Author Topic: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas  (Read 972 times)

ctuser1

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Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« on: August 03, 2019, 01:28:11 PM »
I live in CT (my username - duh!!).

We currently use heating oil. Our street does not have gas line yet.
Today, the gas utility company left a flyer saying they are going to expand gas service in our street, and offered to hook up our house for free if we convert our heating and hot water to gas now.

We even have a Heat Loan program that will lend me the money to do the conversion for 10 years @0.99%APR (https://www.ctheatloan.com/), and give me a $750 rebate on a new boiler. At that APR, it is a no-brainer that I will take the loan instead of taking it from our emergency fund or (god forbid) sell etfs in my brokerage account.


Question 1 : Should We convert?
We have a relatively low heating bill, and very high cooling bill since we like to keep the temperature pretty low (67F or even lower sometimes).

Last year we spent ~$1500 on heating oil @$2.78/gallon. I got the same fixed price for this year (July 2019 - June 2020). I ran the calculator in the gas utility website, it tells me that I will save approximately $300/year in fuel cost!!
We also spend $300 on a oil boiler service contract to clean and inspect the boiler every year - this should be unnecessary with the gas boiler since it burns clean.

I also have some non-financial motivations to convert. The oil tank is ugly, it takes up a lot of space, and some guests always comment of "oil smell" in our basement (although we have probably gotten used to it by now and don't get it).

The gas boiler should be much smaller. No big, ugly 40yo oil tank that is likely to leak any times now. No ungainly chimney sticking right through the middle of the house either since the wall-hung gas boilers typically vent right through the garage wall. I could open up all those spaces and make them useful!! I have a small house, so all these spaces would be very welcome and will likely add value to my home.

Question 2 : Exactly which equipment should I buy? How to pick a contractor?
What kind of equipment should I get? Any websites that can help me do the research? I have a Heating Oil boiler. I'm hoping I will get a Gas boiler and re-use the same water lines.

Since I have central A/C - I *could* convert to forced air if I wanted to. I prefer hot-water heat however (it is less dry) and would like to keep that unless there is a big reason to do otherwise.

One of our neighbors is a plumber. It is likely he will give me the best price/quality since he will do his house, and a few of other neighbors houses as well - and might wing some extra savings/rebates for purchasing equipment in bulk. I'd still like to do some research around. Trust but verify!!


Rebates! Rebates!!
There is a $750 rebate in CT for Gas Boilers. I'll obviously chase this.
What is a "Boiler Circulator Pump"? There seems to be an extra $25 rebate on that. Should I install this?

Any other rebates, tax savings or anything else I am not considering?
« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 01:32:29 PM by ctuser1 »

Imma

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2019, 01:46:49 PM »
Is there a more sustainable option like a heat pump available? It feels a bit odd to spend money on converting from oil to natural gas while the whole world is trying to get off gas. I would rather spend my money on a future-proof solution instead of on something that is probably obsolete 25 years from now.

We currently are on natural gas and apart from the environmental impact it's a perfect source of heating. The boiler takes up very little space, there is no smell, the maintenance is very cheap and the current models are very energy efficient. I do fully expect this gas boiler to be the last one we'll have before we transfer to a more sustainable option (end of economic life of current boiler is around 2030)

ctuser1

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2019, 07:15:06 PM »
Is there a more sustainable option like a heat pump available? It feels a bit odd to spend money on converting from oil to natural gas while the whole world is trying to get off gas. I would rather spend my money on a future-proof solution instead of on something that is probably obsolete 25 years from now.

We currently are on natural gas and apart from the environmental impact it's a perfect source of heating. The boiler takes up very little space, there is no smell, the maintenance is very cheap and the current models are very energy efficient. I do fully expect this gas boiler to be the last one we'll have before we transfer to a more sustainable option (end of economic life of current boiler is around 2030)

I did ask around about heat pumps. All the professionals I asked told me they are not cost effective where we live (north east US - with very cold weathers and some hot spells).

In theory, heat pumps will be less efficient as the temperature difference increases. This *should*, in theory, make them quite efficient for about 7 months out of the year here when the temperature difference is < 20 degrees F. However, I don't know how that "theory" translates in practice and why it is not efficient.

Another thing many people do here is geothermal. That is apparently much closer to being an economically attractive out here. However, the initial outlay for that is large ($20k+), and the ROI is still not as attractive as that of Solar panels, for example.

Solar panels are the obvious next thing to look at. However, my roof is 19 years old and you don't want to mess with solar on an old roof. I will likely need to replace the roof in another 10-15 years. At that time I will look to solar. Hopefully at that time they will be cheaper and more efficient.

