Disadvantages of Heating With Propane

Ever think about making the switch from heating oil to propane? Ten years ago this was touted as a great way to save money. Today, however, this could not be further from the truth. I use both heating oil and propane in my house, and I wanted to share some thoughts about both here.

above ground propane storage tank
Heating with propane means having an outdoor tank that is either above ground like this one, or buried beneath the ground. Since these tanks are usually owned by the propane provider, switching providers is very difficult.

Benefits of Propane

Propane is one of the most versatile fuels. If you do not have access to natural gas where you live, propane offers many of the same benefits:

  • Powering a generator.
  • Fueling a gas fireplace.
  • Fueling a gas cooktop.

There are also tasks that can be accomplished by either heating oil or propane, and these include:

  • Heating your house.
  • Heating your hot water.

Since heating oil creates significantly more heat per gallon than propane (you will need 1.35 gallons of propane to create the same heat as 1 gallon of heating oil), you are much better off heating your home with oil. That said, you can still have propane at your house for other purposes, such as a gas fireplace or generator.

Propane Fueled Fireplace
Propane is an extremely versatile fuel. It can be used for ancillary items like fireplaces and stoves, but is a very expensive option for heating a home.

Disadvantages of Propane

While propane is very similar to natural gas, the main difference is that it needs to be delivered. This puts it into the same category as heating oil: fuels that are delivered via truck. That said, there is a big difference between heating oil and propane: with heating oil, the homeowner always owns the tank. With propane, the supplier almost always owns the tank. This leads to some often overlooked disadvantages, including:

Switching propane suppliers is very difficult. This is because 95% of the time the propane company owns the tank on your property – not you! This means that another company cannot fill your tank, even if you wanted them to.

Propane is very difficult to price-compare. Try calling around for a price per gallon for propane. Most dealers will not give this to you – even over the phone. They will ask you a series of questions such as how many gallons you plan on using over the course of the year. With heating oil, there is a very clear market price per gallon. You can use a site like FuelSnap to compare prices for heating oil and order oil online.

Propane is more expensive than heating oil. Not only does propane cost more per gallon than heating oil, you actually need 35% more propane to generate the same amount of heat as heating oil! So if you’re comparing prices of propane and heating oil, multiply the propane price by 1.35 to see how it compares to today’s going rate for heating oil.

What is the Best Fuel Type for Heating Your Home?

If you have access to natural gas where you live, then this is the hands down winner. It is not only very versatile, it is also economical and does not have to be delivered. You simply pay your bill every month as you do your electric bill.

Between heating oil and propane, however, heating oil is far superior. It is not only less expensive, but you have significantly more freedom with heating oil. You can price compare to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and order heating oil online whenever your tank is low.

Furthermore, if you still want to run a gas stove top or fireplace, you can also have propane! Just get a single propane tank for these ancillary uses and you can get the best of both worlds. If you’re still deciding between heating oil and propane, check out this post here for a deeper dive into the topic.

Happy heating,

Steve