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Oil has more heat per BTU? Is Bob Vila wrong?

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Zipper13
Zipper13 Member Posts: 229
edited December 2018 in THE MAIN WALL
I've always been on team Norm Abram. Something about Bob Vila never sat right with me.

I was reading up on energy costs for different fuels - trying to work out a price per BTU conversion factor since energy is sold in a bunch of different units (gallons, kWh, cord, pallet, pound, whatever) but that's another topic. And I came across this write up on Oil vs Gas. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/gas-or-oil-heat/

The thing that made me scratch my head was this: "Oil equipment provides more heat per BTU than other heating sources" ...and ...."as provides less heat per BTU than oil"

I thought a BTU was BTU. Am I missing something?
New owner of a 1920s home with steam heat north of Boston.
Just trying to learn what I can do myself and what I just shouldn't touch
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Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,741
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    You aren't missing anything, a BTU is a BTU doesn't matter what you are burning, oil, gas, paper, hair. Plenty of misleading information on the web like this.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    1MatthiaskcoppSolid_Fuel_Man
  • SuperJ
    SuperJ Member Posts: 609
    edited December 2018
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    Weird, perhaps it about the difference between in and output BTUs (or efficiency).

    Yes, a BTU is a BTU, but different heating systems waste them in different ways.

    The author is a furniture writer, not a engineer or HVAC pro.
    https://www.bobvila.com/authors/Donna-Boyle Schwartz

    I think she means that oil is more energy dense than natural gas, which is kinda true.

    Which is heaver a 1 pound hammer or a pound of feathers?
  • Zipper13
    Zipper13 Member Posts: 229
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    Ah, OK. The article meant to imply that oil furnaces are efficient. it seems obvious now that you suggest it. Duh.
    New owner of a 1920s home with steam heat north of Boston.
    Just trying to learn what I can do myself and what I just shouldn't touch
  • Zipper13
    Zipper13 Member Posts: 229
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    I take that back... two lines earlier in the article it says "Natural gas furnaces have higher heating efficiency and their fuel costs less" .
    New owner of a 1920s home with steam heat north of Boston.
    Just trying to learn what I can do myself and what I just shouldn't touch
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
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    They're describing the energy density of the fuel. I believe a gallon of oil has more available BTU compared to a therm of NG but it's useful for comparing fuel costs. Your building needs what it needs for BTU, as you noted
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • Scott M_2
    Scott M_2 Member Posts: 26
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    Maybe it’s the 140000 Btus per gallon versus the 100k per gas therm he is referring to?
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,883
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  • Henry
    Henry Member Posts: 998
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    As Colonel Potter would say: He is full of horse poo poo. A BTU is a BTU. Here, we use one liter of #2 oil is equivalent more or less to one cubic meter of gas input.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,614
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    In the past when I worked at an oil company we used to preach that gas was less efficient than oil.........and it is and was. It has to do with the water vapor content in the gas. It took energy to "boil" the water vapor.

    NOW this has all changed. It changed when boilers and furnaces were designed that became condensing. Now that the gas water vapor can be condensed the energy used to boil the water vapor is recovered and gas is more efficient than oil.......when condensed
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,574
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    I think I might like her less than Bob Vila and that is hard to do. Who let an interior decorator write an article on heating?
    Here is the real deal on energy costs.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Zipper13STEVEusaPARich_49Henry
  • sallaberry
    sallaberry Member Posts: 19
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    Oil has more btus than a gallon of propane and the price in Nevada is usually about the same.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,614
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    A BTU is not a BTU. Only at the boiler or furnace input can they be compared.

    A gas condensing appliance converts it's input BTUs to output BTUs more efficiently than oil or gas non condensing units. Oil is second and gas non condensing is third.

    The only heat that is 100% efficient is electric you get every BTU you pay for.

    But it's more expensive in most areas
    HVACNUT
  • Leonard
    Leonard Member Posts: 903
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    Likely a better way to look at it is compare efficiency.

    BTU/hr of fuel input to
    BTU/hr of furnace output ( to your hot water, hot air , or steam)
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited December 2018
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    What @Zman attached. Someone is confused......

    The real deal is cost per million btus comparison. Oil is over 2 times NG, and electricity over 3 times NG. Also for NG the appliance efficiency rating is lower than a mod/con with low temp emitters.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,428
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    A BTU is not a BTU. Only at the boiler or furnace input can they be compared.

    A gas condensing appliance converts it's input BTUs to output BTUs more efficiently than oil or gas non condensing units. Oil is second and gas non condensing is third.

    The only heat that is 100% efficient is electric you get every BTU you pay for.

