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Using a natural gas gun on my 6yr old Burnham Boiler

aseidman62
aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
edited March 16 in Gas Heating
My plumber suggested we swap the oil gun on our boiler to a gas gun and avoid the costly replacement of the entire boiler. 

The mfg says they won't warrant the new gun or system but with so many mfgs making these conversion guns I suspect they do work. The cost is not bad and a fraction of the cost of replacing the entire boiler.

Any reason it would not make sense to do so ? My unit is approx 6-10 yrs old.

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,857
    @aseidman62

    PLEASE REMOVE ALL PRICING, we can't talk prices on this forum.

    many have installed a gas gun with no issues. I would use a Carlin burner

    But if the boiler needs replacement because you are burning oil I don't understand how burning gas will fix the boiler???????
    STEVEusaPASuperTechethicalpaulErin Holohan Haskell
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    Agreed, @EBEBRATT-Ed . There is a logical inconsistency there, @aseidman62 . If the boiler needs replacement -- it's leaking or something of the sort -- replacing the oil burner with a gas gun is going to get you nowhere. If the boiler doesn't need replacing, why do you want to change fuels? If it's a matter of aesthetics, OK, it's your dime. If it's to save money, do your sums very carefully -- it's unlikely that you will save the cost of the conversion in lower fuel costs; indeed, you may find you don't save any money at all.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,926
    I agree with Ed.
    But if you have to go with a gas gun, I would have the plumber talk to a Carlin rep directly to get all the proper specs-settings, orifice, initial air settings and gas pressure.
    They've already tested and spec their burners on any appliance they will recommend.
    Any gas gun will need a full combustion test, including measure gas pressure or it won't be efficient, and won't work well.
    Don't forget to clean that heat exchanger and chamber. Most likely you'll need a chimney liner too.
    steve
    SuperTech
  • aseidman62
    aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for all the feedback.

    The boiler is a Burnham unit. It heats my water for the kitchens, bath, etc as well as for my baseboard heat. The boiler is 6-10 years old. It's a high end unit w a life expectancy of at least 20 yrs. I want to remove the oil burner/gun and replace w a natural gas burner/gun. My plumber says it's pretty trivial amd the manufacturers of the guns agree - this is what they make them for.

    My gas company wants $25 bucks to pull a gas line (you read that right) + the promise to buy gas. I expect my fuel bills to go down significantly as my neighbors using gas spend a fraction of what I do w oil. One I have has I will pull a line for the kitchen and BBQ and a pool heater.

    Interestingly Burnham who makes my boiler says they don't recomend swapping out the burner/gun and yet the many manufacturers sell them, warrant them and claim they have no issues.
    Any insight to contradict them ? I hope not but please do tell !



  • Ctoilman
    Ctoilman Member Posts: 21
    Look into things A LOT closer/in depth.  Your neighbors claim to be using less than you for I strongly suspect being their home is quite a bit different than yours....meaning room temperatures, hot water usage, better windows and insulation, and the list goes on and on.  Oil has LOTS more btu (heat) than any gas product so I"m super skeptical of any savings whatsoever with a gas conversion.  And finally, if the boiler manufacturing doesn't approve of a gas conversion and if there ever was an incident homeowners insurance company will have a field day in the most unfortunate manners with you.  Put the money in new windows is my recommendation, comfort level will be vastly improved.
    SuperTech
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,926
    edited March 16
    Better work the numbers. A btu is a btu, and you need a certain number of BTU's to heat your home. So best would be to determine what a btu costs per each fuel type.
    If you're boiler is a MPO, you should be in the high 80's, so putting a gas gun isn't going get you higher efficiency.
    You still have to protect the boiler from low flue temps, and low temperature return water, and of course dry firing. That, water quality, and no leaks (plenty of make up water) are what will determine the longevity of your cast iron boiler.
    If you plumber thinks this is trivial, I'd be suspect.
    Better not skip over lining the chimney either.

    Burnham, US Boiler will never recommend a gas gun. But like I said, Carlin & Beckett have tested them.
    I doubt you'd be on the hook legally if it gas gun was properly installed and properly commissioned-note the 'if'.
    steve
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,094
    edited March 16
    Use this to check your costs before you make a mistake.

    https://coalpail.com/fuel-comparison-calculator-home-heating

    If you put in the cost of natural gas and about 78% efficiency, this is what you will pay for 100,000,000 BTUs of fuel
    If you put the cost of oil in at about 81% efficiency this is what you will pay for the 100,000,000 BTUs of fuel.

    This way you are comparing your heater with oil and your heater with gas.

    To compare your neighbor's heater with your heater, change the 78% efficiency to the AFUE efficiency rating from your neighbor's heater. See the number change, if your neighbor has a plastic exhaust vent for their heater, then their cost will be lower than your cost. A plastic exhaust vent pipe means the neighbor's heater is over 90% efficient. Compare 78% to 95% and you will see a saving even using the same fuel!

