Which is less expensive, oil or gas (propane) heat in Maine?

Asked by Pj, Michigan Mon Aug 4, 2008

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Gene Thomas, Home Buyer, East Baldwin, ME
Sun Dec 7, 2008
British thermal units (BTUs) is the measure of heat. Residential grade oil (NO.2) provides 138,600 BTUs per gallon. Propane only provides 91,600 BTUs per gallon. Anotherwords, propane only provides 66% of the heating BTUs as NO.2 oil. The current price for No.2 oil in Maine, as of Dec 1, 2008, is about $2.70 per gallon, and current price for propane is in Maine is about $2.85 per gallon. Assuming that there are two furnaces, one that burns oil and one that burns propane, and they are both 83% efficient. If you burned NO.2 oil, it would cost you $23.47 for every million BTUs of output. If you burned propane, it would cost you $37.49 for every million BTUs of output. Fuel doesn't necessarily burn more efficiently, but one boiler or furnace can be more efficient than another, based on its construction and how it burns the fuel. Some gas furnaces, such as condensing types, are as nuch as 93% efficient. One good way to save fuel, whether you burn oil or propane, is to get the most efficient unit as possible.

Hope this helps
Gene Thomas
2 votes
John, , Southern Maine
Thu Dec 4, 2008
I am and Oil Heat and Propane Technician in Southern Maine. To me there is no comparison betwen Oil and Propane costs, Oil is much cheaper. You need to burn 1.42 gallons of propane to equal the heat recieved from one gallon of heating oil. The appliances usually ruin with in 5-10% of each other as far as efficency.
Think of this way if you burn 1000 gallons of Oil a year, youll need 1400 gallons of propane. Call you local retailer and ask then for the cash price of each. Do the math. Propane compaines know this, that why they recomend it to you. They make more money off of proane. You must always remeber when talking to a SALESMAN they're are in it for them. not you. I dont sell either Oil or Propane just service the products. Dont be duped by the propane "myth".
2 votes
Calidebo, Home Owner, Maine
Sat Dec 18, 2010
I just wish the state of Maine would work with a utility company to offer Natural Gas to the citizens of this state. Natural gas is a Clean, efficient option to oil. I live 5 miles from a natural gas hub here in Maine and do not have a chance of ever being hooked up. We need to stand up against the oil industries in the State.The more options there are for heating your home the more it works in the consumers favor regarding prices. The oil industries sure has a firm grip in this state.
1 vote
Coastarippa, Both Buyer And Seller, Richmond, ME
Sun Jun 6, 2010
We have to reduce our use of oil, and that is what I plan to do, I am going with propane heating and cooling, cooking, gas stove, gas grill and gas furnace. Oil dependency, means oil companies controlling us. Look at BP w/ this spill in the gulf. If that was a fertilizer company leaking toxins, the government would force them to use EVERY resource available to stop the leak. BP tell Obama, don't worry we are doing our best and the government just listens to their master "big oil".
1 vote
Kim, Home Buyer, Belfast, ME
Sat Feb 7, 2009
My parents recently put in propane heat, and the local delivery companies have told them that they more propane you use the cheaper it is. The more units you buy the less they charge you.
1 vote
Cheryl Elrich, Home Buyer, Lincoln, NE
Mon Oct 13, 2008
As a home owner, I have found that propane has consistently been cheaper than oil. I've used propane here for 12 plus years and that has always been the case. I can't recall ever getting a delivery that the propane cost more than the current average price of oil. My entire house is run on propane- refrigerator, water tank, small area heaters and a generator. (The house is solar powered). I use wood as heat when home. I have a 1000 gal tank which is filled toabout 75% capacity. My most recent deliverey of fuel was $3.09 at a time when oil was about $1.00 more. Of course, I do get a large volume discount. A friend of mine had a recent delivery and it was $4.70 a gallon but he just uses it for cooking and water so he doesn't use much. Comparing value by looking at BTU, I think oil probably proides more btu's per gallon.
1 vote
C., , Brunswick, OH
Mon Aug 4, 2008
I don't know, but I want to know the answer also!! I did a bit of research today on the 2 types of heating and found out that oil is more efficient. It seems as though propane is going to be more expensive, but I think it might depend on the house...it's age, how small/big, where it's located (by water) etc. Can anyone out there with propane heat give me (us) and idea of what you pay in the coldest winter months- and how big your house is, it's age, etc.??
1 vote
mattdalek47, , Columbus, OH
Tue Mar 3, 2015
I imagine it depends on the energy efficiency of your home and how much fuel you will use. That goes for most areas. It has a lot to do with where the fuel is being used and how. I know in my area a lot of people like propane, but other households do better with oil and oil delivery. The best thing to do is find a professional company and outline things for them and see what they say.

