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CONVERTING MY HOUSE HEATING TO GAS__Good or Bad idea?

 
 
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 02:17 pm
I have an oil hot water system and a "summer/winter hookup" which is a separate boiler that heats (and then keeps water hot by the oil burner). Ive gotten a price to uninstall the oil and put in a gas burner into my present boiler(boiler is a 7 unit system cause we have 5 zones). The gas system includes the removal of the oil tank and includes burying and hooking up a gas tank outside. ALso the price includes a 5gpm tankless water heater and a gas log fireplace insert and heater for one of the living room fireplaces (we will keep the others as wood and wood stoves).

The cost quoted is 8500$ and is installed and maintained by a reputable suburban gas purveyor (actually its propane not natural gas).
Any thoughts from those more savvy and , what questions should I have answered.
 
mab3803
 
  2  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 02:27 pm
@farmerman,
Been there, done that, didn't work for us. We're on a farm (you don't say, but "farmerman" gives me that feeling you might be, too) so propane was delivered by truck (i.e. no municipal lines of natural gas available). Our experience was that we had endless problems with the new furnace (that might have just been our bad luck), and the propane got REALLY expensive. Finally switched back to oil, and the fuel bills are lower and the furnace works reliably. Also, keep in mind that oil has higher BTUs than natural gas, so you get more energy (heat) per unit. [Still have the propane tank, though, as it supplies gas to the stove (only).] Good luck.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 02:43 pm
@mab3803,
even though oil is more energy dense than the gases, Im counting on the savings accrued for the tankless water heater. I cant abide the "keeping hot water hot" as my way of using my heating system

Was your propane price waay out of line compared to heating oil?
How was your usage of gas? was it about 25% more (volumetrically) than oil?

Yeh , we live on a farm in Pa, what part of the country are you?
mab3803
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 03:02 pm
@farmerman,
I'm in Ontario. Propane started out a little more expensive, but got amazingly more. It got to be $1,000+ to fill it. The relative price fluctuates, of course. You have to know that it got pretty bad, cause we had to get the whole mess switched again. We never tried the on-demand water tank, so had traditional tank under both set-ups. A friend tried the on-demand with bad luck, but I hear the systems are better now. Can't tell you about volumetric usage, sorry.
cicerone imposter
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 06:01 pm
@farmerman,
I have no knowledge about the trade-off between the two, but isn't a cost/benefit analysis a good way to weigh the options?
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 06:17 pm
@mab3803,
Oil, gas, propane? Penn State site compares home heating options
Friday, October 3, 2008

University Park, Pa. " That nip in the air means fall is here, and many homeowners are facing a drastically more expensive home-heating season. An energy specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences says it's not too late to install a secondary heating system to manage those soaring costs.

For the nearly 8 million U.S. households using heating oil as their main heating fuel, costs have increased by up to 150 percent in recent years. Similar price increases for electricity, propane, natural gas and kerosene have homeowners paying up to twice as much in heating costs as they did just a few years ago.

"If you're currently heating with fuel oil that's approaching $4 per gallon, you should definitely be looking for an energy alternative, whether it's wood or coal or wood pellets," said Dennis Buffington, professor of agricultural engineering. "Anyone heating with fuel oil or propane, especially, should consider alternatives -- not as a replacement necessarily, but to have another system they can rely on for at least a portion of their heating needs.

"A lot of all-electric houses were built in the '70s when electricity was about a penny and a half per kilowatt hour," he said. "During the '80s, electricity started going up, but propane was very cheap " 35 cents a gallon " so many homes installed propane systems. Now electricity is about 8 cents per kilowatt hour in central Pennsylvania and propane exceeds $3 per gallon. Anyone who has dual-fuel flexibility is really in the driver's seat and can use whichever fuel is cheaper at the time."

Homeowners can install a stove that burns firewood, wood pellets, coal or even shelled corn in a basement or family room, Buffington said. They can use the alternate heating system in ways that fit their budget and lifestyle. A good alternative for one might not be good for all.

"There's no more convenient heat than electric heat " until you have to pay the bill at the end of each month," he said. "Firewood's a good alternative for me. I have an old wood stove, and I enjoy chopping firewood as physical exercise. That might not be appropriate for others, so they might consider wood pellets as an alternative. If you decide to go with wood pellets or shelled corn, you'll need a pellet stove or boiler. So you'll need to include the cost of purchasing the system in your calculations as well."

