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LP or Oil

Hilly
Hilly Member Posts: 417
Where I live we have a couple of heating options

Oil Electric LP and then there's the others of course ie geothermals, air-water/air, solar, wind.



So with the real day to day choices being Oil, KW's and LP I really like the idea of the gas boilers for their compact sizing, eff ratings, and no oil on site.



Okay so to the question, should I be aware of anything with regards to running a LP version of a boiler opposed to a NG version? Are there any short comings I might not be knowledgeable to? I just plan to build a house in the next 23 months and I want to get my head wrapped around how I'll heat it. It'd be so much easier if we just had NG here, but that will never happen in my lifetime. Getting a 50K boiler in oil would be expensive so here, there's pretty much two or three boilers and that's about. I live up in Newfoundland, so supply and demand doesn't give you much option.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,047
    Newfoundland?

    My word, lad, your options are limited -- and nothing is going to be cheap.  The maritimes are bad enough!



    Look very closely at your electricity rates.  I honestly don't know what they are in Newfoundland, but in the maritimes and particularly Quebec they are low enough to be seriously competitive.  On the other hand, if the power goes out (and it does -- remember the great Quebec blackout?) things can get very chilly very fast!



    Having done that, for me it would not be so much a question of the size of the physical size of the boiler, nor efficiency -- you can get very close with either LP or oil -- but who you have to install and service it and the relative cost.  There are pluses and minuses to both LP and oil, but what you really want to have is someone who knows what he or she is doing to install it, and someone who can maintain it in really top shape.



    You mention not having oil on site as being a plus for LP.  True.  Not to mention that you can use LP for cooking as well.  However, having oil on site isn't really a problem, so I at least wouldn't worry about that.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 417
    forgot

    Jamie I had totally forgot. The whole reason to avoid electricty was to avoid the blackouts. We had ourselves a long winter that featured scheduled 'rolling blackouts' I wasn't affected too bad because I am on a grid with some semi-essential services. Also electricity here is 10.7C/KW and that's before tax. And the political future here indicates in the next 3-6 years that could hit anywhere from 17-22c!

    So for self sufficiency during those dirt times oil/lp would be preferred. And LP will be there on site at the very least.



    The work will be preformed mostly by myself. I have am a plumber by trade and hydronics is a cowboy industry out this way. So for the last couple of years I've been reading, reading, reading. If it was big business here and I had my past back, heating would have been my focus.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,047
    All things considered...

    I think I would go with LP if I were in your situation!  And I quite understand the "cowboy" feeling.  I love Newfoundland -- but "away from civilization" takes on a whole new meaning.



    The actual plumbing and setup of any good LP gas unit shouldn't be any problem for you.  The installation instructions usually aren't too bad -- and there are a lot of folks here on the Wall who can answer questions.  The only aspect which might be a little fiddly is getting the burner adjusted for best efficiency.  That is best done with various test instruments -- draught gauge, CO and oxygen meters, etc. -- and the higher the efficiency, the fussier things are.  I would take that into consideration in picking a unit.  There's a lot to be said for keeping things simple...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 417
    like the idea of a super clean and tidy mech room with a wall hung

    I appreciate that input very much so. Considering I get everything at 'cost' also means I don't mind spending upfront to keep myself out of trouble in the future. I have friends with combustion analyzers along with I don't know what else. Gas is even a bigger cowboy industry here than hydronics. But I have friends who have gain a lot of knowledge outside of the province who can give help with that. I've heard too many horror stories of bad lp setups here. Thankfully I have a good lead time before I need to decide on anything concrete. Also I should have the fuel prices tomorrow for current prices (Today is a holiday) Thanks again for your responses.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Another consideration, eh?

    Add this to the LP consideration.

    You can run generators on LP if you down rate them and buy one already set up to switch from Gasoline to LP/Natural Gas. For when you have those "Rolling Brown-outs".



    You can get diesel generators too. If you can get LP gas, you can get heating oil. The price will sooner or later, be the same. The International Energy criminals are working to equalize the price per gallon. Not the Energy per gallon. Because they are going to be compressing and shipping North American Natural Gas to be sold on the International market, LPG is needed to pump into Natural Gas mains in the winter to cover peak demand.

    Or, just get a decent gasoline generator. Don't buy anything less than 5,000 Watt/5.0 KW run.
  • Hilly
    Hilly Member Posts: 417
    the generator, it crossed my mind

    The LP generator did cross my mind also. I haven't seen one in action, but I understand that they are fairly quiet in their operation. Being able to function during those Brown times is the main reason for using anything but Electric also.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    You can run generators on LP if you down rate them

    According to the manual that came with my natural gas fired backup generator, it will put out 12 KVA on natural gas and 14 KVA on LPG. So you can actually up rate the unit a little.