    But it's more expensive in most areas

    And the 100% efficiency of electric heating is, to my mind, one of the most pernicious fallacies around -- sorry @EBEBRATT-Ed . While it's quite true that at the point of use the efficiency is 100%, for some reason or other it is often forgotten that the electricity has to be made. Some ways of creating electricity have large environmental and social impacts -- one of the worst that way is hydroelectric dams. Some just have significant environmental impacts (photovoltaic, wind). Some are fuel burning, but the fuel conversion efficiency going from raw BTUs in the fuel to kilowatts out on the line is rarely over 40%, and may be quite a bit lower (we wouldn't tolerate that in a boiler!). Nuclear terrifies enough people who are not technically qualified that it is, politically, pretty much a non-starter.

    There is no free lunch...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    HVACNUTSuperTech
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,649
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    And the 100% efficiency of electric heating is, to my mind, one of the most pernicious fallacies around...

    Ah, yes. I love to point out to my eco-minded electric-car driving friends that their cars run on coal.

    I've yet to have one get rid of it. Some are downright belligerent about it! There's invariably a lot of hand-waving, often in the literal way but always figuratively, in the explanation of exactly why it's better.

    triggerhappy24
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited December 2018
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    For the consumer at the pump is all that matters. Even though the inefficiencies are covered in the pump price........
    Solid_Fuel_ManCLamb
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 513
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    Wait a minute, every one knows that degrees change with latitude 100 Degrees in Seattle is way hotter than 100 degrees in Palm Springs. Must hold true for BTU's as well.
    It takes a lot more BTU's to heat a house in Buffalo than in Las Vegas. Therefore BTU's must be smaller in Buffalo.
    Solid_Fuel_Mantriggerhappy24SuperTechZipper13
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 513
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    @Jamie Hall.
    A car running on gasoline emits 10 times more pollutants per mile than an e car running of coal fired electricity.
    Also most of the coal fired emissions are generated away from Urban areas again decreasing pollution in the cities.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,428
    edited December 2018
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    nibs said:

    @Jamie Hall.
    A car running on gasoline emits 10 times more pollutants per mile than an e car running of coal fired electricity.
    Also most of the coal fired emissions are generated away from Urban areas again decreasing pollution in the cities.

    Document your statement on emissions, please, and be sure it references both modern coal fired power plants and modern automotive engines. Also kindly reference exactly which emissions you are comparing (e.g. CO2, particulates, nitrogen compounds, whatever). Otherwise, bluntly, your statement is internet clickbait.

    Thank you.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Zmanratio
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 513
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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,428
    edited December 2018
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    I had no intention of insulting you, or anyone else. No one should ever feel insulted about being asked to document and properly reference their claims.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    CTOilHeatSTEVEusaPA
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,614
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    @Jamie Hall
    I am just talking "point of use" I know electric heat is 100%....when it gets to your house. Before it gets to your house it's produced by coal, gas, oil, hydro, nuke etc that has it's own issues

    To my crude way of thinking it's what the consumer pays for the "fuel" plus the efficiency the purchase btus are used at that results in net useable btus/$$.

    Boiler manufacturers talk about "fuel to steam efficiency" same thing.

  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 513
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    @Jamie Hall
    "Otherwise, bluntly, your statement is internet clickbait."
    All you needed to do was google it.
    Strongly held uninformed opinions are the bane of our society,
  • Voyager
    Voyager Member Posts: 395
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    ratio said:

    And the 100% efficiency of electric heating is, to my mind, one of the most pernicious fallacies around...

    Ah, yes. I love to point out to my eco-minded electric-car driving friends that their cars run on coal.

    I've yet to have one get rid of it. Some are downright belligerent about it! There's invariably a lot of hand-waving, often in the literal way but always figuratively, in the explanation of exactly why it's better.

    Actually, now more likely that it runs on natural gas. 😁

    https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3
  • Voyager
    Voyager Member Posts: 395
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    nibs said:

    @Jamie Hall.
    A car running on gasoline emits 10 times more pollutants per mile than an e car running of coal fired electricity.
    Also most of the coal fired emissions are generated away from Urban areas again decreasing pollution in the cities.


    And what is your source for that incorrect claim?

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/electric-cars-are-not-necessarily-clean/
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,861
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    Nobody wants to address the elephant in the room.
    Fuel oil heats best!
    Next!
    And if you have children, you wont make a dent in your footprint with an E car. The damage is done.
    STEVEusaPASuperTech
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,774
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    How many plants are generating using natural gas?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    Better yet how many are nukes.....
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 513
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    "coal generated electric car pollution"
    This simple google search, will return many many discussions and scientific papers on the subject. The science is long settled.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,428
    edited December 2018
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    nibs said:

    @Jamie Hall
    ...
    Strongly held uninformed opinions are the bane of our society,

    I entirely agree. Since, however, you seem to be intent on keeping this going, may I note that all three of your references for that incomplete statement are to "studies' performed by the electric car industry, or authors associated with it, may I suggest -- mildly -- that perhaps they are not entirely reliable? I have read those articles, as it happens, and while it is quite correct to say that for certain contaminants under certain conditions the initial statement is partly true, the overall short statement is, frankly, not, if one wished to view climate warming emissions as a whole.

