Alternatives to Home Heating Oil

The thought of staying warm every winter season of every year is becoming a burden for a lot of people. That's because it could get quite expensive, regardless of the type of home heating system one has at home. Whether you are one of the millions who use natural gas or oil at home or maybe you're one of the few who are using propane or electricity, the thing is there isn't really much you can do about the rising energy and fuel prices. The dependence on traditional fuel sources makes it more difficult to achieve a warmer winter knowing that heating oil and natural gas prices may end up rising too high.

To prepare yourself, you might want to learn some of the alternative heating options which may be available in your area. Let's take a look at three of them:

Alternative Heating in the Winter

ground source heat pump

1 - Ground Source Heat Pumps
Traditional residential heating involves burning fuels that come from the ground. The most popular of course are oil and gas. On the other hand, geothermal heat pumps mine the constant temperatures below the surface of the earth. These pumps are then called as ground source heat pumps. They utilize a network of tubes in order to circulate fluid underground, the purpose of which is to retrieve some warmth for the winter and then even disperse heat during the summer. The cost of installing this type of heating system is expensive, but rest assured, it'll be recovered in the form of energy savings in five years.

2 - Passive Solar
There is a clear advantage in using the energy of the sun to heat the home. Solar energy in general is economical, nature-friendly, and renewable. For passive solar heating, you're going to design your home in such a way that you can maximize its ability to collect and retain sun energy. But then again, the effectiveness of this type of system will primarily depend on the type of climate you reside. So in its entirety, it's not really something that will totally replace your conventional heating system. It is more of an alternative for emergency purposes.

3 - Wood Burning Stoves
wood burning stoveWood burning stoves have been used for many decades. But it is only now that this alternative home heating system has become more efficient and safer. So when heating oil is unavailable or natural gas prices are up, wood burning stoves make a lot of sense as an alternative. Know that a cord of wood will cost about $200 and will contain 22 million BTUs of heat. Therefore, it can provide a price per million BTU of slightly over $9 only.

Can I Use Diesel for Heating Oil?

But what if you want to stick with your heating oil equipment but you've got no source of ample heating oil for the entire winter? Can you use diesel instead? If the need arises, diesel oil can actually be used as a substitute for heating oil for furnaces. The diesel fuel used in vehicles is the same one referred to as home heating oil number 2. But in order to separate diesel used for heating to that of diesel fuels for vehicles (which is taxed higher), red dye is commonly added.

Pros and Cons of Oil Heating

Today, there are more than a hundred million households that use oil for heating. The main reason for this domination, at least in the U.S., is because it is very reliable and widely available. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, those who live in the Northeast are the ones who are the most dependent on oil for heating. Now this is where the most important advantage of heating oil is seen. Those in the Northeastern part of the country are the ones who experience the harshest winters and they get to suffer from the coldest temperatures all year round. The reason why heating oil is important to them is because it is the most effective when it comes to heat production. It means it can produce heat faster and more efficient compared to other sources, including natural gas. And because heating oil is able to produce better and faster heat, it means it is more cost-effective. The only thing that we can describe as a disadvantage is heating oil prices, knowing that they can sometimes be very unstable, especially during the winter season when the demand is higher compared to other times of the year.

Can I Use Kerosene in My Oil Furnace?

In case the your heating furnace is running out of oil during a very cold winter day and you just can't get a rushed delivery of additional oil, the usual response would be to resort to using other types of fuel. While diesel is the primary alternative knowing that it is similar to heating oil, another option that makes sense is kerosene. And yes, an oil-fired furnace can actually be fed with kerosene, and this can help a lot if you live in an area or locality where kerosene is abundant as an alternative source of heat for homes. Also called as coal oil, kerosene may have a lower flash point compared to home heating oil but it can burn just as cleanly as oil. As a matter of fact, it is a very good option if there is that constant risk of freezing pipes.

Oil versus Gas Heat

gas vs oil

Now let's wrap up our discussion with some talk about the ever publicized comparison of oil and gas heat. Which is better?

And rightfully so we believe that heating oil is advantageous in so many ways when compared to gas. For instance, there should be good enough reason for its popularity knowing that a hundred million households in the U.S. alone use it. As for the issue of safety, home heating oil is not explosive and you can only ignite it using an advanced burning system like a burner or furnace. The inhalation of the fumes produced by it is not really as dangerous as gas, which by the way produces carbon monoxide in burning. Finally, heating oil has been cleaner and more efficient than ever. Unlike in its early days, it now burns clean and does not harm the environment. But best of all, the U.S. is abundant with heating oil supplies, so there's really no concern of it running out anytime soon.


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