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Homeowner's guide to:

Heating Oil Deliveries

Home Heating Fuel Comparison

Natural gas vs. propane vs. heating oil vs. electric


Choosing the right heating fuel is a cruical decision. This is especially true in the northeast. With cold winters, heat is often the largest line-item in a household’s annual budget.

In this guide, we put popular heating fuels head to head: natural gas vs. propane vs. heating oil vs. electric. Armed with this information, you can weigh the pros and cons to choose the right fuel for your home.

Heating Fuel Selection Criteria

  • Cost: Annual fuel cost, installation cost, annual maintenance cost.
  • Reliability: If your provider has a problem, what are your alternatives?
  • Safety: Does the fuel pose any significant dangers for your family?


The relevant cost comparison depends on your situation: Are you buying a home with an existing system? Building a new home? Replacing an aging heating system?

Buying a new home

When you’re buying a home with a relatively new heating system, the important costs to consider are fuel and maintenance.


Cost of heating the average Massachusetts houshold by heating type (Home Heating Profile, Massachusetts Policy Planning & Analysis Division, Commonwealth of Massachusetts)

Building a home or replacing a heating system

When you’re building a new home or replacing a heating system that has reached the end of its serviceable life, along with the future cost of fuel and maintenance, the price of installing the system needs to be incorporated into your cost calculations.


When it comes to heating your home in the winter, your heating system is “mission critical,” so reliability needs to play a major role in selecting a heating fuel.

On-hand Fuel

  • Home heating oil & propane: Homes heating with oil and propane have weeks or even months of energy on-site at your residence. Even the smallest heating oil tank size, 275 gallons,
  • Natural gas & electric: Homes heated with natural gas or electricity do not store any fuel on-site. A pipeline or power grid outage results in immediate loss of heat and hot water for your home.

Alternate Providers

  • Home heating oil & propane: Each neighborhood has multiple, competing home heating oil and propane delivery companies. If your primary provider is unable to deliver, there are multiple alternative providers at your service.
  • Natural gas & electric: Natural gas and electric utilities are monopolies. There is only a single provider for each energy source. Homes heated with natural gas or electricity are at the mercy of a lone provider with a single distribution system: in a winter storm, if your home is heated with electricity or gas, and the electric grid or gas pipeline goes down, you will freeze.


  • Natural gas: Natural gas incidents in the past three years have caused an average of $976M dollars (Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation). In The Atlantic, Nicholas Kawa, a former leak detection engineer at a natural gas utility, writes that, when he went out to search for leaks, “he could find up to three leaks in a given residential yard,” and that “the bulk of gas leaks identified are left leaking (“Gas leaks can’t be tamed,” The Atlantic).
  • Propane: According to the Fireman’s Association of New York, fire departments are dispatched to more than 8,600 propane tank explosions every year (Fireman’s Association of New York).
  • Heating oil: Home heating oil is not flammable and it’s not stored under pressure. Storage of heating oil in your home poses no life-threatening risk.
  • Electricity: Electric home heating poses no health risks over and above the standard risk of a home being wired with electricity.