A Safety Comparison of Natural Gas VS Home Heating Oil
While there are often comparisons on the various home heating fuels that look at prices, BTUs per gallon and furnace technology and statistics, one area that is less discussed is safety. Let’s take a look at the safety of heating oil versus natural gas. Both are excellent fuels in terms of home heating, both are readily available, and while prices tend to fluctuate from year to year depending upon supply and demand, the price differential tends to average out over the long term.
Why Oil Heat is Much Safer Than Natural Gas
One of the primary differences between heating oil and natural gas is safety. In fact safety is one of the primary reasons to choose heating oil to heat your home. Heating oil is very similar to diesel fuel. It’s extremely safe and in its natural state is not flammable at room temperature. In fact, a lit match will go out when it is placed into heating oil. Unless it is preheated to 140 degrees, heating oil will not burn.
When stored properly in a durable tank oil poses no threat of explosion. Customers who value safety have long chosen oil heat over natural gas. There are very important differences in the safety risks for different petroleum products. Oil heat is at the safe end of the spectrum and when properly stored in a tank on your property, heating oil poses absolutely no safety risk.The Problem With Natural Gas
Natural gas on the other hand lies at the opposite end of the safety spectrum. Natural gas is flammable and ignites easily and when concentrated can cause an explosion. If a leak forms in a gas pipe or fitting in your home, if left undetected, the gas can become concentrated. If ignited it can cause an explosion powerful enough to level your home.
While the natural gas utilities talk about environmental friendliness, the fact is they refuse to discuss the problem of methane emissions, which are both environmentally unfriendly and dangerous. Natural gas is 95% methane, which as a greenhouse gas is 72x worse than carbon dioxide. Gas utilities regularly tolerate pipeline leaks that are deemed no threat for explosion or fire. Sometimes those leaks can turn catastrophic if left unattended. One tragic example is the San Bruno explosion that occurred on September 9th, 2010.One Small Leak Turns Tragic
San Bruno is a suburb of San Francisco and on September 9, 2010 a 30-inch diameter steel natural gas pipeline exploded into flames. The noise and initial shock caused local residents, first responders and the media to initially believe it was an earthquake or plane crash. In fact the explosion measured a magnitude 1.1 on the Richter scale. The resulting fire threw a wall of flame hundreds of feet into the air and it took firefighters 60 to 90 minutes to shut the gas. The explosion and resulting fire leveled 35 houses, damaged many more and the death toll was eight people.
The fact is, heating oil is the safest way to heat your home. Natural gas is explosive and leaks can be extremely dangerous. Natural gas systems are the second leading cause of non-fire-related carbon monoxide deaths. In light of the many explosions traced to natural gas, the NTSB has recommended using excessive flow valves to keep gas from entering a home when there is a rupture in a gas main. Utilities are installing these valves on new homes, but many older homes are not protected.
If you have a choice, or are planning a new heating system install, consider the safety benefits of heating your home with oil.