Author Topic: Heating by gas rather than oil  (Read 5902 times)

Bettis

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Heating by gas rather than oil
« on: June 18, 2013, 09:34:01 AM »
This summer I have the opportunity to convert to gas for my heating.  My street is being dug up and if I don't do it this year, I have to wait 5 more years.  I've basically decided that I am making the switch from oil to gas because it seems like a slam dunk.  Anyone have a differing opinion?

I am in Massachusetts and when we keep the heat at 60F(wife isn't a fan of that), we still end up paying ~$3k for the winter season.  This would only be for heat but it would open up the possibilities of changing our washer/dryer, oven/stove later on.

I've been quoted $1,000 for the hookup but of course that does not include the furnace itself.  What should I look for in a furnace and about how much would it run me including installation?  I'm guessing $6k for everything and if my heat gets cut in half, it is a 4 year breakeven which I can live with.

velocistar237

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 11:55:01 AM »
I recently had a gas furnace replaced, and it cost $5K. I got a high-efficiency furnace that in retrospect was probably too efficient for my level of gas usage. Also, it sounds like you're not in an urban area, so your prices might be lower.

If you're interested in removing your chimney, then get the cheapest high-efficiency furnace that will vent out the wall. If not, crunch the numbers to see how many years it will take to pay back the cost difference for the high-efficiency unit. It might be longer than the expected life of the furnace.

Another option is to air seal and insulate your house really well, then get a ductless mini-split heat pump, or two. Mitsubishi makes one that works down to -7 degF or so. It also works as an air conditioner. I can share some more thoughts on that if you're interested.

Even if you don't get a gas furnace, it still might be worth getting the gas hookup for the reasons you mention.

Have you had air sealing and insulation done through MassSave?
I assume you have forced hot air?
Are your ducts in good condition, sealed, and running through conditioned space?
Is your water heater electric?

Another Reader

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 12:05:35 PM »
Would I do this and get away from the heating oil cartel?  In a heartbeat.  You will want to switch the water heater over at the next change and you can switch to a gas cooktop/range if you prefer gas for cooking.  I paid $2k for a 100k BTU 80 percent efficient Trane furnace last December in the SF Bay area.  Tooqk4u paid a lot more for his new furnace of similar efficiency in New Jersey around the same time. 

Bettis

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 12:32:11 PM »
I don't know a heck of a lot about this stuff, only that oil is very expensive and gas seems to cost a lot less so once I got the notice they were digging the road, I figured do it.  I do know that my heat is forced air with oil and nothing else is oil.  So my stove, water heater, washer/dryer etc is all electric.  I'd like to have the flexibility to change those later but for now, the heat is my primary concern.

I haven't had any air sealing or insulation done besides what was done before I bought the house 3 years ago.  Next Step Living(I think they are associated with National Grid, my electric company) often comes to my work to advertise free energy audits but they just try to push solar panels and conveniently do not get back to me about the energy audits themselves.

I'm often weary about anyone coming in to do things like that anyway because I figure I'd be sold stuff I don't need.  I've tried reading home maintenance for dummies and that's even a bit complex for me so I gotta figure out a way to learn this stuff hands on or something.

velocistar237

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 12:55:25 PM »
Next Step Living did an energy audit and insulated our house with cellulose, and it was fine, though yes, they are very slow to get back to you. I don't think they're part of National Grid. They tried to sell us solar, but it was one of those deals where they own the panels and sell you the power for the next 20 years. There are other MassSave contractors out there.

Be sure to check out the MMM article on the topic.
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/11/18/first-understand-then-destroy-your-home-heating-bill/

Consider going through this online energy audit. It will give you some idea which changes would pay off.
http://homeenergysaver.lbl.gov

Any air sealing you can do is definitely worth it, and often all it takes is caulk.

Dynasty

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2013, 01:24:04 PM »

I've been quoted $1,000 for the hookup but of course that does not include the furnace itself.  What should I look for in a furnace and about how much would it run me including installation?  I'm guessing $6k for everything and if my heat gets cut in half, it is a 4 year breakeven which I can live with.

Do it!

At the very least this will make your house more valuable if you decide to ever sell it.   Or at truly the very least, easier to sell if you decide to ever sell your house.

Since the street is being tore up now, this is the time to get the natural gas hookup. Believe me, if you decide against it at this time, the bill for hookup in the future is going to be far greater than $1000...

As far as replacing your oil furnace with a natural gas unit, money much better spent would be on CONVERTING it to run natural gas.  Not replacing.

But beware furnace salesman. They want to sell you a new unit, not retrofit your existing furnace.


