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crown oil fired boiler to propane?

beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7

I have a 10 year old Crown low pressure hot water boiler that is oil fired.  I'm wondering if switching to propane (not natural gas) is an option since I am going to be doing a major waterproofing job in the cellar where the boiler and oil tank are.  I have an old house with an old chimney that the boiler is vented through- unsure if you need to know this info.

Thanks for any help you can provide!



  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    You sure can!

    Carlin makes a gas/propane burner. A skilled technician must do the conversion.

    Where are you located?
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    LP Price? ($)

    What is the price per gallon for LP and what is the price per gallon for oil?
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,240

    I think you'll find there's no economic advantage to switching to propane, which is the point ice sailor was making.
  • beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7

    Propane is around $1.50-$2.00 cheaper than oil.  I've done a bit of reading on the internet (must be true) and I'm advised not to always look at the per gallon price but the effiiciency and cleanliness of running gas vs. oil.  I invited my boiler guy for supper tonight and he says he can do it- all my piping will do the job.  Now it's to figure the investment in this and see if there's a return.
  • beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7

    I'm in eastern MA.  I see you're in NJ.... a bit of a haul!
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    you need to compare cost per BTU

    not cost per gallon. will allow you to look at this along with differing combustion efficiencies across types of fuel.
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,240
    edited October 2012

    You get over 60% more btus out of a gallon of oil vs.propane. And I'm not for one or the other, just providing information.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Third World Comparison:

    Here's the Short Bus way to compare.

    With both fuels, you are paying for the BTU content. Lets call a BTU a penny ($.01) shall we? OK.

    There are 139,000+ pennies in a gallon of #2 heating oil.

    There are 91.000 pennies in a gallon of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

    Lets take two gallon buckets. Lets put the 91,000 pennies in one bucket and the 139,000+ pennies in the other, shall we?

    Which is the better deal. Like for whatever you pay for the fuel, which bucket is the better deal. The efficiencies are about the same.

    Figure that out class, and you have the answer.

    Of you have a modern oil boiler with a modern flame retention burner, and you are running it as a warm start NOT COLD START!!!, and it is clean and well maintained, it will be more efficient than the gas conversion burner.

    Add the cost of the conversion in, and running the gas, and it becomes more murky. LPG is a fuel commodity, just like oil and gasoline where it comes from. The price is controlled by the commodity traders who's only goal in life is to make money by picking your pocket. Natural gas is a commodity. There is a glut of it right now. In a few years, the commodity traders will have the market sown up, and the price will be right up there with the rest of it.

    Diesel fuel for trucks was always cheaper than regular gas by a large margin. Now, it is always $.10 per gallon more than regular gasoline.

    I don't believe that all that "Fract" gas is of the same quality. They will be using LPG to juice it up to the 100,000 BTU per therm or when in the winter time, and the pressure drops, they have to pump air and LPG to keep the BTU level up there.

    Gas is great but I know that they are picking my pocket on a regular basis.

    I have a Weil-McLain WTGO-3 boiler and a storage tank for hot water. The low limit stays at 135 degrees. I put 150 gallons in the tank last May. I checked it the other day and have over 75 left. I could change to LPG. Buy a bigger above ground tank and run a larger pipe than is already there for my gas dryer. Cost of the burner and tank(s). There is natural gas in front of my house. 500' away. Dig through the oak trees, under a boulder stone wall, across the lawn, repair the landscaping, and pipe inside. Convert my dryer back to Nat. Gas and trow away my decorative fireplace log because it can't be converted, and buy a gas burner. All that needs to be added to the cost of your new fuel over a period of time.

    The National LPG company I buy my LPG charges me well over $5.00 per gallon for LPG for my dryer. I have asked them how much I would pay if I switched for heat. Their answers are sort of like what the customer wants and Rick is willing to pay on the Pawn Stars.

    Be very careful that you don't step over a ten dollar bill ($10.00) to pick up a dime ($.10) in savings.
  • beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7
    still thinking...

    Thanks for the info.  Since I have to remove my oil tank, hot water heater, etc. to do some major work in the cellar, I thought I would investigate this idea.  Also, I have such a small cellar (slightly taller than a crawl space) I thought I could buy myself some real estate by eliminating the huge 275 gal oil tank. 

    I'll keep thinking...
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,409

    I just had a Smith G8 installed with the EZ gas burner on it last week. I'm just south of Boston and am using natural gas. I had to have the chimney lined and have the tank removed as well. I did a thorough cost analysis and the cost of natural gas was $1.46 per therm in January (includes taxes and customer charge) while oil was running $3.50 a gallon or $2.50 per therm . My new boiler with the chimney liner could pay me back in 12 years if the price differential stays the same. With that boiler I would always have the option of replacing that gas gun with a oil gun but I doubt I'll ever have to.

    This listing shows propane prices in SE mass but is a few months old -

    This is the current fuel oil cost

    There is one low price there but if you figure an average of $3 a gallon for propane and knowing fuel oil is now about $3.50 a gallon in this area I would be leery. A gallon of oil is 140,000 BTU while propane is 91,000 BTU. Oil costs $2.50 per therm (100,000 BTU) right now so propane would have to be $2.27 per gallon to get the same heat out of it.

