power is generated by a fossil fuel burning power plant.
PropanePropane gas heats quickly and is generally burns cleaner than heating oil. Propane also doesn’t produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide when burned. Propane is considered a “clean fuel” by the US Government.Cost of propane is relatively high. Cost of propane tends to be fairly volatile, making it difficult to calculate future operating costs.
Heating OilJust like propane, heating oil also heats quickly, but is more likely to be used up more slowly than propane. Oil is not combustible like gas, so it’s considered to be safer. Newer oil furnaces tend to burn cleaner and quieter.Controlling heat output tends to be more difficult with heating oil than it is with propane. Oil also contains more particulates than propane, so an oil furnace will require more maintenance than a propane furnace.

Dor-Mar to the Rescue!

Schedule an appointment for HVAC system installation, troubleshooting or maintenance with us today by using our online contact form, or call one of our seven neighborhood offices listed below. We pride ourselves on our customer-focused service, and our reviews show it.

NEWARK  740.345.6639 • COLUMBUS 614.238.6689 • DUBLIN 614.545.8939 • REYNOLDSBURG 614.365.1579 • WESTERVILLE 614.381.1540 • GROVE CITY 614.595.3098 • ZANESVILLE 740.454.2420

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