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should I Switch from oil to gas

I just bought a small 50 year old 2 family, a 1 bedroom over 2 with a basement. I am new to home ownership and heating systems. The House has the original coal boiler that was switched to oil with a steam system and I was considering converting to gas heat. I was told gas was cleaner and since I would be removing the oil tank , I would have more room to finish the basement for my kids which kinda is a priority. I was told oil heat was better for a steam heating system and that the new oil boilers run as clean as a gas system. Which is more efficient and makes my monthly costs go down . Do I want a hot water heater? National grid said I would save about $700 a year which would take about 10 years to offset the $8000.00 cost for a new gas sytem. A friend said " if it aint broke dont fix it" I dont know what to do. The house needs some upgrades (kitchen , bathroom, cement work ...more than I expected) so is it worth changing, upgrading or leave it alone???


  • Follow Your Friend's Advice

    I'd second you friend's good advice -"if it ain't broke don't fix it!".  You have a new house and I would do the things that need to be done (kitchen, bathroom) first. I would take some time and educate yourself on heating systems. This will put you in a better position to make a choice on your heating system.

    The first thing I'd do is make sure your present steam system is operating efficiently as possible. I would strongly recommend you get a couple of books written by Dan Holohan on steam heating which are available on this site. The first one is "We Got Steam Heat"


    The second book is "The Lost Art of Steam Heating":


    I keep plugging these books to every one I meet with a steam system as they were /are such a big help to me and have easily paid back their cost a hundred fold. They are written for the homeowner, humorous, pacts full of facts and pictures/diagrams and in a few evening's reading you'll know a lot more about steam systems.

    If you considering replacing your boiler, reading "The Lost Art..." is a must.  Surprisingly there aren't many people out there, professional heating and homeowners, that really understand steam systems and doing the reading can save you making some BIG expensive mistakes and ending up with a screwed up system.

    A  modern system whether oil or gas would probably save you on fuel as they are probably slightly more efficient than what you have now though all things considered the payback is probably quite long.  As these old systems usually suffer froma a lack of maintenance, doing a bit of maintenance and "tweeking" can make a surprising amount of difference in the comfort and fuel bills.

    Keep in mine that the gas people's main object is to sell you gas. Gas and oil prices fluctuate regionally  but BTUs are BTUs so you can look at the boiler literature and figure what the theoretical operating costs are. Any way you look at it, it is better to wait and do your homework first. Besides I'd go with the new kitchen first as I know it would make bigger points with my wife than a new steam boiler! :)
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,262
    edited October 2009
    But an old coal-converted boiler

    will never be as efficient as a new one.

    The best residential steamer available now is the oil-fired Burnham MegaSteam. This boiler is one good reason to stay with oil. Another reason is you have a choice of suppliers, whereas with gas you're tied into an unregulated monopoly.

    If you do switch to gas, get the best boiler you can- a wet-base power-burner type like the gas-equipped Slant/Fin Intrepid.

    Here are pics of both boilers. How about posting a pic of yours?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
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