0 votes
Harrison Wol…, Agent, Hallowell, ME
Tue Feb 3, 2015
Depends on the price per gallon - oil gives off more BTUs per gallon, but many gas heat sources are easily converted to natural gas, which may be a good option in the future. Right now oil prices are very low but who knows how long that will last!
0 votes
Caleb Hart, Renter, Orem, UT
Wed Jan 28, 2015
I have lived in a home that used propane heating before. We lived in the mountains and couldn't get gas lines up to us. Believe it or not, we actually used coal to heat our house. I don't know what's the best heating source. http://www.stonypropane.com/our-services/construction-heating/
0 votes
Murphy Team, Agent, Portland, ME
Sun Aug 31, 2014
These are all great answers with specific details. The efficiency of your heating plant is of prime importance. Always have furnace/boiler serviced annually.
0 votes
I agree that all these answers have been great! Although, I would call around your area to see what your neighbors have and what they prefer. Who better to get advice from than the residents themselves? http://www.eulisspropane.com/about.htm
Flag Thu Sep 18, 2014
lynnchase9, , Phoenix, AZ
Mon Aug 25, 2014
I was actually wondering the same thing. We recently just moved to a new area and weren't sure which would be more beneficial financially for our family. We need to know pretty soon so we can have our propane delivered if needs be the case. Did you find out anything?

Brooke Bowen | http://www.reevespropane.com/commercial.htm
0 votes
Sustainable…, Home Owner, Woolwich, ME
Fri Nov 29, 2013
The real answer to this question is BOTH! The best way to reduce your heating costs is to increase the efficiency of your structure. I highly recommend getting a building energy audit done and then following their recommendations for improving the installation of your building envelope. Many people who do this find they can cut their heating costs by as much as 50% with modest investments in building sealing and installation.
0 votes
npenthis, Home Buyer, Augusta, ME
Tue Aug 21, 2012
One thing about heating a home with oil is that much more heat is being wasted out of the chimney (an all fuel chimney is necessary) whereas a condensing propane unit can be vented in pvc pipe.
0 votes
David, , Maine
Mon Sep 26, 2011
Another person "Gene Thomas" has already indicated that to get a true apples to apples comparison, you need to compare BTU's per dollar. Take BTUs X efficiency / cost per gallon to get BTUs per dollar. At current New England prices (Sep 2011) it is cheaper to heat with heating oil than propane. Many people still prefer propane because of other factors and homeowners should consider these.

Annual maintenance costs. Propane systems less cleaning (although safety inspections are important)

Heating oil tank: You need to factor in the heating oil tanks. Some consumers don't like having a heating oil tank in their basement, nor do they like the idea of potential leaks and clean up costs.

Multiple uses: You can heat your home and run your appliances with propane. Some people don't like having two fuels at there home.

0 votes
Gene Thomas, Home Buyer, East Baldwin, ME
Sat Dec 13, 2008
This is an update to my last post. Since Dec 1, 2008, the cost of NO.2 heating oil has dropped dramatically. As of Dec 12, 2008, we are now purchasing NO.2 heating oil in southern Maine for as low as $1.89 per gallon. Based on this price for NO.2 oil, using an 83% efficient furnace or boiler, it will cost you $16.43 per million BTUs of output. If you burn propane at $2.85 per gallon, it will cost you $37.49 per million BTUs of output, or more than twice the cost of NO.2 oil.

Hope this helps
Gene Thomas
0 votes
Jennifer Day, Agent, Augusta, ME
Fri Sep 26, 2008
Obviously oil is very expensive right now, but not only that it emits a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. Propane is a better choice for many reasons. Oil & propane are hard to compare, because one comes in a compressed liquid gas form and the other a pure liquid. I have both in my home, and find that propane is slightly more expensive per unit (although with the turmoil in the oil industry, it could be different this heating season). However, the great thing about propane is that it is more efficient. It burns better & more thoroughly. I find that it lasts longer, and the tank gets filled less frequently than my oil tank.
Web Reference:  http://www.movemaine.com
0 votes
Margaret Mit…, Agent, York, ME
Thu Aug 7, 2008
OK, I hesitated to answer here because I have not run the numbers recently. However, two years ago I ran detailed costs/efficiencies on propane vs. oil heat, for a 6,000 SF well insulated home in Southern Maine. Oil was a cheaper fuel source.
At the time, the size of the house would not change the answer - oil was cheaper. Size of the house/energy efficiency would affect total cost savings one over the other, but not the answer.
Now this answer may not hold true outside of Maine, where natural gas is common. There is a perception of many people that gas is cheaper than oil which may be true where natural gas prevails. Also, it might be possible that there are some initial costs savings with a gas furnace i.e. you might be able to buy a cheaper gas furnace. But these costs savings would be relatively small and not justify the increased heating costs over the life of the furnace. IMHO.
Sorry can't give you more details - I did not save the calcuations but ran them with our HVAC contractor.. But I believe that oil is the way to go in Maine.
0 votes
Diana Downs, Agent, Bangor, ME
Tue Aug 5, 2008
I think gas has been higher but who knows what this coming winter's prices will be like.
0 votes
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