Heating Oil vs Electricity

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Heating oil vs. electricity is another popular debate when it comes to the topic of how to heat your home. Many think oil is outdated and that it’s time to turn to more modern heating systems that may be more efficient, better for the environment, safer and cost less. But the fact is that heating oil ranks better in all those categories than just about any other fuel source out there, even electricity.

A little background….

So just when did heating oil and electricity become an available choice to heat your home? In 1883, Thomas Edison invented the electric heater. And even before that, in 1855, Franz San Galli from Russia invented the radiator. This was the first major step toward modern central home heating systems. But despite this, wood burning fireplaces and coal burning stoves were the primary source of home heating. Oil heaters first appeared in the 1920s. But it wasn’t until the 1930’s that homes started switching to oil heat.

Residential electric storage heaters were developed in the early 1960s. They provided a way for people to heat their homes cheaply. Storage heaters worked by using electricity overnight to slowly heat up thermal bricks in the heater body. This heat could be released during the day as and when needed, then recharged overnight. These heaters worked together with cheaper rates to make use of surplus night-time electricity. The method remained popular for many years. But the oil energy crisis of the 1970s and the privatization of electric companies in the 1990s saw storage heating take a back-seat to more modern heating systems.

Today, about 44% of Connecticut households use fuel oil or other petroleum products for home heating. Only about 16% heat their homes with electricity.  It has a lot to do with the efficiency, environment, safety and cost considerations we alluded to before.

Efficiency of Heating Oil vs. Electricity

Within a household electric system, all incoming electric energy changes to heat energy. At this level, it’s 100 percent efficient. However, the use of natural gas and nuclear power currently account for about 95% of Connecticut’s electricity generation. But only about 30 percent of the fossil fuels used are converted into electricity, which means there is a great deal of inefficiency in electricity generation.

Also consider the inefficiency of transporting electricity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly two-thirds of electricity generated at most power plants is lost between the plant and the consumer.

And then there’s the fact that oil puts out more heat energy per BTU than electricity and other fuels. Because oil burns very hot, it heats your home faster for longer with less fuel.

In addition, oil heating furnaces, tanks, and other system equipment tend to last much longer than other types of heating systems. With proper maintenance, today’s oil-fired heating furnaces and boilers can last 30 years or more – significantly longer than systems powered by electricity.

Electric heaters are available for either whole houses or individual rooms. This makes them useful for heating additions or seldom-used rooms. However, oil heat systems can also be zoned. This enables you to regulate different temperatures in different areas of the house that are not being using.

Electric heaters are significantly less efficient than their oil-burning counterparts and the air that’s delivered is also cooler than in oil systems.

Environmental Impact of Heating Oil vs. Electricity

Advocates for electricity will point to the low emissions produced by electric appliances, but that doesn’t take the full picture into account. As noted above, electricity is produced by burning natural gas, which is 95 percent methane – a greenhouse gas with 84 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Heating oil is a clean fuel which produces almost zero emissions. And over the past 3 decades, the sulfur content of heating oil has been reduced by over 93%.  

Safety of Heating Oil vs. Electricity

Electric furnaces are safe for home air quality. Since there is no combustion in electric systems, they don’t produce dangerous gases.

But, according to a National Fireman’s Protection Association study, electric heating accounted for six times more fires, more than nine times more civilian deaths, nearly 12 times more civilian injuries, and nearly 15 times more direct property damage than heating systems powered by liquid fuel. This is in large part due to the fact that heating oil is not flammable in a liquid state.

Heating oil doesn’t ignite until its temperature reaches 140 degrees, when it vaporizes. Because of this higher flame point it’s much harder to ignite accidentally. Oil it is non-explosive and non-toxic with a clean burn that won’t pollute the air. Oil is one of the safest fuels to heat your home with.

Cost of Heating Oil vs. Electric Heat

Because of electricity generation and transmission losses, electric heat is often more expensive than heat produced in homes using combustion appliances.

As we brave the winter of 2021–22, retail prices for energy are at or near multiyear highs. The high prices follow changes to energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts expect that households across the United States will spend more on energy this winter compared with the past several winters. This is due to higher energy prices and that it’s shaping up to be a colder winter than last year.

The increase in energy prices is also being affected by the United States’ return to economic growth. That means higher residential energy bills this winter regardless of the fuel source you use. The U.S. Energy Information Association predicts that the 4% of U.S. households that use heating oil as the primary space heating fuel will spend $1,734 on average this winter, up 43% from last winter. They forecast that U.S. households that heat with electricity will spend an average of $1,268 this winter, which is 6% more than last winter.

Choose Oil and Choose Levco

Oil heating is more efficient, burns cleaner, is safer, and costs less than electric heating. In the Northeast, it’s no wonder more homes choose heating oil over electricity to heat their homes. Levco has been providing heating oil to homes and businesses for over 40 years. You can count on us to keep the heat running all year long! Give us a call or get in touch with us today!

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