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Oil to Gas Conversion?

Jimmbo
Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
I'm in a 100 year old two story Sear's kit dutch colonial with steam heat in Westchester. The burner (which is in its declining years but still functional) uses oil, but my water heater uses gas, so I currently have gas service. The oil tank is in my basement.

I'd like to convert to gas heating: for cheaper heating, better environmental, and also because all the oil services in my area are fools or crooks (my current company let me run out twice in three months)

If I convert to gas, I'd spend a ton, but Con Ed will give me rebates. I've been told I can save money by converting my current burner to a hybrid system....but I'd lose the rebates.

Can you guys give me the low-down on what you'd do if you were me?

Problem: I'm an idiot on this stuff, so you'd need to talk to me as if I were a 7 year old (if I was smarter, I could research answers on my own!).
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Comments

  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Info on your current boiler would help to start with.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    It's square and beige.

    If there's anything else I can do to gather useful info, please let me know how (photos? are there plates to read somewhere?). Repeat: I don't know about this stuff.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081
    Pictures would be good.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    RJMCTAFO
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    As @KC_Jones said pics are always good. There should be a plate with the name of the boiler manufacturer, and the specs of the boiler ie. gph, sp ft steam, btu output/input... stuff like that. The pros will need that to see the age of you boiler and if a suitable gas conversion burner is available for it.
    BTW, I love Dutch colonials...I used to own one and still get pleasure when I go by it on my daily run.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    Photo's of the boiler from different angles and the piping above would help.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    I would also recommend you get at least one steam book from this site. You'll be miles ahead in your understanding of your system. Is it two-pipe? Could you also post a pic of a radiator? do you know the edr of your rads? These are just questions for getting the best out of your system....not necessarily a conversion.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Here are 5 shots of boiler and plate: http://imgur.com/3VPr4Gr,8rZdnkx,4nkQt0O,ifWOXpC,K40mqTK#0

    I'll go take photos of radiator and piping above boiler and post them in a minute
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Here is a radiator plus the pipes above boiler:
    http://imgur.com/a/DbQmm

    Vaporvac, I hope you're living somewhere cool even if it's not a dutch colonial!
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    ...also, Vaporvac, I do own Dan's "We Got Steam Heat" book. Browsed it a couple years ago, loved the idea (and the passion) of it, but never had a chance to really dig in. I know plumbers are in awe of it.
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    edited April 2015
    Is there only one pipe going into that rad? I see an air vent which leads me to believe it's a one pipe system, but sometimes they're "knuckheaded". I'll let the pros advise on a burner for that beast. :)
    How is the system running at the moment? What sort of pressures do you see on that gauge? What is the pressuretrol set for?

    could you take a few pics from further back so we could see the total piping configuration?
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    edited April 2015
    I don't have the slightest idea how to answer any of that, sorry. And I don't watch the gauge.

    Again this is not my thing. You know how you feel when people discuss stocks or soccer or photography or Shakespeare or bikes? That's how I feel now.

    I'm happy to take more photos, though!
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    One pipe into the radiator, yes.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,331
    I didn't see the make of that boiler, but it looks like it originally burned coal and was converted to oil. Not a good candidate for a gas conversion burner.

    Since you mentioned Con Ed, you're probably in or around New York City. There are plenty of great steam guys in that area- go to the main site, then click on Find a Contractor to find them.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    I'm curious if you ever test the low water cut-off weekly as one should do? That's a safety issue. Btw, I'm a homeowner, like yourself that came here looking for answers and got hooked! It's really empowering to learn about the mechanical systems in your house. At least then you know if the pros you hire are actually pros or just folks licensed to take your money. It is daunting at first, that's why I strongly encourage you to buy one of Dan's books such as the lost art of steam heat. Colleen
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    A number of people asked me to take photos. I ran around the house doing so, and I posted them. And then....nothing?

    Hey, nobody owes me answers. But why the request for photos?
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,285
    edited April 2015
    We are dealing with the same thing in the Bronx with a furnace.

    We have decided to stick with oil and upgrade to an 80% efficiency oil burning furnace and here is why: In emailing with one of our pro's on this site, I learned there is a four month lead time with Con Ed. I also learned from other contractors who looked at the job that it opens everything up for inspections from Con Ed and there is some questionable gas piping to a clothes drier that has been in place since the house was purchased forty years ago. That doesn't bother me as much as it seemed to bother the estimators. They could include it in the contract and correct the issues but the four month lead time did bother me.