    Why should you use 81% for oil and 78% for gas? That is my experience, I have installed several conversion burners for customers. Some have reduced the operating cost, others have increased the operating cost. The reason for the difference is the different gas burners have different abilities in different heaters. Your Burnham will probably develop CO if fired with as much gas as the boiler is rated for so the installer will reduce the firing rate to get the CO down to an acceptable level. A Carlin or Riello burner may do better but they are more expensive burners. A Wayne Economite burner is inexpensive and may not perform as well in your Burnham boiler.

    To get your actual price for Gas Heat. Ask your neighbor for the gas bill and look at the number of Cubic feet or Therms that went thru the meter and the actual amount billed in dollars. Divide the dollars into the metered amount of gas. That is actually what you pay for the gas. The price quoted by the utility may not include transmission or delivery charges, taxes, and other public utility surcharges.

    Think about it... the amount you write on the check is the cost of the fuel. The oil company does not quote you $1.50 per gallon then add refinery charges, storage charges, delivery charges, trucking fees, and taxes. They quote and charge you a price per gallon.

    I hope this helps.

    Yours Truly,
    Mr.Ed
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
    SuperTechaseidman62
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,425
    There should be no difficulty doing this conversion. I'd also recommend the Carlin EZ-Gas. Burnham/US Boiler needs to get with the program on this.

    @aseidman62 , what model is your Burnham?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ethicalpaulrick in Alaska
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,956
    Caution is fine, guys, but honestly who here really thinks that the gas operating cost won’t be significantly lower than oil? 

    I’d swap in a split second if I were in his shoes just to get that hazardous materials storage tank off my property. I guess that’s aesthetics, @Jamie Hall  😉
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    rick in AlaskaWirenut
  • aseidman62
    aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
    EdTheHeaterMan - wow... That is great information. That stated I need to digest it and execute on the analysis. Will try and come back to you. Thank you !

    Btw. I think I'm hearing that my plumber is right and the conversion can be done BUT that I should check my numbers. Correct ?
  • aseidman62
    aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
    steamhead, 

    It's a Bunham model PV8H5WC.

    Any insight?

    Allen
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,425
    Carlin EZ-Gas burner is the way to go.

    Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Wirenut
    Wirenut Member Posts: 9
    I replaced a New Yorker FR122 (oil) with aTriangle Tube PA80 I did a spreadsheet comparison. Use summer fill up price and current price for oil. Summer 2020 fill up would have been $1.099. I run my comparison from June to May. My cost comparison thru Feb.2021. Natural gas $490.95, Summer fill up 412.32 oil, Monthly fill up 587.04 oil. It pays to have oil storage capacity to take advantage of summer fill up prices. Using indirect for DHW.
    Wire nut






  • aseidman62
    aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
    Steamhead, I am in Califon, NJ.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,857
    When gas is burned non-condensing it's efficiency can never beat oil and @EdTheHeaterMan #s are probably about right although a little low in my opinion.

    Gas contains a lot of water vapor, more than oil that's why water comes out when it is condensed LOL. Boiling that water vapor takes BTUs lost up the stack unless it is condensed with high efficiency equipment.

    We used to see this all the time when doing combination gas/oil burners back in the 80s in all the schools. The custodians would tell us "gas is nice and clean but the burner runs longer"
    STEVEusaPATim McElwain
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 387
    edited March 17
    I can't speak up about which fuel is the best and least expensive to use in a residence since 99% of my work was with commercial and industrial boilers. I will say that a clean burning natural gas unit needs almost no yearly cleaning of the heat exchange area but must be cleaned yearly when any type fuel oil is used. It matters not which type oil is used #1, #2, #4, #6, they all need yearly cleaning and that means increased labor costs and if not cleaned means increased fuel usage.

    The only statement I did not understand was why converting the unit to natural gas would save @aseidman62 the need or the cost of replacing the entire boiler unless he is referring to converting to natural gas by installing a gas only unit.

    My 2 cents.
  • aseidman62
    aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
    We want to pull a gas line for our kitchen and to heat our pool. We also understand that natural gas should be cheaper although people here are making me wonder. Given we have a new boiler our plumber suggested we convert it to gas. The questions are:

    1) are these conversions safe?
    2) will my fuel bills go down ? I know oil has more BTUs per gallon but has is cheaper.

    I will run the numbers based on the models above but I'm surprised so many say my bills will not go down.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,956
    1. They are safe when correctly installed and calibrated by a competent technician. Otherwise the gas blower companies would be long ago sued or criminally charged out of existence.
    2. no one can say for sure, but it's a bet I'd make. Maintenance cost reduction should be substantial too. Plus no more worrying about tank leaks/replacement.

    Bonus:
    3. Homes sell easier that have gas vs oil all else equal
    4. Don't use the boiler to heat your domestic hot water. Use a hybrid water heater and shut off the boiler in the summer for god's sake. More savings.
    5. Don't run gas in your kitchen. Gas is way better than oil but not better than inductive stoves.

    ^^ These takes are highly opinionated
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,094
    edited March 17

    We want to pull a gas line for our kitchen and to heat our pool. We also understand that natural gas should be cheaper although people here are making me wonder. Given we have a new boiler our plumber suggested we convert it to gas. The questions are:

    1) are these conversions safe?
    2) will my fuel bills go down ? I know oil has more BTUs per gallon but has is cheaper.