    Around here, my next door neighbor has one brand and I have the other popular brand. The units are about the same size, and his is a little noisier than mine. The person across the street had a large portable gasoline generator that was so loud it was difficult to sleep when it was running. I do not know how loud  a large, permanently installed gasoline generator would be.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,047
    The generator

    would be worth the effort.  I'd go with the LP, since you will have it.  The LP units start very easily, even if it is pretty cold out (assuming that your LP tank is big enough -- you want to make sure that your tank is sized properly for your connected load -- cooking, generator, boiler, water heater, what have you for the lowest temperatures you reasonably expect to have).  Diesels start... eventually... in the cold.



    Make sure it is wired in correctly!!!



    I have a rather elderly gasoline unit, and it is a little noisy, but it's down near one of the outbuildings so it doesn't matter -- and a generator is a really wonderful thing to have when the power goes out.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited May 2014
    Rated generators:

    I was talking about "Tri-Fuel" units. Gasoline will be the highest rated because gasoline has the highest BTU rating, LP is second and Natural gas is the lowest. If you have a larger Generator Set that is set up for gasoline only, you can often buy LP conversion kits. It's also easier and wiser to buy a LP only set up if LP is your choice of fuel. Diesel gen. sets have the highest rating because there are more "nuts" in a gallon of Diesel.

    As far as the noise, better and more expensive units are quieter. You can buy contained units for outside installations. Where I worked, outside units like Genrac only lasted about 5 years until the cabinets rotted out and the connections and relay switches failed. Try to install it in a protected inside location.

    http://www.propane-generators.com/honda-generators.htm
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Generators come in many flavors

    Look for a water-cooled 1800 RPM engine if you want quiet.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    outside units like Genrac only lasted about 5 years

    "Where I worked, outside units like Genrac only lasted about 5 years

    until the cabinets rotted out and the connections and relay switches

    failed. Try to install it in a protected inside location."



    It would be difficult to locate my backup generator in a protected inside location because the local fire code requires them to be outside, and at least 5 feet from a wall, unless the fire department considers the wall to be fireproof..



    On the other hand, my generator is a Kohler that comes with firm but slightly soft plastic cabinet that should not rot out. The relays are all inside my garage right next to the (formerly) main power panel. There are now 4 metal electrical cabinets. There is one connected to the electric meter from the power company. Inside is a 200 amp main circuit breaker. Next comes the box with the transfer switch and some other little control stuff. Power cones from the box from the meter and also from the generator, and there is a serious DPDT power relay that chooses between the two, and some controls.



    From there the power goes to the old main power panel. There is yet another box controlled by the transfer switch box. This is because according to the code, the generator is not big enough to run everything if all the electric loads are on at once, demanding full power. So this last box has a big relay in it that cuts off my electric dryer and my electric stove if the house is running on the generator. There is a circuit breaker in the main power panel that allows me to turn off that relay box and restore power to the two disconnected loads. So I could run one or the other of these if I remember to have the other one off. And if I run the electric stove, I better not to run the self cleaning option on the oven. I propose to not use the oven at all at such times, but I might do a stir-fry or something on the stove top, provided the dryer is off. All this stuff is inside the garage and protected from the weather.



    My generator has a carburettor heater on it good down to 0F. There is an optional 12 volt battery heater, but they advise it only for places that go below 0F outside. Here the design temperature is 14F, so I did not get that option.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Look for a water-cooled 1800 RPM engine if you want quiet.

    When I was looking for a backup generator, the only water cooled ones cost about twice as much as the Generac and Kohler units. Kohler units were a little more than the Generacs. I could not afford to go with the water cooled units. Also, I assume they would need anti-freeze in them, and I did not want to deal with that. I do  not remember what speed that ran at, but Kohler and Generac run at 3600 rpm. They would need to wind the generator differently to get 60 cycle power from an 1800 rpm motor. It is not rocket science, but I think such a generator would cost more.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    1800 RPM Vs.3600 RPM.

    That's because if a 3600 RPM motor is delivering 12HP. it is doing so at 3600 RPM. Technically, it will only be delivering 6 HP at 1800 RPM and is down rated accordingly.  For a 1800 RPM to be able to deliver 12 HP, at 1800 RPM. the motor has to be twice as big. But 1800 RPM motors are quieter than 3600 RPM motors. They also last longer because the piston travels twice as far in a 3600 RPM motor as it does in the same amount of time as a 1800 RPM motor.

