Oil vs. Natural Gas boiler?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Washington, DC
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    1

    Question Oil vs. Natural Gas boiler?

    I'm a homeowner, not an HVAC pro, with a couple of questions. Thought someone might be able to help me out.

    We currently heat our home with an oil boiler. It was originally coal and at some point was converted to oil. I have no idea when, but the house was built in 1932. Anyway, we have received quotes to replace the current oil boiler with a new oil burner, as well as for natural gas. Cost is basically the same for both when you include the cost of removing the above-ground oil tank (in our basement) and lining the chimney, etc.

    Our current boiler works just fine and we have it serviced annually. It appears from the paperwork from the most recent service that it runs at 79%, but we are thinking a new one would be more efficient and better for the environment (you know, going "Green" is hip these days).

    My questions are:

    Should we replace?

    Oil or gas?

    Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    33,811
    What's your local cost per gallon of earl and cost per therm of natural gas?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Gold Coast of Connecticut
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    4,566
    I would only be installaing a condensing modulating gas boiler if I were in your shoes.
    Aire Serv of SW Connecticut- Gas heat, dual fuel and central a/c systems installed and serviced

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    PA/DE area
    Posts
    1,535
    I agree with the FREEZEKING!! I have never taken out natural gas and installed oil in my 30 years of HVAC!
    It's NOT the BRAND,it's the company that installs it!!!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,584
    As above, what are your gas rates, and what is your oil costing per gallon.

    1932 house will be either CI rads, or CI baseboard. Either one will get you good use from a mod/con gas boiler, then you don't need your chmney linered.
    Contractor locator map

    How-to-apply-for-Professional

    How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    in my lumpy chair
    Posts
    1,947
    i would go with nat. gas
    it dont smell
    I dont warranty Tinkeritus

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Central NH
    Posts
    137
    I would have to say that if efficiency and going green are your priorities and natural gas is available in your area, that is the obvious choice. You will have a much better chance of finding an efficient and reasonably priced gas unit than an oil unit.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    The South
    Posts
    2,120
    gayle

    get the efficiency of both the oil and gas boiler as well as your cost of oil/gal and nat gas/therm.

    use the attached link for fuel comparison calculator.

    IMO


    http://www.warmair.com/html/fuel_cost_comparisons.htm

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Posts
    7,321
    You really need to understand the system better to make an informed decision, but for the most part a mod-con gas boiler with a reset control scheme should do you more justice. In your climate, you should be able to run your water temps low enough under most conditions to be in a condensing situation. This will give you about 95% efficiency most of the time, as well as good overall comfort. There are a few brands out there capable of doing this, so far I seem to like to Traingle tube the best, along with Viessman. Theeuropean manufacturers have been dealing with high energy costs for much longer than we, so it is my opinion that their technology is superior and proven.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,829
    Gayle, you're going to get as many differing opinions on this as there are responders to your question. Some of the ideas involve solid mathematical calculations. Some involve honest opinions based on experience. If you can sift through them and determine for yourself what suits you, you're a marvel, IMO. Either way, here's my $.02 worth.

    Oil and gas are controlled by the same companies. In 35 years of heating service, I've yet to see any significant price advantage of one fuel over the other for more than a year or two. So I always advise my clients to make their decision on something other than current price, unless they have direct communications with the future to see what lies ahead.

    You say you've got a converted coal boiler. That connotes large, cast iron radiators and large water pipes. If that's truly the case, you should be sure to get an installing company that knows how to handle big water volume systems. That is, unless you're also replacing the distribution system. Any boiler, be it oil or gas, that can handle low water temperatures is to your advantage. The lower the water temperature used to heat the home at a given outdoor ambient temperature, the less your heating costs will be. If you do have cast iron radiators, you need to know that those are true radiant panels and can produce significant heat at relatively low water temperatures. In that vein, a modulating/condensing gas boiler or condensing oil boiler, all with outdoor temperature reset controls would be the best way to go.

    Service is something else again. Getting an installing company that has a stellar reputation for quality service is a must with any modern boiler. With oil boilers, you'll always or should always be getting a combustion efficiency test done with each tune-up. That should be true of gas boilers as well but unfortunately it is not. Relatively few gas boilers are installed and properly set up with combustion analizers. Make sure the installing company does that analysis if you go gas. The gas side of the industry is loaded with mod/con boilers at this time. Life expectancy of the boiler and/or components is something on which the jury is still out. They haven't been in the marketplace long enough to have that data. On the oil side you've got the Buderus and Viessmann who have both had their oil boilers out there for a respectable period of time, particularly in Europe. On the gas side, you've got Viessmann with newer products, Lochinvar Knight mod/con with the highest AFUE, Munchkin, Trinity, Peerless Pinnacle and others.

    Finding the right company is the challenge. Everyone wants to sell you a boiler. Not everyone will service it. Not everone has the knowledge to service it. So shop carefully. Educate yourself on-line. Ask a lot of questions and to some extent, cross your fingers. Good luck.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Wakefield, MA
    Posts
    1
    Skippedover, thanks for the detailed info. I see you're from MA too, so I have a question for you.

    I have an 1890 victorian and it still has gravity hot water heat. The pipes are as huge as you described. FYI, it is a closed system now (with a compression tank) but it used to be an open system. The oil heat boiler is an ancient cast iron system -- our oil guy estimates at least 50 years. It still chugs along, but the estimate is only 70% efficiency.

    The house is fully insulated so we don't get killed with heating bills, but I still think it's time to convert. The similarly ancient oil tank worries the heck out of me.

    So, I'm contemplating getting a new system, either oil or gas, and converting to a forced hot water system.

    Any words of advice? I found a really helpful Q&A here http://www.oldhouseweb.com/stories/Detailed/830a.shtml but I'm interested in your opinion too. I asked our oil supplier to give me an estimate for a conversion, but I haven't gotten the details yet. I have no idea what he's going to propose, but I want to be armed with lots of info.

    Thanks!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Taunton, MA
    Posts
    93
    condensing high efficiency gas is the way to go a little more $ but they mosty all have out door reset, as said they do need that low return temp to get that efficiency, condensing oil reaily won't be here til low sulfur fuel oil comes, til then you get mad at your gas compamy to bad, oil you call someone else

  13. #13
    Home owner here

    I might kicked kicked a bit but I converted from Oil to Nat Gas in Dec and I saved 2000.00 on fuel alone. I also saved on 200.00 for my oil repair contract. My payback is 2 to 3 years. Your payback my diff. We never hear our 94.1 AFUE Bryant Evolution.

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