Bettis

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 01:33:47 PM »
I wasn't even aware it could be converted.  I guess I would want to do that depending on the age of the unit and how long they typically last.  Hopefully there's a way to figure the age of it but I'll check when I get home.  I'm pretty sure there is a service tag on it.

Dynasty

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2013, 01:52:11 PM »
I wasn't even aware it could be converted.  I guess I would want to do that depending on the age of the unit and how long they typically last.  Hopefully there's a way to figure the age of it but I'll check when I get home.  I'm pretty sure there is a service tag on it.

There are definitely things to consider.

On an oil furnace what wears out is the pump and mechanism to get oil to the burners, and all furnaces the heat exchanger and the blower. 

And if its a really older unit, you're gonna have a super heavy duty cast iron heat exchanger vs. a stamped steel one newer furnaces have. The newer heat exchanger are pretty chintzy and have a finite life span. Cast iron heat exchangers are generally good for 75 years plus.

I wouldn't let the age of the furnace deter your from converting it. Especially it is a 1960s model. But if it were made in the 80, 90s, last decade maybe...

TrulyStashin

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2013, 06:40:17 AM »
Absolutely do this.   

I bought my 1963 home in 2004 at auction (it was an estate and in poor condition).   I had to buy a new oil-fired boiler (not furnace but same principle).  Rather than stay with expensive and dirty oil using an outside, above-ground tank (ugly), I switched to gas and am so very glad I did.  I can't say what my heating bill would have been with the oil because the old boiler wasn't working and had to go anyway. 

But getting rid of the tank, using a cleaner fuel, and adding on a gas-fired water heater and 5-burner cooktop all now contribute to better quality of living and greater appeal at re-sale time.

Also, recently we had a 2-day power outage thanks to a wicked storm that left downed trees and lines everywhere.  Despite being out of electricity, my water heater kept on truckin' so we still had hot showers and my gas stove lit easily with a match so cooking was no problem.

I would not buy a house that didn't have natural gas service.  I love it that much.

kimmarg

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2013, 07:38:52 AM »
Do it! I am just north of you in Maine and also pay just over $3k a year in heat. Switching to natural gas would save me around $2k PER YEAR in heating costs. Does not take long to get a payback even with the cost of retro fit or new furnace.

Here's a great website to compare various fuel types so you can check for yourself.

http://nepacrossroads.com/fuel-comparison-calculator.phphttp://

kimmarg

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2013, 07:42:20 AM »
P.S. this is all assuming you mean natural gas.  Propane is just as much as fuel oil and more annoying because you can't shop around for price day to day

Rangifer

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2013, 09:54:17 PM »
How much is natural gas in your area?

An easy way to compare is that $1.50 per therm is about the same as if heating oil was $2.00 per gallon

Sweet Betsy

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2013, 06:11:41 AM »
We are in Massachusetts too...the house that we just bought had been converted to Natural Gas some time ago.  The old oil furnace had been retrofitted for natural gas and still worked relatively well so it can definitely be done.  We upgraded to a high efficiency furnace because the old furnace was 45 years old and hadn't been maintained for some time.  Definitely pay to have the natural gas line run to your home.  $1000 is a great price. 

MassSave is a great program.  The gal who came out made some recommendations on whether or not we should replace the windows and such.  She also quoted us airsealing and insulating our home.  We have yet to do it because of some other work that we are having done.  The best part of the visit is that she replaced all of our lightbulbs with CFLs for free.  We had just moved in so hadn't replaced any of the existing lightbulbs yet so it saved us a bit of money. 

Christof

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Re: Heating by gas rather than oil
« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2013, 07:06:10 AM »
We have natural gas at home and I certainly agree that it's much nicer than oil, even if just to get rid of a tank and saving oil tank maintenance. Here in Germany I have more issues with natural gas than I would in the US, because we get a lot our gas from Russia, Iran, and similar countries. Russia has stopped gas delivery in the past and I don't like this dependency on what I view as an unreliable supplier.

In the US you have your own enormous shale gas supply, so that argument does not hold water for you.

Gas is a just-in-time resource like electrical power. Gas pipes can burst or need repair, so there's the tiny chance that in case of a catastrophe your heating supply is cut off in winter. I don't know how gas delivery is structured in the US, but you might be limited to a single supplier for gas (the same that owns the new pipes in your street). With oil you can switch companies and get one that offers the best price, with gas you might not have this option.

The heating value of gas (KW/h) differs per volume, it's a natural product, after all. Our gas is metered by volume and then charged at an average heating value that is periodically adjusted. If you are charged by volume, you need to convert that to heating value if you compare prices.