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Switch Oil to Propane? Need to replace boiler/oil tank regardless

bdeps8 Member Posts: 1
First timer, so apologize if this question has been asked already. My wife and I are in the process of buying a new house which will need some work. First up is the heating system, as we live in New England, and winter is approaching fast. We have to replace the current oil boiler which is end-of-life and leaking. Additionally our home inspector said we need to replace the oil tank, as it is old, and it's currently in a place that is not safe.

We also have talked about putting in a propane tank, as we will eventually do the kitchen and want a gas stove, (we hate cooking on electric), and may eventually add a propane fireplace.

My question is: since we already are removing the oil tank and boiler, AND want to put in propane for cooking, should we just convert the heating system to propane as well, so we only have 1 tank instead of 2. We have heard propane can be more expensive, but want to get experts' thoughts!

Few other details, in case you are curious:
-About 3000 sq ft house
-heating is hot water baseboard
-Natural gas is not available on our street :(
-home is not super energy efficient at this time, but we are going to replace some windows which should help

Thanks in Advance!


  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,479
    Oil is usually a bit less expensive than propane but right now oil is cheap, it won't stay cheap forever. If you go with propane you should own your own tank, you have zero bargaining ability when you rent someones tank. It should be a large tank. so you are in a position to bargain for the cost of fuel. Fill the tank in the summer before the costs go up.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    I'm all for getting off oil. Tired of getting jerked around, the tank taking up space inside. No NG in my street, maybe someday. We had a 54 year old oil boiler, equally old chimney, mechanical room was always hot from that chunk of iron.

    Went with a wall hung LP unit, vented up the existing chimney with polypropylene piping. 3 100 lb bottles, 2500 Sqft 1959 raised ranch in CT.

    No more noise, more space in the room, no chimney to worry about. No combustion air issues due to direct venting. Worth it to me.
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656
    You'll need at least a 500g tank. Your jurisdiction may allow a direct burial tank. Sight unseen. The new condensing boilers will reduce your fuel costs significantly compared to oil. The Viessmann Vitodens 200 series boilers do not require a special conversion kit to convert from nat. gas to propane, (included)
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,579
    Check out this link to compare your local costs
    The nice thing about propane is it can be converted to nat gas in the future.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,904
    The big problem with propane, aside from its higher cost per BTU contained in the fuel, is that it is heavier than air. This means if you have a leak, the gas will accumulate on the floor instead of rising and dispersing like natural gas does. If there is a source of ignition, look out!

    Some of the newer boilers, as mentioned, can offset some of that cost disparity. But they require more maintenance than traditional gas-fired boilers, parts can be hard to get, and some of these boilers' heat exchangers have been known to fail after 5 years or so. Not very economical IMHO.

    Were I in your situation, I'd install a 3-pass, cast-iron, oil-fired boiler that could then be changed to burn natural gas if/when the time comes. Then I'd make sure whoever serviced it did more than a "rag and tag" every year. Of course, in my own house that last point would not exist B)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    edited September 2015
    working for a propane/oil dealer I will say that purchasing a propane tank to offset the cost per gallon is not as viable in NE. Most companies dont give enough of a discount now to make it worthwhile. Some companies will cover the cost of not only the tank but the burial itself. Dont only shop around for price per gallon, check up on their service after the fact.

    As far as choices, I do agree with Steamhead on the 3 pass boiler. I do caution that some will void the warranty on the system if you switch it to a power gas burner..

    Condensing boilers are a good option if noise is an issue. You will be amazed how quiet they are. With that said, they must be properly serviced each and every year and not just a "looks good approach".

    One thought, if you opt to have the company own the tank, you'll probably agree to a certain amount of years. There is one company in NE that will require you to remove their (ug) tank if you choose to switch so be warned.