Oil and propane, also known as Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) especially in the UK, are both fossil fuels. All the negative aspects of fossil fuels are, therefore, associated with both LPG and oil:
- fuel from a non renewable resource,
- carbon emissions,
- a risk from carbon monoxide when fossil fuel is burned.
Domestic Fuel Delivered to Remote Locations
For those in rural location, off the main gas grid either propane gas or heating oil could be an excellent solution to meet domestic fuel requirements. Both oil or propane must be delivered to the site by a tanker and be stored on site in a suitable container. The fuel could be kept in a bulk storage container discretely hidden or buried below ground.
Is Heating Oil or Propane (LPG) a Better Residential Fuel?
There are pros and cons to either fuel. Oil smells, which can be a good thing because the strong smell can be an alert signal for a problem such as a leak. Appliances which use oil rather than gas usually enjoy a longer lifespan, such as oil boilers. The longer life may not result in savings for the consumer, however, if the old appliance is significantly less efficient and one must consider the cost of buying new appliances. A new gas furnace or boiler might be cheaper than an oil one.
Oil is a thick smelly liquid, propane is only liquid whilst stored under pressure. Despite its name, LPG is an invisible gas, a odour has been added to it so that leaks can easily be detected. If there is a propane gas leak it will disipate in air but it should not be stored in a basement where it will pool because it is heavier than air.
Is Propane (LPG) or Oil the Cheaper Domestic Fuel?
Comparing the price per litre, or gallon, is not useful because the fuels do not give rise to equal amounts of heat per volume. Currently, on average heating the home with propane will give rise to higher fuel bills than with reisentail heating oil, but in specific areas prices can vary greatly.
Propane has a heat value of 91,000 BTUs per gallon of liquid, oil produces 140,000 BTUs per gallon. A further factor is the efficiency of the heating appliances. A modern gas boiler will be more efficient than an an oil appliance, thereby converting more of the potential heat into actual heat. The difference could be around 10% with a gallon of porpane generating 86,000 BTUs and oil 119,000.
LPG propane needs to be about one third or 30% less than the price of oil for the two to be about the same for their potential heat value. Prices in any local area can vary greatly, official US statistics based on the average cost currently puts residential propane at $2.4 USD per gallon and residential heating oil at $3 per gallon.
Which is the Best Fuel for Residential Heating: Oli or Propane/ LPG
When choosing between the two traditional fuels for a remote location it is necessary to consider the local area, what fuel is available, what do the neighbours use for their heating requirements, when are the deliveries and what are the prices.
Heating appliances and the mix used for residential heating oil have developed and improved considerably so memories of heating systems from decades past are not useful. When planning a system for heating and hot water from scratch it may be more useful to consider how modern technologies could be used and whether systems such as solar power or wind turbines might make a useful contribution.