Choosing Between Geothermal, Oil, Gas and Electric for Your Home

Choosing Between Geothermal, Oil, Gas and Electric for Your Home

Deciding on a new — or replacement — home heating system is a difficult process. Needs and costs differ from person to person, region to region, month to month.

Of the heat sources available, electric, oil, natural gas and geothermal heating remain four of the strongest contenders on the market. Each has their own fervent supporters and vicious detractors.

Constantly Changing Variables

When it comes to choosing a home heating system, your decision will be highly personal due to the enormous number of variables that factor into such a decision.

Deciding on a home heating system isn’t as easy as asking Google which is cheapest. The costs, benefits, concerns and restrictions will vary greatly depending on how you answer a multitude of questions:

  • Are you purchasing a system for a new construction or existing home?
  • How long do you plan to stay in the home you’re renovating?
  • How old is the system you’re considering replacing? What’s its efficiency?
  • What’s the efficiency of your new unit?
  • What region of the country do you live in?
  • What are winters like in your state, county, town, etc.?
  • How many months per year do you run your heat? How many hours per day?
  • How high do you set your thermostat?
  • How dedicated are you to upkeep and maintenance to keep your system running efficiently?
  • How concerned are you about the environmental impact of your system?
  • What are the fuel costs this week, month, year, decade?
  • Are there federal tax incentives based on your choice? State or local incentives?

The non-exhaustive list of sample questions above clearly demonstrates the difficulty of acquiring a quick comparison of installation costs or monthly costs for heating systems.

To get the best possible picture of costs, get installation and monthly cost estimates from local HVAC businesses and fuel suppliers. For a quick, broadly generalized estimate of installation costs, monthly heating costs, system lifespans and environmental impacts for electric, oil, natural gas and geothermal heating, see the chart at the end of this article.

Here’s a chart comparing electric, oil, natural gas and geothermal energy:

home energy comparison chart

Importance of Maintenance

No matter which system you ultimately chose, regular maintenance is the key to longevity and efficiency. Angie’s List recommends biannual, professional tune-ups at an estimated cost of $70 to $100 per tune-up. DIY maintenance efforts like changing the filters regularly — according to your unit’s recommendations — also make a big impact on lifespan, efficiency and repair needs.

When it comes to maintenance, your heating system is like anything else: If you want it to run well, you have to take good care of it.

Little Changes for Greater Savings

Again, no matter which system you choose, there are many things you can do to lower your heating bill.

Simple changes like wearing an extra layer, using a programmable thermostat or lowering the thermostat at night can make a big impact on your bill.

Projects like adding or replacing curtains, caulk, weather stripping, insulation, new windows, etc. may require more effort or upfront cost, but they pay off in efficiency and savings.

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