    The fundamental problem with climate change -- which I have been studying and modelling for almost 40 years now -- lies in recognizing that a) it is real; b) it is a significant threat; c) the mechanisms and causes are well understood, d) that there are available technological solutions to it and e) -- most important -- it has now become so politicized that it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject which might lead to actually doing something positive.

    Indeed, I might go so far as to say that most of the reputable scientists and organisatis working on the problem have been obliged to take an extremely low profile, just to keep their jobs. This is unfortunate.

    Sincerely,
    James. Hall, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, [several organisations which I will not list to protect them -- and me]
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ZmanSuperTech
  • Voyager
    Voyager Member Posts: 395
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    I had no intention of insulting you, or anyone else. No one should ever feel insulted about being asked to document and properly reference their claims.

    nibs said:

    @Jamie Hall
    "Otherwise, bluntly, your statement is internet clickbait."
    All you needed to do was google it.
    Strongly held uninformed opinions are the bane of our society,

    Yes, claims that gasoline cars emit “10 times more pollutants per mile” than electric cars are very uninformed and not substantiated by any study I have read. While electric cars can be better in many circumstances, 10 times better is simply incorrect unless you can charge the car entirely by solar, wind or hydro.
  • Voyager
    Voyager Member Posts: 395
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    ... The fundamental problem with climate change -- which I have been studying and modelling for almost 40 years now -- lies in recognizing that a) it is real; b) it is a significant threat; c) the mechanisms and causes are well understood, d) that there are available technological solutions to it and e) -- most important -- it has now become so politicized that it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject which might lead to actually doing something positive.

    Sincerely,
    James. Hall, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, [several organisations which I will not list to protect them -- and me]

    a) I agree climate change is real, but I disagree that it is anthropogenic.

    b) I disagree that it is a significant threat.

    c) I strongly disagree that the mechanisms and causes are well understood.

    d) There are no technological solutions since the “problem” doesn’t exist.

    e) I agree that the topic has become so politicized that rational discussion is impossible.

    Most won’t invest the hour or so required, but this is one of the better presetnations I have seen by someone who has a few chops in the engineering field, at least the aerospace field. If you truly look at the long-term data and put political biases on the shelf, the science is simply neither clear nor “settled” in regards to our global climate.

    https://youtu.be/jPP7P43wulg
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
    edited December 2018
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    George Carlin said it pretty well...Starting @ the 2:30 mark...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjmtSkl53h4

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    triggerhappy24GordySuperTech
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,774
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    @STEVEusaPA pretty much.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    SuperTech
  • triggerhappy24
    triggerhappy24 Member Posts: 42
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    There got to be some fact to this cause where we work are boilers run on NG but when we run on oil our Jack shaft does not need to be opened as far to maintain temp. I just don't like oil because it burns very......very dirty. And this comes from the guy that has to clean the box!
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    If you're running #2 oil and it burns "very.....very dirty", it's something is wrong-draft, smoke, inadequate combustion air-combustion is adjusted wrong.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    SuperTech
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Wow, denial is a river in Northeastern Africa and George Carlin is a comedian, with no environmental or scientific training or experience. His motives were for laughs and shock value.

    I have no interest in taking sides here but.....
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,574
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    Voyager said:



    a) I agree climate change is real, but I disagree that it is anthropogenic.

    b) I disagree that it is a significant threat.

    c) I strongly disagree that the mechanisms and causes are well understood.

    d) There are no technological solutions since the “problem” doesn’t exist.

    e) I agree that the topic has become so politicized that rational discussion is impossible.

    Most won’t invest the hour or so required, but this is one of the better presetnations I have seen by someone who has a few chops in the engineering field, at least the aerospace field. If you truly look at the long-term data and put political biases on the shelf, the science is simply neither clear nor “settled” in regards to our global climate.

    All I can say about this is that Bob Vila is and always has been a bad source of technical information. He is just a TV celebrity. The Kardashians know about as much as Bob.

    I watched as much as I could stand of Mr Rutan's video. He may have been a great engineer at some point in his life. It might be time to get him in for a CAT scan. He is grasping at straws.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    GordySTEVEusaPASuperTech
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited December 2018
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    George Carlin May have been a comedian, but his material was worth acknowledging. He certainly had great writing skills, and a grasp of reality for great material.

    He’s right as far as the planet is concerned. We are just here for a short period of time in its history.
    ChrisJSTEVEusaPA