Buffington points out that Pennsylvania has relatively abundant and cheap coal, which is considerably more cost-effective than fuel oil or propane. "But you'll need to assess whether you want a coal bin in your basement," he said. "You also should factor in the installation of equipment to convey the coal into the stove or burner and remove the ashes and other costs involved in making the conversion."

The only way to do an apples-to-apples comparison of fuel sources is to calculate their cost in dollars-per-million-BTUs, according to Buffington. "For example, it's hard to tell if electricity at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour is cheaper than propane," he said. "It turns out that 8 cents per kilowatt hour is equivalent to about $1.85 per gallon, which is much less than the current price for propane."

Buffington noted that coal, wood and other fuels all have advantages and limitations. One way to evaluate the relative costs is with the Energy Cost Calculator at Buffington's "Energy Strategies" Web site (http://energy.cas.psu.edu/). He also created the Energy Selector, a hand-held, slide-rule-like calculator to compare the equivalent costs of eight different fuels.

Single copies of the Energy Selector can be obtained free of charge by Pennsylvania residents through county Penn State Cooperative Extension offices or by contacting the College of Agricultural Sciences Publications Distribution Center at (814) 865-6713 or by e-mail at [email protected]. For cost information on out-of-state or bulk orders, contact the Publications Distribution Center.

Current heating oil and Propane gas costs studies"
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/hopu/hopu.asp
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 06:22 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Killing The Fuel Oil Furnace:
By Bruce W. Maki, Editor.
Hammer Zone

In the fall of 2002, about one month into the heating season, our old oil furnace began acting up. I knew it needed to have the burner adjusted and the combustion chamber cleaned, at the very least. I called our usual oil furnace service company, and I was surprised to discover that the annual service fee had gone from $70 to $115. I called some other places and found similar rates. I also found that some heating companies had discontinued servicing oil furnaces because their liability insurance rates had increased dramatically, and the number of oil furnaces was declining.

I could read the writing on the wall: The dinosaurs were going extinct. Living out in the country, natural gas is not available. I've noticed over the years that new houses in these rural areas always have propane tanks. I made some more calls and was pleasantly surprised at how competitive the propane supply industry was. All of the suppliers had special low rates to entice new customers to sign up. They install the tank and supply line for practically nothing, and then often give big discounts on your first fill up.

I began to understand why oil furnaces were losing popularity. Many years ago, oil was the fuel of choice for people who didn't have natural gas service. But oil is a dirty fuel. I would call it a filthy fuel. When I removed the back access panel on the oil furnace I couldn't believe the amount of soot in the heat exchanger. The bottom one-third of the passageways were blocked. I literally dug out what looked like yellow bricks but were actually blocks of sulfur.

Fuel oil (and diesel fuel, which is virtually identical) has a very high sulfur content. I read somewhere that the sulfur content is around 3,000 parts per million, which would be 0.3%. For an impurity, that is a very high concentration. Why should the homeowner deal with sulfur removal (with an annual furnace cleaning) when the petroleum refinery can remove it?

With an oil furnace an annual cleaning and service call is truly necessary, because the soot needs to be removed from the heat exchanger. Also, the oil spray nozzle should to be replaced and the air-fuel ratio adjusted to minimize soot buildup. As soon as the soot builds up, it begins to restrict the flow of combustion gases. If this gets bad enough, it can cause the furnace to stop functioning, or worse, can send combustion gases into the house.

What a headache! Gas and propane furnaces do not have the same maintenance needs as oil furnaces. Sure, the air filter needs to be replaced monthly, and it's a good idea to vacuum the dust off the blower every year (I just use a shop vac and a clean, dry paint brush), but most of these furnaces do not need annual cleaning of the burner or combustion chamber. True, gas and propane burners can get a small amount of soot buildup, but I've seen them go 10 or 20 years with nothing more than a wisp of ash.

Consider this: With an oil furnace the annual maintenance expense, in my area, is going to be about $115 more than a gas or propane furnace. If we had to park some money in the bank, so that it would generate enough interest to cover the annual service, it would be a chunk of change. Those readers with some finance background might see where I'm going with this: The present value of that perpetual stream of $115 annual payments is quite large. Given the low interest rates today, it would take an investment of $2,000 to $3,000 to generate the $115 annual cash needed.

What's the point of this? It's part of the financial decision to kill the oil furnace and install a new propane furnace. Reducing our annual maintenance costs by $115 is equivalent to having an extra $2,000 in cash right now. When I talked to a local plumbing and heating outfit and heard that new gas/propane furnaces can be had for as little as $800, I was intrigued.

