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Heat pump vs Gas-fired boiler?

1959 ranch about 1,800 sq feet
Oil boiler was baseboards
Richmond, VA

Durable and reliable unit was reduced heating bills.

We are receiving several estimates to replace the oil-fired boiler to gas-fired boiler. One of the HVAC Salesmen advised us to replace with an Electric heat pump and run new duct works from the attic. The heat pump would be Amanda. Another quote is to use Burham gas-fired boiler.

Could you provide your opinions the pro and cons I should or should not switch over to Electric heat pump?



  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,433
    Heat pumps have a lot to be said for them -- especially in your climate. I would seriously consider them, but I wouldn't limit myself to air to air -- there are several air to water types which would use your existing baseboards, and provide better cool weather comfort than the air to air types. IMHO
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jack
    Jack Member Posts: 1,047
    I would suggest that you look at mini-split heat pumps.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,889
    Keep your baseboard. Mini-splits can be used in milder weather and don't need bulky ductwork, but don't offer the comfort that your hot-water system does. If that were my house, I'd replace the boiler and look at doing mini-splits for A/C and some heating.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,701
    edited March 2017
    You have natural gas available? I would think the conversation would end right there. Keep the baseboard and get a gas boiler
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
    If you are used to baseboard heaters, lukewarm heat pump air coming out of ceiling grills hitting your head would be IMO be uncomfortable.
    The mini-splits are a great idea for cooling and shoulder season heating.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,479
    I installed a 12k minisplit heat pump in my dining room this summer. It cools the 600 sq ft first floor (open floor plan) and does a good job of heating the space when temps are above 30. It's 36 outside with 30 mph NW breeze and I'm sitting in a 69 F living room. It wasn't that cold last night so the steam did not come on this morning.

    I'm just south of Boston and find it has cut my heating costs by a reasonable amount. Between the heatpump and finally getting the outside walls insulated my BTU/DD has gone down by 30%.

    In cold weather I let the steam bring the house up to 66 from a 3 degree night time setback at 6AM, the thermostat brings in up to 67 at 11AM and 68 at 3PM - at 10PM it goes down to 63. On moderate days the heat pump does a fine job after the initial burst of steam. The Mitsubishi has a COP of 3 (puts out 14.6k in heat mode) so it's pretty efficient.

    It's going to be in the teens and 20's for the next 3 days so I'll be using the steam because the heat pump isn't big enough to heat the space at those temperatures.

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

    Thank you for all your comments. Based on your inputs, we ought to keep the baseboards as it provides comfortable heat. The conversion from oil to gas boiler is about $7-9K depending if the chimney needs a new liner or to install a 95% efficiency gas boiler.

    There is a central air with forced air coming out from the vents on the floor. I think it is at the last leg of the life. The existing ducts are in the crawlspace. We also ought to consider replacing the central air to become a heat pump and use the existing ducts. I don't have the estimated quote on this.

    Here is the list of options:
    01). Keep oil boiler and just repair the leak. Replace Central Air to become a heat pump. I think this is least expensive.

    02). Convert oil boiler to gas and keep the baseboards. Replace Central air to become a heat pump. (Most expensive upfront -- how many years to save on heating/cooling bills)

    03). Convert oil boiler to gas. Keep the existing central air.

    This is out of my expertise and is complicated to me. If I go with option 2, will I be able to save money on my heating/cooling bills in 5-7 years? I am just concerned that now I have to maintain 2 systems.

    What would you do? I don't need the best of the best, but would like to keep my heating/costing bills down and have a reliable heating and cooling systems.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,433
    Leak? What leak? Where? If it's in the boiler, it can be very difficult to fix. In the piping -- no problem.

    If possible, I'd go with your Number 1. Some folks don't seem to like oil as compared to natural gas, but from my point of view it's a toss-up. If you really want to convert to gas, go with number 2. In both cases, assuming that the leak you casually mentioned is repairable!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • John Mills_5
    John Mills_5 Member Posts: 952
    Heat from above is never very comfortable, especially cool heat pump heat. That's getting more common here to avoid the cost of slab ducts and starting to hear more complaints.

    If you do want to go HP, I'd reuse the floor vents. The duct system needs to be sized properly especially for a HP.

    Personally gas boiler and when you need it, new A/C.
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,863
    edited March 2017
    If your A/C system is old and on its way out, then sure, a high efficiency heat pump in your climate might be beneficial. I would use the heat pump as "stage 1" on a "1 cool, 2 heat thermostat" (without an electric heat strip). The boiler would be stage 2 heat. Now you have to weigh cost and gains on how you handle the boiler replacement. Stay with oil, convert to gas? If cost is a big factor and you really need a new boiler, replacing it with a new oil fired boiler (with new burner), especially as a 2nd stage and with high temp emitters might be the way to go.
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
    Get a reverse cycle chiller and a unico high velocity unit for cooling and heating (get ECM version for airflow control) then use the hot water from the heat pump in mild weather, then in colder weather, oil is aux heat. Should be more efficient over about 20-25F, which is probably over 90% of the winter in your climate.
  • Henry
    Henry Member Posts: 998
    I am in the Great White North, I would get a hot air furnace like a York with full modulation on both the burner and fan sides. Also get a heat pump as it will provide air conditioning and be very efficient to 45F. Here, we go down to -40F. I have a full mod York and an AC as a heat pump would not be cost efficient. The system is quiet as the ducts are properly sized and I have added return ducts from my large washroom (15x11.50) off the master.