    Diesels run usually ran at 1800 RPM. They are now making high speed diesels that run at 3600 RPM. I don't think they last as long though and they are expensive.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Switches:

    Those aren't the switches I was talking about. Those are the main load transfer switches. I'm talking about the ones inside the generator cabinet that control the operation of the generator. The FM boxes. boards and switches that excite the field and control the power output of the actual generator. If the generator is outside, it will be using outside air when it is just sitting. Like the dew that collects on your car at night, it will condense inside the cabinet. Generators live a much longer and happier life when inside where it is warm and snuggly. And doesn't get dew all  over it.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Power vs speed.

    "That's because if a 3600 RPM motor is delivering 12HP. it is doing so at

    3600 RPM. Technically, it will only be delivering 6 HP at 1800 RPM and

    is down rated accordingly.  For a 1800 RPM to be able to deliver 12 HP,

    at 1800 RPM. the motor has to be twice as big."



    That depends. Power is the product of speed (rpm) and torque. So if a motor is delivering 12 hp at 3600 rpm, and you diddle the carburettor so it runs at only 1800 rpm, the result is that both the speed (and probably the torque) would be reduced. But if you designed a motor to run at 1800 rpm, and double the torque of the other motor, the power would be the same. Whether the second motor was twice as big as the other would depend on other factors (diameter of pistons, length of stroke, number of cylinders, etc.).
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Those aren't the switches I was talking about.

    OK: that was not clear. But how do I get around my local code that requires the generators to be outside and at least 5 feet from a combustable wall? Even if I built an open-sided "house" around it, it would not protect it from dew. And the box mine is in protects it from heavy rain.



    I think most, if not all, the controls in my unit are solid state. There is a normal electromechanical circuit breaker in there in case the unit feels overloaded. Neither my generator (Kohler) or my neighbor's (Generac) are designed to run in enclosed space: air inlet and exhaust outlet go through the louvered ends of the units.



    This is a problem, I suppose, if the snow covers the intake and exhaust. Each time it snowed this winter, I had to shovel the snow away and get the finer stuff with a broom. I did not think to have my contractor put it on the top of an 8-foot platform. I doubt I could have gotten a permit for such a thing anyway.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Leaving out the math

    Lower RPM engines wear out more slowly and make less noise.  4-pole alternators are bigger and heavier than their 2-pole counterparts.  You generally get what you pay for.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Aware:

    I just mentioned that so you are aware. If you are far from the coast and don't get high winds with high chlorides in the air, it won't be a problem. You can always do due diligence. A can old CRC 556 or WD-40, sprayed around inside the equipment can do marvelous things for longevity.

    It's always been my understanding (from old dead Newfoundland fishermen I've known) that it can get quite drafty out there. I saw a Hollywood movie a few years ago that I can't remember the name of, but I remember a 2 story house on a Point near the water that they had heavy steel cables holding it in place in case of such a draft. So it wouldn't blow off the cliff.

    Where I used to live, it blows over 75 all the time in the Winter. We might get a big blow for days with no rain. It turned the cars white and salt was building up on electrical pole insulators. It was nice at night seeing all the fireworks from the grounding sparks. Sometimes, it blows the fuse on the transformer. Sometimes it blows the transformer up and it catches on fire. That's what raises hell with the generator enclosures. The real place that they get messed up is in the end of the motor (Generators are just an electric motor) where all the start switches and all that other stuff is that excites the field to get it to make electricity.



    If one of those big blows was an ocean storm, it just went right up, through Nova Scotia and into where you are and beyond.



    Nasty. Right nasty.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Generators & Pumps:

    Generators are designed with a specific horsepower in mind which includes wear and tear loss but to run at a particular RPM. That RPM gives you the frequency or cycles per second. If a motor is designed to put out 12 HP at 60 cycles, it has to run at 3600 RPM. You can tell if it is running at that speed if you connect an electric clock to the load. If it gains time, the motor is too fast. Lose time and it is too slow. A 1800 RPM engine that has to deliver 12 HP, will deliver more than 12HP at 3600 RPM. A 12 HP engine at 3600 RPM will deliver power to the generator if run at 1800 RPM.

    If you're looking to buy an generator, always look for the one with the largest HP engine for the amount of temporary load. not run load. Often, generators are advertised with the Maximum temporary load as the run load. I had a Kohler Cast Iron Thumper generator set that ran 5.0 KW run at 3600 RPM and 6.3 KW temp load. It would have no problem starting 1/2 HP water pumps. Where a 3.6 KW generator would want to croak.

    Some of the really lower priced generator sets are really just ship boxes. You get what you pay for.