Oil to Propane conversion??

mikec_dsmOctober 13, 2007

I have oil heat hot air hydronic systems using a Buderus Boiler with a Becket burner. I also have 1 zone heating a sunroom using radiant heat and 1 zone hot water baseboard for my basement. The price of oil is getting ridiculous and they are talking $100 plus oil by next year. I know oil heats hotter than propane but the price jumps here in PA have been lower than oil and I can pre-buy propane easier than oil. Before the cost of heating my home surpasses my mortgage payment I have a few questions.

1. Does it pay to convert?

2. What would need to be done? Just change the burner?

3. What might be the cost?

4. How can I figure the gallons used from oil into propane?

5. Is there another alterative?

Thanks for any help.

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The gallon-for-gallon numbers are easy enough to calculate knowing the cost per gallon of propane, fuel oil and knowing the BTU value per gallon of Propane (around 92,000) and Fuel Oil (around 140,000 ) The difficult numbers to calculate outside of a controlled lab environment are true overall efficiency numbers of hydronic systems.

They've done some testing of overall efficiencies of different types gas fired and oil fired boilers at Brookhaven.

I don't know what the overlll efficiency of you Buderus boiler would be with a gas conversion burner.

If you do make the switch it would be interesting to see how you make out. We have quite a few customers that ask about gas conversion burners but we've avoided installing them due to liability/warranty issues.

When we have customers that switch form oil to gas or gas to oil we generally replace the boiler, furnace or water heater.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sustainable Liquid Fuels Research

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 2:43PM
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Don't change the oil burner to a gas gun. The boiler was designed for oil. Call Buderus and ask them, I'm sure they will advise against the move.

Fuel cost are easy, Multiply your oil costs by .719 and divide the propane cost by 92%. multiply each sum by 10. you now have the costs to buy 1 million Btu's of each fuel.

Take the fuel cost and divide the efficiency in % of the furnace or boiler into the million Btu cost. The result will be how much a million Btu's will cost in your home. This calculation takes into consideration waste through venting.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 4:45PM
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I'd get a historical perspective of the price of propane and oil. There might not be as big of a difference as you think....but this is regionally dependent.

Also, factor in the install of a propane tank. Our dealer will give us a 500 gal tank for "free", but unless I planned to make yard art out of it, it would cost about $3000 to get it underground and piped to the house.

on the other hand, the rebates on gas boilers are higher than oil.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 5:42PM
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Using the formula above propane is 2/3 the cost of oil per million BTU assuming they both cost $2.99/gal. I thought oil had 40% more energy per gal making it worthwhile to convert to oil from propane.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 7:29PM
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If both fuels cost $2.99/ gallon, oil is the less expensive fuel per Buu.

Oil, $2.99 X .719= $2.15 per 100k Btu.
1 gallon oil = 139k Btu

Propane, 2.99 /93% = 3.22/ 100k Btu
1 gallon propane = 93k Btu

What I have done is make the playing field level by determining how much each fuel costs for a given number of Btu's. Your final heating costs can be determined by Dividing the fuel cost by the efficiency of the furnace you plan to use.

Oil furnace 83% efficient, $2.19/ 83%= $2.63 per 100k Btu.

Propane Furnace 95% efficient, 3.22/ 95%= $3.39/ 100k Btu

Divide the final oil cost by the final propane cost = .816 or oil is almost 19% less expensive to heat with if both fuel costs are the same per gallon and you install a "standard" oil; fired furnace and a high efficiency propane furnace.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 11:27AM
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Propane is usually always the most expensive heating fuel. It is a by-product of natural gas production (oil production too).

Using Stu's numbers above (with a brand new 95 efficient propane furnace), propane would cost 23% more.

For PA, there are plenty of options to suppliment your oil heat (note that I said suppliment, not replace): coal stove, woodstove, pellet stove, heat pump (if you're replacing the a.c).

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 12:00PM
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Don't forget, my numbers assume the per gallon cost is the same for both fuels. I don't think it's that way in real life. I used that example because TOM 10 asked for the comparison.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 7:47PM
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I appreciate the response. Using buy ahead programs we are paying $2.99 and $2.96 per gallon for Gas and Propane (2 houses) which is close to being the same.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 6:18PM
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