    I haven't done it yet because I'm waiting to get out of this heating season. Why 80%? I like simplicity and it is a huge improvement over what is in place. Also, you have to line the chimney with higher efficiencies or run a PVC vent out of the basement which will require an architect for permitting, which opens us up to the Department of Buildings . This is what we have garnered from pro's in the area.

    If we stick with oil, we don't have to deal with disposal of tank, Con Ed, and I don't think the permitting process is nearly as onerous. There dozens of oil companies up there but you have to check the tank yourself just like you look at the fuel gage in your car. Usually you can get a drop within 24 hrs of a call for oil. Hope this helps.
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    "you have to check the tank yourself just like you look at the fuel gage in your car"

    The difference is that my car doesn't drive itself when I'm not home (and when it runs out of gas, it just sits there, rather than causing $$$$$ worth of corollary damage).

    There's no excuse for an oil company letting you run out of oil. With gas I don't have to worry.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081
    Steamhead said:

    I didn't see the make of that boiler, but it looks like it originally burned coal and was converted to oil. Not a good candidate for a gas conversion burner.

    Since you mentioned Con Ed, you're probably in or around New York City. There are plenty of great steam guys in that area- go to the main site, then click on Find a Contractor to find them.

    From your posts you seem to want to be mostly hands off with your heating system (can't say I recommend that). I think Steamhead's recommendation is what is best for you. Find a good STEAM contractor and have them give you an estimate. You seem to be set on changing to gas and with the age of what you have a new boiler appears to be your only choice. I would suggest you find out about the Con Ed discounts in detail. Steam boilers only go up to around 83-84% effiecient on the top end so you should verify they qualify for the discount as "high efficiency". If you post your location we may even be able to recommend a good contractor for steam in your area.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    I may not know much about this stuff, but I do know that I could call a plumber to get an estimate.

    I was hoping for more objective suggestions. Do I need to post more photos?
  • Abracadabra
    Abracadabra Member Posts: 1,948
    If it was me, I'd replace the boiler compeltely, instead of trying to install a gas burner. The picture of your radiator with the vent that high looks wrong. The vent should be about 2/3 of the way up. The pics you have posted don't really paint a solid picture of your situation. How about a wider angle view of the whole boiler including near boiler piping? How about a wider view of the radiator showing both sides ot the radiator from top to bottom?
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,285
    Jimmbo said:

    I may not know much about this stuff, but I do know that I could call a plumber to get an estimate.

    I was hoping for more objective suggestions. Do I need to post more photos?

    You have received objective suggestions...
    1. get a new boiler-don't just change burner. You'll save a boatload of cash if you followed that advice.
    2. Stick with oil-get a new boiler
    3. Find a steam pro as opposed to a plumber

    But wait! There's more!
    In addition to 'check your tank weekly' because the oil company cant always predict your burn rate and there are plenty of oil companies, you got safety advise to test your low water cutoff weekly because as you pointed out, you don't look at your water gage. You may not know much and forgive us for trying to help you learn but good luck with upgrading your square and beige boiler!



    KC_Jones
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Yes, I've gotten some good advice. Rather than thank individually, I was hoping to let it roll in (e.g. from the people who yesterday asked for photos) and then do a proper thank you.

    I go away for extended periods. Weekly tank checks aren't possible (that's what I meant with the car analogy). And I can't find a decent oil service, and grizzled neighbors who've been in this neighb for decades and who've tried them all say they're all crooks and idiots. I'd like not to be reliant on oil.

    And it was always my intention to have the work done by a steam pro.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081


    BTW, the person to call is @JStar.

    He's listed in the contractor section. Thatcher Heating and Cooling.

    +1 on that recommendation.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Thanks, HattarasGuy. Clarification: I'm in Westchester, not the city.