The other problem: When we re-shingled the roof we noticed that the chimney was messed up. I looked down the chimney and I discovered that there was no fire-brick lining or terra-cotta flue tile. Just plain brick. That's not right. Above the roof line, most of the mortar had disintegrated. I re-packed the joints with new mortar and crossed my fingers. I talked to one chimney repair specialist, and they wanted $2,700 to drop a stainless steel flue liner down the 36-foot tall chimney. Just to keep the house eligible for an oil burning furnace. When the oil furnace puked out, I was not terribly upset.

We solved our problems by having a high-efficiency gas furnace installed, which vents through the wall with PVC pipe. Being autumn, the contractor was so busy he had trouble getting a quote to us, so we asked them to just bill us for time and materials. I would be there to help out, help move the furnace into the basement and do any other work needed. Since we installed the new furnace in a different location than the old one (we were no longer constrained by the chimney location) we changed much of the ducting. We provided the supply and return ducting and re-routed the electrical supply. Following the guidance of the furnace installer, I connected the condensate drain pump to a nearby plumbing drain line. The installer only had to connect to the ducts with some minor sheet metal work, install the combustion air and vent piping, connect the propane line, convert the gas valve from natural gas to propane, and do the tuning. In all, he had 8 or 9 hours of labor, at $60 an hour, and the materials amounted about $2,000. For less than the cost of the chimney repair, we had circumvented the need for a chimney, escaped the $115 annual service charge, and got a new reliable furnace. Granted, our costs were low because we did a considerable amount of the work ourselves.

This old house had propane many years ago, for a stove and dryer. But the lines were copper, and too small to provide propane to a furnace. Copper is no longer allowed for lines that run through floors or walls, so we replaced all the lines with 3/4" and 1/2" black iron pipe. This cost a couple of hundred bucks, just for materials, and took several days. We also pressure tested the replacement installation with 30 PSI air pressure for several days (rather than the 30 minutes as required by code) to make sure there were no leaks. The propane company installed a new 500 gallon tank and ran a supply line to the house. They also installed a branch line to the garage, for a future propane heater in the shop. The cost was minimal, about $150.

We are very pleased now that the sulfur-belching oil-sucking dinosaur is gone. The new furnace is quieter and cleaner. Since a gallon of liquid propane has less energy than fuel oil (about 92,000 BTUs versus about 130,000 BTUs for oil) the actual annual heating cost may be slightly higher than with fuel oil. So far, it seems to be about the same, but this winter has been the coldest I've seen while living in this house.

0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 07:22 pm
@farmerman,
canadian/ontario governments are recommending "geothermal" heating systems .
i have no idea how cost-effective these systems really are .
CBC-TV (canadian TV) had a competition a couple of years ago for the most energy-effecient "refitted" house in cold climates .
a house in quebec using "geothermal" won the top price - but i can't recall any details .
i read "somewhere" that new systems with pipes going as much as 60 (?) feet down are better than those with a grid closer to the surface - true / i don't know !
those systems are definetely more expensive to install , but one could probably become energy self-sufficient by using solar/wind power for driving the pumps ???
not enough technical knowledge here .

perhaps this site might be of some use :

http://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=s4&oq=geothermal%20heating&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLJ_enCA233CA233&q=geothermal+heating+ontario

let us know sometime which way you are going (we still have oil/hot airheating - electric/hot water system ... our house is only 1,050 sq. feet and well insulated) .
take care !
hbg
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 12:06 am
geothermal systems are either open or closed loop , depending what the transfer liquid is. I have some experience with these from some of my guys having been associated with large architectural projects that specked geothermal heat. I dont like it personally because itsa never really warm in the house, its just below the comfort level. When we have a bad snowstorm we like to jack up the oil system and make the house toasty, you cant do that with geothermal.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 12:24 am
@farmerman,
farmerman, Have you heard of the new electric heating system that doesn't burn but reflects enough heat to warm up a good size room? I understand their cost is very reasonable.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 12:33 am
@cicerone imposter,
yeah, we have a separate such a baseboard electric system in our new Florida Room. Its pretty good at knocking down the cold and making the room comfortable for morning coffee on a very cold winter day. I wouldnt use it in a big house where its already designed using baseboard cast iron hot water (A hot water system is very fast at coming to temp and keeping it comfortable)
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  2  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 01:16 am
@farmerman,
Hi, FM. Hope the following comparison helps you out. Granted some of my comparison is about woodstove and propane usage as I've used both. Sorry, I can't compare oil heat usage.