Cadman

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2019, 07:29:00 PM »
Yeah, an air-to-air HP will spend a lot of time running electric elements in your climate. Solar could offset some of that, as long as your utility has a rather flexible grid-tie contract. But like you say, new roof first. And even then PoCo rules can change and you'll be in the lurch.

I hang out in a popular geothermal forum and realistically, you're looking at closer to 30k-40k after well drilling or excavation, and you better have a top-notch installer. Too many so-called geo pros have no idea how to troubleshoot these systems when things go wrong; whereas 'rule of thumb' works in conventional A/C and heating systems, geo is much less forgiving, especially if initial calculations weren't done right.

Nat Gas is (all things considered) cheap and well understood. You really can't go wrong there.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2019, 10:23:00 AM »
In my previous area most people who have oil furnaces are converting to propane (no natural gas pipes available) when their furnace and oil tank ages out.  Cleaner and safer, no chance of soil contamination from a leaking tank.

Imma

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2019, 11:09:54 AM »
Is there a more sustainable option like a heat pump available? It feels a bit odd to spend money on converting from oil to natural gas while the whole world is trying to get off gas. I would rather spend my money on a future-proof solution instead of on something that is probably obsolete 25 years from now.

We currently are on natural gas and apart from the environmental impact it's a perfect source of heating. The boiler takes up very little space, there is no smell, the maintenance is very cheap and the current models are very energy efficient. I do fully expect this gas boiler to be the last one we'll have before we transfer to a more sustainable option (end of economic life of current boiler is around 2030)

I did ask around about heat pumps. All the professionals I asked told me they are not cost effective where we live (north east US - with very cold weathers and some hot spells).

In theory, heat pumps will be less efficient as the temperature difference increases. This *should*, in theory, make them quite efficient for about 7 months out of the year here when the temperature difference is < 20 degrees F. However, I don't know how that "theory" translates in practice and why it is not efficient.

Another thing many people do here is geothermal. That is apparently much closer to being an economically attractive out here. However, the initial outlay for that is large ($20k+), and the ROI is still not as attractive as that of Solar panels, for example.

Solar panels are the obvious next thing to look at. However, my roof is 19 years old and you don't want to mess with solar on an old roof. I will likely need to replace the roof in another 10-15 years. At that time I will look to solar. Hopefully at that time they will be cheaper and more efficient.

It sounds like there's no reasonable alternative right now, which is a shame. I don't know how much the convert would cost in your country, but where I live it would be quite expensive to convert a home to natural gas and you wouldn't be able to smear out the cost over a very long period of time before having to spend $$$ again. Because many countries are converting to gas from coal and oil and the supply is getting lower, prices of natural gas will certainly rise in the future.

I'm quite glad that we have an existing installiation of natural gas and we just hope there's a good alternative available when our boiler dies. In my country the climate has become significantly warmer over the last decades, so heating isn't as big of a priority it used to be.

bacchi

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2019, 12:22:52 PM »
A heat pump is more efficient than NG, to a point. Obviously, at lower temps, it's going to start tilting to NG and, at some point, the heat pump won't work at all (some default to electric resistance).

Personally, I'd take the free hookup and 1% loan and install a NG water heater and boiler. In the future, you can install a heat pump (some heat down to 5F) and solar and use it until January and then switch to NG.

Looking at the supply vs demand, the US produces far more NG than it uses:

https://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/weekly/   (See "U.S. natural gas supply" and the table below it.)


The downside of NG is the connection fee. Did they tell you what it is?

JLee

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2019, 12:55:51 PM »
Yeah, an air-to-air HP will spend a lot of time running electric elements in your climate. Solar could offset some of that, as long as your utility has a rather flexible grid-tie contract. But like you say, new roof first. And even then PoCo rules can change and you'll be in the lurch.

I hang out in a popular geothermal forum and realistically, you're looking at closer to 30k-40k after well drilling or excavation, and you better have a top-notch installer. Too many so-called geo pros have no idea how to troubleshoot these systems when things go wrong; whereas 'rule of thumb' works in conventional A/C and heating systems, geo is much less forgiving, especially if initial calculations weren't done right.

Nat Gas is (all things considered) cheap and well understood. You really can't go wrong there.

I have a good friend who did geothermal and he was closer to $90k, IIRC.  He also did not have central air previously so they had to have air ducting put in through the entire house for heat/ac.

brooklynmoney

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2019, 01:03:16 PM »
Yes get rid of the oil. Itís bad for resale. Also have to remediate if oil tank leaks. Horrible for resale.

ctuser1

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2019, 03:23:06 PM »
The downside of NG is the connection fee. Did they tell you what it is?

