As commodities, heating oil and natural gas prices fluctuate up and down according to supply and demand — as well as highly unpredictable world events. In the same way that gasoline prices are down significantly from where they were last year, so too is the cost of home heating oil, which has now reached an 11-year low. No one has a crystal ball to predict where prices will go, but some experts expect oil prices to remain low for a while. And for now at least, the cost difference in heating your home with one fuel over the other is negligible.

With oil and gas systems being similarly efficient, the cost to convert is the bet on the future commodity cost. Many newer heating systems can be converted from burning heating oil to burning natural gas for $5,000 to $10,000. Older systems may cost more to convert, and should probably be replaced altogether. Savvy homeowners take into account the cost of the conversion in calculating their annual energy savings.

Using seven years as a horizon (the average time a US homeowner stays in one home before moving) you’d have to save at least $500 a year on your fuel cost, for seven years, just to break even. At today’s energy prices, where heating oil costs less than natural gas, that’s money you’d never get back. Increasingly warm winters have caused the payback period to increase even further (the warmer the winter, the longer it will take to make up the cost in future energy savings). On top of all that, natural gas furnaces may need to be replaced almost twice as often as home oil burners. When you add it all up, oil just equals good sense.

Want even more? Read a full assessment of how oil and natural gas stack up.

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