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gas boiler explosions?

seeker Member Posts: 1
I have some questions about gas burning boilers vs. oil burner boilers.

1) Are gas burners more dangerous or potentially more explosive that oil burners?

2) Are there recorded instances where either have exploded? I think I remember Apex Technical School having an explosion a few years back, but I don't think that had to do with the boiler.

3) Is there any reference material comparing the safety of gas vs. oil that any of you could point me to?

Thanks so much for any help!


  • Greg Maxwell
    Greg Maxwell Member Posts: 212
    Boiler Explosions

    The equiptment today is VERY safe, weather oil or gas. Gas is explosive, and oil is combustable, so there is an inherant danger with gas BUT, with all the safety measures, and controls in place, there is little chance you will ever have a problem. I would not worry about an explosion. Oil on the other hand will not explode, and really doesnt burn well at all unless atomized, so you wouldnt have to worry about an explosion at all. When I first started in the trades almost 30 years ago, one of the first things that I saw as an apprentice was a guy putting a cigarette out by dropping it in a coffee can of oil. There was not even a flame. It made a lasting impression.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,654
    If a boiler explodes

    it means someone was careless. Period. The fuel doesn't matter.

    With gas, a fuel-related explosion is usually the result of a leak that wasn't fixed. This is especially true of propane since it is heavier than air, so it will accumulate rather than disperse. An oil-fired boiler might "puff" (which is a small explosion) because of delayed ignition. I've seen gas boilers do this too but it's much less common.

    This is why every heating unit needs to be checked thoroughly every year.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,524
    Being an old gas man

    with over 50 years in the gas boiler and furnace business, 28 of those years working as a tech with the gas company and the last 18 of my years there as an instructor in their training program I have some knowledge concerning your question.

    Most older gas systems used some kind of a pilot system which had to be lit and proving the flame presence by either a thermocouple, bi-metal, mercury sensor or some other sensing device. No flame then no gas as it would shut off on safety and would require relighting.

    Early versions of gas valves had a single seat in the valve and had problems sometimes that the seat would not close off. In 1979 it was mandated that all gas valves be dual seated (redundant) this added a safety feature that in all my experience since then has pretty much eliminated what we call a delayed or audible ignition. So safety has been improved considerably. The safe shut down time has also come a long way and most spark ignited systems which use rectification to prove the flame will shut down safely in .8 of a second.

    Gas equipment for heating today is very safe and very rarely is there an explosion caused by the equipment itself. Gas explosions are typically the result of outside contractors hitting the underground gas piping.

    I guess you could argue that oil is safer than gas especially with the cad cell proving flame and this often takes care of poor combustion conditions on oil. However an oil spill in the basement can be a real mess, not so much as to an explosion but environmentally a mess.
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