Converting to gas from oil heat?

blondelleFebruary 16, 2008

What is involved with this? I have an oil burning boiler with a hot water tank that uses gas to heat our hot water right next to the boiler. Would that make it easier to convert? I've even seen free boilers offered if you convert to gas.

Can an oil tank be temporarily capped in case a new owner wants to convert the house back to oil heat? Where would I start if I wanted to do this conversion? Do I contact gas suppliers or a boiler company? Thanks!

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There is a difference in burners that is normally incompatable.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 11:56AM
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You have to keep in mind that a lot of the companies who will advise you on the wisdom of such a conversion are trying to sell you something, so please consider the obvious bias of the different people you talk to, such as gas suppliers or companies who want to sell you a new boiler.

Generally speaking, a fuel switch for its own sake will not save you enough money soon enough to justify your cash outlay on doing the conversion. I know oil is high right now, but gas has fluctuated wildly over the last eight or so years, and there have been some times when oil has been cheaper than gas in some areas.

If you need new equipment and are looking to replace what you currently have because it's old or unreliable, anyhow, then I'd sit down with a reputable local heating and a/c company that installs both oil and gas equipment and look at some local fuel prices and do some operating cost comparisons, then make your decision. If your current equipment works fine and is reliable, I would not buy new equipment just for the sake of changing fuels.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 1:34PM
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Thanks! My main concern is there might be a problem with my oil tank, as I'm using much more oil than usual. If I get it checked out, and they find a leak or problem, it has to be reported and I'm liable for any damage, so I'm in a Catch 22 situation. I don't think I can get tank insurance on a 40 year old in ground 1080 tank. Someone here had suggested I might be able to switch the oil burner to gas. I called a gas company and they said they do it for free, but I'm not sure what's involved.

I thought I would run the tank dry, cap it off for now, and then maybe use gas. I don't want to cap the oil tank permanently though. I just don't know what to do. No man in the family to help with all this guy stuff ;-(.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 1:44PM
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That's a different situation, then, if you feel there might be a leak. Considering the liability for an expensive cleanup, looking at a conversion to gas might make sense. If it were me, I'd talk to the gas company about the possibility of this free conversion. When they say free, make sure they do not just mean it's free to run the gas service to your home. If they're willing to do the whole thing for nothing, it seems like it would be a hard deal to beat.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 12:14AM
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1.Using more oil is NOT an automatic leaking tank.
2. Gas costs more than oil per thermal unit.
3. You are already liable for your tank. -Purchase some cheap tank insurance or have someone look at it.
4. If you sell the property the buyers bank will make you dig the tank and test the soil anyway.And you'll have to clean it up before you can sell.
5. It's foolish to switch fuels when you don't know what's wrong.
Have your boiler/furnace tuned and tested - then see if consumption improves.
Your scheme to change fuel and somehow avoid responsibility is poorly thought out and somewhat deceitful. Usually men do this kind of thing and the wife talks him out of it. You need to use your head. Be a stand-up gal. Do it right. It will work out better for you in the long run.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 12:36AM
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I did not take her comment to mean she was trying to cover anything up. To me, it sounded like an attempt to keep a potential problem from getting worse.

On the comparative price of heating oil and natural gas, according to a few U.S. and New York websites I checked, natural gas is averaging about $1.50 a therm in New York State (total retail price including distribution and gas), while a gallon of heating oil in NY is $3.40. A therm of natural gas is 100,000 BTU and a gallon of heating oil is about 140,000 BTU, so natural gas is at this moment a lot cheaper than oil per unit of heat: The price of oil would have to go down to $2.42 a gallon for the two fuels just to be at the same price per thermal unit.

But I agree with the idea that changing fuels just for an energy price is normally not wise. However, with the wide current price difference in fuels, the age of her tank, her stated inability to get tank insurance, the potential of a current leak that would, if it exists, be making a bigger mess by the day, I reasoned that if the fuel change was, in fact, free, it would be worth looking into.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 11:07AM
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Echo what was said--two separate issues here.

1) Is the possible leaking tank

2) Is whether to convert to gas.

Neither issue should drive the other.

If you are leaking oil there are relatively easy ways to test it, especially once spring/summer comes. Turn off the oil burner. Measure tank fill. Check a week later. If you have less oil in there, you have a leak. If not, that's not your issue. If you have a leak, you'd better get it cleaned up and replace the tank. At that point, a new tank may be more costly than switching to gas.

As for switch to gas, if you have a gas water heater, it means you have gas to the house, so you won't have the expense of running a line from the street. As for pricing, if someone will do it for free, that's great. As for long-run costs, anyone's guess is worthless. Right now heating oil is much more expensive. But gas has been in the past. Long run, the two are probably going to be fairly equal, because utilities use both and will demand the cheaper one, driving its price up while driving down the price of the other.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 3:37PM
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Thanks so much for your replies. No, I'm not trying to put one over on anyone. Just trying to do what's best. If I had an accurate gauge I could use the very good and easy method for checking my tank mentioned. I have one of those old pump guages, and each time I pump it, it gives me a different reading. I judged my usage by the oil company telling me they topped my 1080 tank, and then in 3 months topping it again and billing me for 639 gallons, which for a 2 family house seems like a lot. Hot water is gas heat. Two oil companies though told me it's not a lot. We have a lot of windows, and glassed in terrace, some windows not sealed very well though, and the thermostat is kept at 68 degrees 24/7. There were lots of warmer days thrown into the mix too, so I don't know.

Anyway, I will call around and find out more about gas on Tuesday. Thanks again for all your help ;-)!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 4:48PM
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If you tank is leaking, the sooner it's removed the better off you are.

If your oil boiler is 80% AFUE and oil is $3.40/ gallon You are paying $30.55 for every million Btu's of heat into your home.

If you have an 80% AFUE gas boiler and gas is $1.50/ therm. 1-million Btu's into the house costs, $18.75. If the boiler is 93% AFUE the same amount of heat costs, $16.13. or about 1/2 the cost of Oil. To me it's a no brainer. Switch to gas, get rid of the tank & take your chances on the leak. It will never be cheaper to clean up a leak than it is today.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 6:01PM
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Is there a formula for calculating this comparison based on the rate per Ccf for natural gas with all of the service and delivery charges?

I have a Thermopride forced warm air furnace that is currently set up with an oil burner. The previous owner wanted a gas line run to the house for a kitchen range and water heater, so they installed a gas burner in the furnace and the gas co. put in the line for free. Once the work was done, they put the oil burner back in, capped the gas line, and left the gas burner in the basement.

Prices for heating oil here in CT last winter went well over $3 per gallon, though we were capped at $2.749
When we first moved into our house, we were using about 1100-1250 gallons per season with the Tstat set to 62 at night and 65 or so during the day. The past two years, we reduced that to 880 and 773 by using a woodburning stove in our den.

Question: With the price of heating oil expected to be off the charts next winter, does it make sense to put the gas burner back in?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 9:41AM
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Heating oil is one of the numerous petroleum products produced at refineries and used by millions in the United States as an energy source. Its primary use being home heating, the demand for heating oil is affected by seasonal temperature changes with the highest demand taking place during the months of October through March. Heating oil consumption is concentrated mostly in the northeastern part of the United States.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heating oil consumption

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 6:04AM
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