I currently live in a relatively well insulated, energy efficient 23-yr-old contempo-styled house. I think it's about 1700 sq ft on 2 floors w/ 1 heat zone) and lots of double-paned thermopane windows . It uses a propane (delivered to tanks) heater. We pay $2.85 gallon.

I filled up when I moved in on July 16. then on Dec 9 it cost $170. Filled up again around January 9. However, I use this fairly new Olympic woodstove mainly. I also had about 8 cords of split, seasoned hardwood, now down to about 5.5 cords.

FWIW, I've moved in here July 16. As for propane usage (heat plus cooking and hot water), soi'm guessing I've gone from using about $50 mo. starting from late Sept. to around $150 month for this last month (ridiculously cold) early-december to early-January. For all practical purposes, you and I have similar enough weather patterns (north of Albany, NY). I'd say I use 50% woodstove to %0% propane.

FWIW, I have the EPA specs on the efficiency of this model woodstove..it's approx 65-70% efficient, and heat output varies between 12K Btu - 45K Btu per hour.

However, when I get the woodstove roaring, the L/R can be as hot as 72-76 deg where the thermostat reads during daytime .... vs. my setting the propane heater to a high of 69 deg (when not running the woodstove) during day... and then set it back to 65 at night. That's my pattern of usage.

Does this help at all?
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 01:27 am
@Ragman,
Sorry, I might not have been clear. My two fillups cost $170 each time. My propane is down only 10% of the 150 gallons capacity so I'm good to early mid march or early April. I think this means I'm now using about $85-95 month to partially heat the house. I've also gone from 50-50 to 65% woodstove. vs propane.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 05:09 am
@Ragman,
Thanks, although your temps are brutal compared to us, I have a similar fuel mixture in that I will go through about 6 cords of firewood. Our cost for propane at this time is 1.85/gal and oil is 2.65 We used about 250 gal/month for oil. (I attribute the high usage to the cost of keeping our hot water hot).

I did a cost comparison for gas and, because of the taxes, Canadians get screwed(I believe they pay about 1/3 more for everything but if I factored in my health care at 1300$ a month, itd maybe even out)
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 08:40 am
@farmerman,
which temps our outdoor on indoor. Are the brutal high or low?
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 09:06 am
@Ragman,
The differences Id seen in avg winter lows for the area arounnd Glen Falls (where I had lived for a while) was in the minus territory (F) for long stretches in the winter. Down here, we are lucky to see a zero or 5 below every 5 years or so. This year we had a low low of 3 degrees in a single cold stretch that lasted 2 days.
Our summer highs are much more brutal than are yours. We can go for weeks in the 90s
Ticomaya
 
  2  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 09:28 am
Have you factored in the cost of coffee when the oil inevitably spills again?
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 12:48 pm
@farmerman,
Quote:
(I attribute the high usage to the cost of keeping our hot water hot).


Standby losses for H20 heaters are actually quite small, I believe, FM and unless your h2o heater sits in a cold zone, those standby losses contribute to heating your house, or at least the area it sits in. The heat loss from long runs of uninsulated hot h20 lines is probably higher than from the tank itself, but again, the loss from those lines just goes into the house, not so good for summer.

Cost wise, you'd be better off to wrap it with another blanket of insulation if it's not well insulated now.

Concerning a switch over, if you get a hi-eff propane furnace as part of the deal, and if you have an old low efficiency oil furnace now, then you may be getting some actual savings, which you'll need for the payback.

The best overall, as far as price goes, initial cost of heating unit and ongoing cost of fuel, for you, may well be a combination strawbale/wood/waste/coal heater.

Here's a site that discusses bale burners

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/eng3127

What everyone needs to know is the actual cost per therm/million BTU (MBTU) for each and every fuel source.

Electric @ $.08 = $23.44/MBTU [100% efficient]

I can't remember the fuel value in the others, propane, nat gas, wood etc, now, but I'll try and track down a source.


farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 01:39 pm
@JTT,
Penn State had done a study on "standby" hot water and found that its actual cost is pretty much a f(usage). We dont use much hot water in a normal day and, to say the cost is quite small cannot be accurate. In the summer, our entire oil usage is to keep hot water hot. The actual fuel savings on oil for our usage rate would be approximately 34%.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jan, 2009 01:55 pm
@farmerman,
Of course there are a lot of variables involved in standby heat loss, FM. If you are producing hot water and exposing it to, even, indoor temps without any insulation barrier, or a poor insulation barrier then of course the costs would be high, year round, because it essentially would be a heating unit designed, poorly, to radiate/conduct its heat to the surroundings.

How well is it, and the hot water pipes, insulated?

0 Replies
 
 

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