Which is Better for Home Heating: Natural Gas or Oil Heat?

If you live in the northeast United States, then you understand how important choosing a heating fuel type is. Smaller homes and condominiums usually will be offered electric heat as their main source of heating. However, larger homes do not get this benefit because it becomes too expensive to heat larger spaces. Instead, there are some more cost-effective heating fuel options such as Natural Gas. It’s become very popular in recent years and for good reason. However, is it better than Heating Oil? In this blog post, we go over the differences between the two.

Heating Oil, Propane and Natural Gas

When it comes to heating fuel types, the big three are heating oil, natural gas, and propane. Each with its pros and cons. But it’s important to choose one to be your main source of home heating. For instance, if you want to use natural gas or propane, you must have a gas stove in your home. This also means if you have it only for cooking.

Natural Gas

Natural gas has become a popular form of heating in the Northeast. However, it only tends to be available in cities or towns with a dense population. There is a network of pipes that travel underneath the street and connect to various buildings across your neighborhood. A good way to tell if your town uses natural gas is if the roads are constantly being ripped open and repaired. This is normally done to maintain the natural gas lines.

Another way to tell is to take a look at the houses in your neighborhood to see if they have a meter like the one shown below. These types of meters will track and regulate the flow of natural gas into your home. The homeowner will then be billed by the company that provides natural gas and you would then be billed for electrical usage.

Natural gas is less common in areas where homes are more spread out. This is due to the inability to properly maintain the pipes, but also the lack of clientele for this type of heat in particular. That is why you will often see most homes in quiet neighborhoods using heating oil or propane.

This is what the average natural gas meter tends to look like. If you see this in your home or a neighbors, this means that they have it connected to a natural gas supply line.

Heating Oil

Heating Oil has become a fast favorite amongst homeowners in the Northeast. It’s reliable and outputs an incredible amount of heat, putting out 35% more effective BTUs compared to propane at a much lower cost. However, heating oil prices tend to fluctuate a lot. Another benefit to using heating oil is that you store it in an oil tank. These tanks are usually indoors in your basement or garage but are sometimes outdoors.

You’ll likely also have several different oil dealers located in your town. With access to so many different dealers, you’ll be able to price shop and find a price that’s right for you! You’ll also have a lot of freedom to order when you want and from anyone you want! The immense competition ensures that you won’t be stuck with the controlling utility price of natural gas.

Heating oil is stored in a tank similar to the tank shown in the above photo here. Typically they are found in your basement and have a gauge of some sort installed into the top of the tank.


Propane is incredibly similar to natural gas. However, it is stored in tanks that are installed on your property instead of through a pipeline. The gas is stored in a pressurized tank as a liquid. This is why you will often see the abbreviation L.P, which means “Liquid Propane”. These tanks are more often than not, stored above ground and are ugly to look at.

About 95% of propane tanks in the northeast are owned by the propane dealer themselves. This tends to often be problematic, as it prevents you from ordering propane when you need it as the homeowner. This can often lead to expensive propane prices and sometimes you will find yourself paying twice as much per gallon when comparing prices to heating oil. If you are considering using propane heat, please consider reading this blog post first.

Propane tanks often look like this. Although there are smaller sizes out there, they will usually have to be installed in massive tanks like this if you wish to head a large home.

Choosing Between Heating Oil, Propane or Natural Gas

If you have a choice between these three options, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each. Heating Oil and Natural Gas are both fantastic ways to heat your home. However, natural gas is often provided by a monopolized utility provider, so you may prefer heating oil for its flexibility. While propane is a fantastic way to heat your home, it is often controlling and expensive.

If you’d rather not have to worry about ordering a delivery or signing up for automatic delivery and would just like to have the convenience of heat flowing through your home, then natural gas might be the best option for you.

When using heating oil, it’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use it to power a gas stove, gas fireplace or a generator. You will need either natural gas or a propane tank to be able to operate those utilities.

Which Form of Heating is the Best?

If you find a home that comes with natural gas as your primary source of heat, we highly recommend it. It’s cost-effective, versatile, and can run auxiliary systems such as fireplaces, stoves, and much more!

However, if natural gas is not something that you have access to, then we recommend using heating oil to heat your home. It is significantly more cost-effective when comparing it to other forms of fuel oil such as propane and it gives you the ability to shop around and get the best possible prices available to you. Using websites such as FuelSnap will let you look at all the local dealers in your area and their prices to see which one has the best!

If you can’t get access to both heating oil and natural gas, then propane isn’t a bad option for utilities! You can use propane to heat your stove, and fireplace and a generator is perfect! While it’s powering those, you’ll be able to heat your home and hot water using heating oil! You’ll be able to get the best of both worlds!

Happy Heating,