Heating Oil vs. Propane – Comparing the Dollars and Cents

When comparing heating oil and propane, the cost per gallon/litre is only part of the story.  To ensure you have an apples to apples comparison of propane and heating oil, you need to look three things:  the efficiency of the systems, BTUs, and cost per gallon/litre.  With this information you can determine which fuel is cheaper.

To get an accurate and easy comparison of each system, simply use our Heating Oil and Propane BTU Calculator. Or, you can read on for a more detailed explanation.


Here are 3 important factors you must consider:

Heat Produced per Gallon/Litre: Heating oil and propane produce different amounts of heat per gallon/litre. You can get more heat per gallon/litre from heating oil than propane. We can measure the amount of heat produced by a gallon/litre of propane and a gallon/litre of heating oil by using the British Thermal Unit (BTU). The higher the BTU per gallon/litre, the more heat your system will generate for every gallon/litre of heating fuel that it burns. Propane systems produce 91,333 BTUs per gallon/24,127 BTUs per litre and heating oil systems produce 138,690 BTUs per gallon/36,638 BTUs per litre.*

System Efficiency: system efficiency is important because as your heating system burns heating oil or propane to produce heat, it will “lose” energy that can be used to make heat. When it comes to efficiency, the average heating oil system has an efficiency of 85%, while the average propane system has an efficiency of 94%. Another way of reading this would be: with the average heating oil system, 85% of the heating fuel that is burned will go towards heating your home.

Cost per Gallon/Litre: The last factor is what each fuel costs per gallon/litre.

After we factor in the efficiency and BTUs, we can measure how much heat each system produces per dollar. Visit our Heating Oil and Propane BTU Calculator to calculate the BTUs.


You can use our Heating Oil to Propane Conversion Calculator to help you get a more accurate overview of your specific situation.  Other factors to consider when deciding on propane vs. heating oil are: how each system will be used, installation costs, environmental friendliness and whether or not the fuel is considered to be “clean”. For a more complete review of the benefits of each system, visit our blog on Heating Oil vs. Propane.


* US Energy Information Administration

** Used for space heating