Is "connection fee" = one time cost/fee for the utility to dig a line from the NG main to my home?

If so, that is being offered for free right now if I agree to convert my heating and hot water to NG right now. All this is subject to enough people in our neighborhood expressing interest - else the utility may cancel this entire project (of bringing NG main to our street) altogether.

My understanding is that the connection fee is usually $1-$3k depending on how far the house is from the Gas Main.

Of course, I have to spend money on the actual boiler (I have a oil boiler now, so I will go with boiler, not furnace), the gas line inside the house, and the labor for all these.

Here is the exact letter:
Quote
Dear [address] Resident,

Southern Connecticut Gas is now able to bring natural gas into your neighborhood, and your home is located along the expansion route! You now have the opportunity to switch to affordable, convenient and clean natural gas! And, if you act now, we can extend a service line to your home at no cost to you if you convert your heating and hot water appliances to natural gas.*

In order to bring natural gas to you and your neighbors, we are required to secure a minimum number of service agreements from customers committed to converting their heating and hot water systems to natural gas. We have a limited window to secure the required number of service agreements, so please do not hesitate in contacting one of our Energy Specialists to set up an in person meeting to discuss the ease of conversion process and any rebates and financing offers that might be available to you.**

*Some conditions apply. Free natural gas service line is for a typical home located within a 150' service distance from a natural gas main; greater distance, unusual digging or site conditions could result in a cost for the homeowner.
**Subject to eligibility.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2019, 03:37:38 PM by ctuser1 »

justchecking

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2019, 05:21:16 PM »
SC Gas should do most of this stuff for free.  My parents just got this done and it was pretty simple.  I would get rid of the tank because of all the reasons you and others stated.  There is no reason to go crazy and get the high efficiency stuff.  It sounds good when they sell it to you, but the cost savings takes a long time if ever.  I know a great HVAC company if you want it and are near me in CT.  We also have gas and just get the boiler tuned up every couple of years and it runs like a dream.  Let me know if you have any other CT specific questions I could help with.

TomTX

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2019, 06:46:13 PM »
Yeah, an air-to-air HP will spend a lot of time running electric elements in your climate. Solar could offset some of that, as long as your utility has a rather flexible grid-tie contract. But like you say, new roof first. And even then PoCo rules can change and you'll be in the lurch.

Standard heat pumps would struggle, but there are heat pumps designed for proper operation at lower temperatures.

Example:

http://www.mitsubishicomfort.com/sites/default/files/manual/fh-series_highrise_brochure.pdf?fid=1156

ctuser1

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2019, 07:37:34 PM »
SC Gas should do most of this stuff for free.  My parents just got this done and it was pretty simple.  I would get rid of the tank because of all the reasons you and others stated.  There is no reason to go crazy and get the high efficiency stuff.  It sounds good when they sell it to you, but the cost savings takes a long time if ever.  I know a great HVAC company if you want it and are near me in CT.  We also have gas and just get the boiler tuned up every couple of years and it runs like a dream.  Let me know if you have any other CT specific questions I could help with.

Sent a PM. Thx.

bacchi

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2019, 08:29:04 PM »
The downside of NG is the connection fee. Did they tell you what it is?

Is "connection fee" = one time cost/fee for the utility to dig a line from the NG main to my home?

Oh, sorry. I meant the monthly charge. Last month, my NG bill was $28 and the "cost of gas" was only $4.50. The rest was the customer charge, delivery fee, city fee, etc.


ctuser1

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Re: Converting from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2019, 09:33:34 PM »
The downside of NG is the connection fee. Did they tell you what it is?

Is "connection fee" = one time cost/fee for the utility to dig a line from the NG main to my home?

Oh, sorry. I meant the monthly charge. Last month, my NG bill was $28 and the "cost of gas" was only $4.50. The rest was the customer charge, delivery fee, city fee, etc.

Got it now. Sounds like this is like the "delivery charges" in my electricity bill from UI - only worse.

No, they did not give me any indication of how much the fixed components would be.

There is a calculator in the southern connecticut website. My calendar 2018 heating oil bill was $1569, the calculator tells me I will spend twelve-hundred-something if I switch to gas. From the verbiage on the calculator, it *seems* they are including all such fixed charges before giving me the $300/year savings figure.

If not, that will be a big negative surprise!! :-(
« Last Edit: August 04, 2019, 09:36:22 PM by ctuser1 »