Converting to Gas

The most popular alternative to oil heat is natural gas. Natural gas appears to be less expensive than oil as a heating fuel. But there are many factors to consider:

  • A good quality, annually maintained, existing oil furnace may cost a little more to operate, but does not require the capital outlay of a new gas furnace. There is a popular misconception that oil heat is 'dirty' and gas heat is 'clean'. However, a good quality and well maintained furnace does not introduce any combustion by-products into the heated area - no matter what the fuel.
  • Natural gas does not require a tank and the combustion by-products are arguably less polluting to the outdoor air.
  • By bringing in natural gas or propane to the house, some of the existing load on a small electrical service can be reduced. That is, a 100 amp electrical service may be all you need in a larger home if you use gas for the heating of the air and water, cooking and the drying of clothes. As a result, it may be possible to save on electrical upgrades by bringing gas to the house.
  • Gas hot water heaters, and most fireplace inserts and stoves, can be operated without electrical power - a benefit during power outages. Most furnaces, gas dryers, and even pellet stoves require some electric power in order to operate.
  • High efficiency gas furnaces don't require chimneys. This is a potential cost savings if the existing chimney needs repair or is in the way of a potential remodel. The combustion of natural gas produces a great deal of water vapor. This water vapor can destroy an old masonry chimney. Such chimneys should be lined if used with a gas furnace.
  • All furnaces need regular professional maintenance service. A gas furnace should be serviced and professionally tested for carbon monoxide every 1 to 2 years. Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of the by-products in the combustion of natural gas. It is very rare for a gas furnace to produce enough CO to satisfy the needs of Dr. Kevorkian. However, low levels of CO can have a very serious health effects and the possibility of CO as a cause of the problem is often overlooked. Even very low CO levels, under 20 PPM, can result in lower cognitive ability. Oil furnaces require annual maintenance.