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oil to gas

nannan Member Posts: 5
The boiler in my childhood home, if not the original, is close to it. It is oil heated for steam heat. I'm exploring changing it out and also exploring changing to natural gas. 1 of the contractors's opinions was that oil is more efficient than gas in heating steam. Any opinions? Thanks


  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    BTUs are BTUs !

    Hi Nan-  Heat is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) so if a certain sized boiler needs a 250,000 BTUs per hour input to produce steam, it doesn’t matter what the fuel is. It could be oil, newspaper, natural gas, rocket fuel, or pine twigs as long the amount used is able to produce 250,000 BTUs per Hour . 

    To compare cost between fuels you have to determine the cost of the fuel per BTU.

    Oil is quoted as cost per gal. Gas in normally quoted as the price per “Therm”.  1 Therm = 100,000 Btus.

    The calculations below find the cost of 100000 BTUs of either natural gas or oil.

    Natural Gas

    Cng = png (100000 Btu) / (1028 Btu/ft3)  (1)


    Cng = natural gas cost per 100000 Btu

    png = natural gas price per cubic ft.

    Fuel Oil

    Cfo = pfo (100000 Btu) / (140000 Btu/gallon)  (1)


    Cfo = fuel oil cost per 100000 Btu

    pfo = fuel oil price per gallon

    I think the efficiency confusion maybe from the fact that 1 gallon of

    fuel oil contains 140,000 BTUS and a Therm of gas contains 100,000 BTUs. 

    If one does a quick glance and sees 140,000 vs 100,000 it might look like oil is more efficient. The important item is bottom line cost.

    Boiler- You probably will want to replace your old boiler as the new models are more efficient.

    - Rod
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    Gas can be just as efficient as oil, as long as the installer is proficcient. It is true that an atmospheric gas boiler will have a lower listed efficiency, but a wet-based gas boiler can operate higher than the listed ratings. You can make any fuel as efficient as you want (within reason) if you design and install the system to an exacting standard.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • nannan Member Posts: 5
    oil to gas

    Thank you. What would be considered an "exacting standard" as noted in your previous post?

    So, if I stay with oil, and replace with an efficient boiler, it sounds like a way to go. Besides, the quotes I'm getting to switch to natural gas -( there is gas piped in already for water heater and cooking stoves-3/4 inch) are very high $20-30K. Does that sound right?
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    We do not discuss pricing here. Feel free to private message me and we can talk prices in private.

    What system are they planning to install? Are they staying with steam?
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067
    Oil to Gas

    Hi Nan-

       Switching fuel from oil to gas will save you a lot in operating cost. If natural gas was available in my town, I would switch over tomorrow! However since we apparently won’t have gas service for several more years I’m stuck with oil.

    Pricing- One of the board rules is we don’t discuss pricing, however, if I were you I’d look for more bids.

      The dilemma you face is finding a pro who actually understands steam heating.

    There are a lot of heating professionals out there that think they understand steam heating when in fact they actually don’t. One of the first things I suggest you do it to buy one of the steam books which is available in the Shop section of this website. The best one to start with is called “We Got Heat!”

    Dan’s books are easy reading and are written so the homeowner new to steam can understand them.  An evening’s or two of reading will put your knowledge of steam heating lightyears ahead. One of the first benefits of reading this book is that you gain enough knowledge to qualify whether the heating professional you are talking to really understands steam heating.

    The following are some links to articles on the Heating Help website which may be helpful to you:

    Take your time, ask a lot of questions and learn about steam.

    - Rod                
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,917
    Nan Where are you located

    perhaps one of us services that area.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
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