Design & DIY

Should we switch to proprane heating?

Propane tank

We currently have an electric furnace. Should we switch to propane?
—Nancy Sangiuliano, via e-mail

Propane can certainly be a great choice: It’s portable, it’s widely available, and it’s one of our cleanest-burning fossil fuels, producing low levels of smog-causing carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and oxides of nitrogen. Will switching to propane save you money? Maybe. No matter what sort of heating system you use, you need to consider the installation and delivery costs (for propane, this includes the storage tank rentals or fill-ups), plus the operating costs, which will depend on a) the heating requirements of your cottage (affected by climate, the size of the cottage, and its insulation and how airtight it is); b) the cost of the fuel; and c) the furnace efficiency. (A brand new, Energy Star–qualified propane furnace may be more efficient than your current electric furnace, and may indeed be the most cost-effective heating option: see Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency’s comparison of Energy Star–qualified furnaces versus non–Energy Star qualified furnaces.

You really need to crunch all the numbers before you decide. To compare the costs of different heating sources, in your case, electric vs. propane, use the Office of Energy Efficiency’s comparison calculator.