    I'm trying to understand your advice. You're saying I won't switch to gas. And then you're saying that I'll slash my bills when Joe converts me to gas. Can you explain exactly what you're proposing?
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Also, fwiw, I see no Thatcher or JStar in the New York contractor list: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/state/NY
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,285
    No, what he is saying is, regardless of which fuel you decide to use, call Thatcher. You will get quality work and a proper boiler for your system. Gas conversions in Con Ed country is complicated. A new boiler sized and piped properly might let you be away for extended periods if you stay on oil because you will burn less.
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Ah, he's in Jersey, I was looking in NY.

  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,285
    He's the pro I emailed with. He serves a wide area.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    Unfortunately, I can only offer service and maintenance in Westchester County. I can't do any work that requires permits.
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Jstar (Thatcher) is in NJ, but services your area as does Gateway plumbing. Look up the name. They are the best and can rightly advise in your situation. It's apparent you can't convert using your current boiler, unfortunately, and being so old it's unknown how much life it has left in it anyway. Steamhead is one of the best pros, so he would know.
    You will need to have your chimney lined if converting. That is a given. As a homeowner, I didn't know it was so onerous to switch over if one already has a gas line to the house.

    More pictures can let us know what other issues you may have. A better pic of the rad would help, as well as a long shot of the boiler and its piping. The pros go to bed at night and work in the early morning. They take their time out of their precious spare time to help with folks like us. Only those familiar with your vicinity can advise in specifics.
    I can see the advantages of gas since that's what I've always had...no issues with supply. You could probably do a rough ROI to figure out the savings over time, but it sounds like convenience is your main thing. Some power burners for gas conversion boilers allow one to switch between fuels, also. (Just to confuse things! :) )

    What is the edr of your rads?
    P.S, I do have a lovely house, just not quite as quaint as a Dutch Colonial. More Great Gatsby, less Howard's End.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,285
    JStar said:

    Unfortunately, I can only offer service and maintenance in Westchester County. I can't do any work that requires permits.

    Well, that's unfortunate for jimmbo.
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Gateway, Scully's, The Steam Dr.... you have many choices. We like pics because it's fun to troubleshoot and that helps you understand what the pro will advise. Colleen
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,796
    SlamDunk said:

    Jimmbo said:

    I may not know much about this stuff, but I do know that I could call a plumber to get an estimate.

    I was hoping for more objective suggestions. Do I need to post more photos?

    You have received objective suggestions...
    1. get a new boiler-don't just change burner. You'll save a boatload of cash if you followed that advice.
    2. Stick with oil-get a new boiler
    3. Find a steam pro as opposed to a plumber

    But wait! There's more!
    In addition to 'check your tank weekly' because the oil company cant always predict your burn rate and there are plenty of oil companies, you got safety advise to test your low water cutoff weekly because as you pointed out, you don't look at your water gage. You may not know much and forgive us for trying to help you learn but good luck with upgrading your square and beige boiler!

    Good answers except # 3 some but not all plumbers are steam guys and advertise as such…In Mass. as far as i know ,anyone can install a steam system…But only a plumber can attach water and a plumber or gas fitter has to install the gas…So that being said a plumber who IS a proven steam guy would be best bet all around….A good clean efficient oil steamer is pretty nice… it certianly in my opinion makes steam quicker…Most of my years were spent removing oil and installing gas boilers..

  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,285
    You have a point...Would it be incorrect to say, not all plumbers are steam pros but all steam pros are plumbers?
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    I don't know NY but Gateway only works in the city. Danny Scully would be a good choice if you are outside the city or @johnny88.
  • Jimmbo
    Jimmbo Member Posts: 39
    Thanks, all.

    No one's mentioned the one person on the contractor list who's reasonably near me: Bill Raymond at Frank & Lindy Service Co.

    Any experiences with him?
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,796
    SlamDunk said:

    You have a point...Would it be incorrect to say, not all plumbers are steam pros but all steam pros are plumbers?

    Correct, all plumbers are definitely not steam pros…be real careful in your selection…Lets try this, maybe we can post you 10 somewhat basic questions you should expect your proposed contractor should be able to answer on site without qoogleing, the answers or looking at charts,or scratching his head…Steam, boiler venting, chimneys,makeup air,sizing, simple things like that...
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    The OP already has gas in the home so as long as the piping was sized to allow for the additional load a change out should be relatively easy.
  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Yes, RobG. this is what I don't understand. Except for a chimney liner what are the issues.
    We can help with the edr, venting etc with more pics.
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF