Oil prices have remained very low for months, making oil heat the cheapest option around. Before oil prices dropped sharply in early 2015, natural gas was somewhat cheaper than oil heat. However, this calculation needs to be made carefully, since fuel is not the only heat-related expense to consider.

The heating systems we use are not cheap. A good heating system for a 2,000 square feet home costs thousands of dollars. Whatever your source of energy is, you will need to replace your heating furnace or boiler after a certain period.

Heating oil furnaces and boilers are known to be the cheapest and long lasting. A properly maintained oil furnace or boiler can last as long as 20 years keeping relatively high efficiency levels during all that period. Someone may find oil heat equipment maintenance messy, but it’s not a rocket science. You will just need to regularly replace filters, and they’re really cheap.

Natural gas furnaces are expensive. Their construction is more complex than that of oil heat furnaces or boilers. This complexity means, among other things, that it has some very precious and fine parts, which would wear relatively quickly. Once these parts wear, your natural gas furnace or boiler needs to be replaced with another expensive unit. Natural gas furnaces and boilers need maintenance, too.  And once it breaks, it will usually be much more expensive to repair a natural gas heater than it would be the case with oil heating units.

cheap heating oilOne of the major strengths of natural gas heating system is high efficiency. These systems effectively burn all the gas that comes into it turning it all into heat. However, there is a certain risk that gas pipelines will leak somewhere where you won’t be able to detect, and you may lose a lot of fuel without ever realizing it.

All of the latest heating oil boilers and furnaces are high-efficiency, with sealed combustion chamber enabling them to turn more than 95% of oil into heat. Though they are more expensive than standard performance heating units, their price is comparable to prices of natural gas solutions.

With that being said, fuel remains the major expense related to heating. Currently, prices of oil are unbeatable, and are expected to stay that way until at least 2017. The oil market in US is very oversupplied – the most it’s been in 80 years. Natural gas may remain an affordable option, but keep in mind that natural gas produces less heat than oil so you would need to use more gas to achieve the same temperature in your home compared to oil.

Switching to natural gas will cost you thousands of dollars and currently this cost cannot be justified, looking at the low prices of oil heat.

Price hikes of a single widely used energy source typically drives other fuels’ prices up. Natural gas might become cheaper than oil again, but that difference will not be substantial. The save you make by use of natural gas to heat your home will be suppressed with higher costs of replacing the equipment, and using more gas to achieve the same temperature compared to heating oil. There is clearly a good reason why the Northeast, as the most developed area with icy winters in the country still relies on oil heat.