    I don't think you will ever see a payback after figuring the cost of a gas gun and a chimney liner. Do whatever you can to make your current setup more efficient by tuning that oil burner, insulating all the piping, and make sure the house is well insulated. If your dealing with a crawl space I'd insulate the floor as well. Maybe some day they will run a natural gas line by the house.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7
    The new math

    Hey Bob,

    Thanks for such a wonderful and detailed analysis.  I really appreciate it since I've not done that kind of math.  The cellar/crawlspace is getting waterproofed in the near future to eliminate water (duh!) and mold.  My 1850's house is a lot to keep up with and I"m looking for the best use of my money (propane vs. oil) while getting the most space for storage out of my soon-to-be dry cellar.

    Thanks again,

  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Pointing out the obvious:

    Thanks Bob for putting that all down. I've done that exercise way too many times and I finally gave up. They're smart and we're not.

    Some of these oil to gas conversions are having corners cut by not re-lining chimneys and all the costs aren't put into the equations.

    Nice job on the facts.

    I wish I could get Amerigas to sell me Propane for those prices.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,409
    Bang for the buck

    It's tough to compare quotes unless you get everybody to quote on the same list of requirements and a lot of homeowners can easily be mislead because they don't understand what they need.

    I think natural gas will remain relatively cheap until they figure out a way to ship out of country in liquified form, Once the commodity traders get their hooks in the game will be up, until then make hay while the sun shines. For years propane was priced pretty high compared to oil and I don't think that will change in this market.

    With an old house the best bang for the buck is usually to cut air infiltration and insulate (don't forget the pipes). Often adding good storms to existing windows is almost as good as replacing windows wholesale and is less expensive if your not doing the work yourself. Take advantage of any energy saving programs like Mass Save, they can save you some cash on insulation.

    You can get smaller oil tanks if it makes it easier to fit one somewhere With the cost of oil it's not easy to pay for 275 gallons of oil so a 200 gallon tank might work for you.

    good luck with your improvements,

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,240

    Out of curiousity....what are you getting for efficiency on that G8, right out of the box?
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,409
    G8 efficiency

    The boiler was commissioned Friday and was tuned with a digital combustion analyzer at that time but the installer didn't write down the numbers. He will be back for the town gas inspection, I'll ask him to run the numbers again and write them down.

    I do notice some low frequency howling that almost sounds like a resonance thing with the new chimney liner (27' chimney and about a 6' smoke stack with a double swing damper. I'll measure the frequency of that howl and see if it jibes with the length of the stack / liner.

    I had the installer move my vaporstat (12 oz cutout) from the old boiler onto the new one so now I have a brand new pressuretrol sitting on the shelf. I'll insulate the near boiler piping this week.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    We installed one one Thrusday. It was running at 86.2% efficiency.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7
    per gallon pricing

    Oil price per gallon here is $3.88.

    Propane per gallon here is $2.99.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,409
    Propane is not cheaper

    If oil is going for 3.88 and propane is 2.99 that means the equivalent cost of propane is $4.65 for the same energy content as a gallon of oil.

    The propane is 21% more expensive than oil in this case.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Patchogue PhilPatchogue Phil Member Posts: 263
    delivery of low volume

    The delivery cost of low-volume use of propane is what is making the price to you so high.

    Even though I use propane for the oven/stove and clothes dryer,  delivery cost per gallon (after all taxes etc) would be +/-  $6 per gallon.  At my Mom's house it is dryer, stove/oven and heating.  Works out to about $3.60 per gallon after taxes applied.  High volume gets lower price per gallon.

    What I did was buy my own LP tanks -  two  60 pound tanks.  I can legally transport them in my auto (I think up to 90 pounds is legal limit).  A 60 pound tank costs me $57 to fill,  and they fill it to the max.  When one tank is empty,  I switch over to the other full tank.  I have a switching regulator.  Then I have a few months to get the empty tank filled.  In a pinch I have connected a 20 lb BBQ propane tank to the house (same thread size).  I usually time the refill when I need to get a BBQ tank refilled.
  • Patchogue PhilPatchogue Phil Member Posts: 263
    discount at 200 gallons

    a 200 gallon tank won't allow you to get the lower price per gallon usually given at the 200 gallon mark.  You would have to run out of fuel to get 200 gallons,  if 200 would fit.

    A tall vertical tank might help with basement "real estate".
  • beckytbeckyt Member Posts: 7

    So, I'm still considering the changeover from oil to propane.  Everyone has offered some great suggestions and thoughts.  Thanks!

    I am no longer entertaining the idea of waterproofing the basement.  The process the company suggests would eliminate some cement walls that are supporting the foundation.  They are good at selling the system, but are by no means carpenters.

    I do have a dehumidifier running at high linked to my sump pump to see if this will really help my situation.

    Last, I discovered a gaping hole in the exhaust pipe from my boiler to the chimney.  Thank God I saw it...  my plumber is en route.

    Oh the joys of owning an antique house.  Or perhaps any house. 

    Thanks all!
  • earl burnermannearl burnermann Member Posts: 126
    Thanks for the spreadsheet!

    Right now I'm in the process of googling corn kernel burners. Looks like the way to go ;-)
    If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy!
  • rogerBrogerB Member Posts: 1
    edited July 2013
    Good read

    Bob - That was a good post

    I'm outraged by how much I spent on fuel oil this past season and I've been considering switching to propane for heating. We don't have natural gas on the street but are using propane for cooking anyways. So I was researching this and came across this post a few days ago which compares propane and fuel oil in simple terms

    Thought others might find it useful too
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