    I will run the numbers based on the models above but I'm surprised so many say my bills will not go down.

    You need to understand that many of the people saying "Gas is cheaper" are getting their information from those who have replaced an inefficient oil heater with an efficient gas heater.

    If the oil companies wanted to (they did this in the 1940s and the 1950s) they could promote oil heat with consumer advertising, the way the Gas Companies do. Then there would be more examples of consumers replacing inefficient gas heaters with very efficient oil heaters. if that happened, there would be just as many savings stories on both sides of the aisle.

    The problem with the decline of the oil heat industry was self-induced. Since the retail dealers did not want to put money back into the advertising budget, major oil refiners reduced the advertising for home heating oil. There are tons of mid-century advertising items like Esso's "Watch Dog" oil heat service, and Calendars with the fuel oil dealer information printed thereon, in some old basements and backrooms of former fuel oil dealers. I got some from my father's company, A full-coverage parts and labor service contract on your oil heater for $9.95 a year. And that included a heater cleaning!

    Respectfully submittes
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,452
    As someone who has installed over 3,500 conversion burners in the last 50 years you will not be sorry. However the most important thing is the installer does he or she know what they are doing. Check them out find out how many conversions they have done. A Carlin EZ burner into a Burnham boiler should get you a combustion efficiency of around 80%, the rest depends on your house and its insulation quality. If the boiler is properly cleaned before installing the burner the CO level should be under 100 PPM air free. The next thing is the chimney- how old is it, is it lined (clay tile) if not you may have to install a liner. Burnham does not authorize converting their boilers but that is no reason to not do it if it is done correctly. The installer is then fully liable for the installation. That is the way I have worked for years and I have a special insurance to cover me doing these kind of installations,
    ethicalpaulSuperTech
  • aseidman62
    aseidman62 Member Posts: 2
    So if I understand I will get a much bigger performance boost from a full conversion to a gas system. My contractor is telling me a minimum of a 35% efficiency gain (fuel savings) amd max of 60% with a super high efficiency boiler - Sound right %
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 178
    edited March 19
    I don’t know the fuel costs in your area. If the contractor is talking about fuel cost savings, his numbers may be accurate. But efficiency? No. Those numbers are a massive overestimate.

    You have a relatively new— therefore relatively efficient—boiler. Power gas burners are generally more efficient than atmospheric gas burners. There will be virtually no efficiency improvement between your existing boiler with a power gas gun and a new conventional gas boiler with atmospheric burners.

    If he’s proposing a condensing gas boiler, you will not get much benefit from one because you have baseboard heat, which requires relatively high supply water temperatures and will not allow much condensing to occur. Condensing boilers cost much more to install and maintain than conventional boilers, Which would probably more than wipe out any fuel cost savings.

    If I were you, I would do the gas gun in the existing boiler.

    Bburd
    SuperTech
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,926

    So if I understand I will get a much bigger performance boost from a full conversion to a gas system. My contractor is telling me a minimum of a 35% efficiency gain (fuel savings) amd max of 60% with a super high efficiency boiler - Sound right %

    Ask him if he'll put it in writing and pay you the difference if he's wrong.
    steve
    Robert O'BrienSuperTechZman
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746

    So if I understand I will get a much bigger performance boost from a full conversion to a gas system. My contractor is telling me a minimum of a 35% efficiency gain (fuel savings) amd max of 60% with a super high efficiency boiler - Sound right %

    And if you believe that, I have a bridge down in New York I want to sell you, cheap...

    You won't, unless your old boiler is really in terrible condition. You won't get even close to that. However, if the contractor is willing to put his money where his mouth is, get him to put that figure (actual fuel savings, BTU for BTU, not dollar amounts) in writing, notarized, with a guarantee and bond in escrow for the monetary savings.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,178
    I would definitely check your fuel prices in your area. In my area, 60% savings is pretty common for a conversion. A lot of my customer are paying about 1/3 of what they were with oil.
    Gas is new here and still somewhat cheap, and oil really isn't, so it works to convert. However, that is with todays prices. With what is happening with our energy prices, those numbers could change quite a bit.
    Rick
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,452
    It is important when comparing gas to oil to make sure we are talking apples and apples. An atmospheric gas boiler or furnace is less efficient than oil directly compared. Why? The oil is a power burner and premixes air with the fuel mechanically therefore it needs less air. Replace the existing oil power burner with a gas power conversion burner and the efficiency goes up slightly. I have over 3,000 combustions test results to prove it.
    SuperTech
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,306
    Efficiency is always somewhat lower in the identical application with gas than oil. More loss of latent heat.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    bburdSTEVEusaPASuperTech
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,857
    Like I posted above and @Robert O'Brien chart shows the water vapor gas contains goes along for the ride and uses up BTUs in a non condensing application.

    So non condensing oil always wins. But you can't compare a modern gas power burner to a 60 year old oil burner

    This is an efficiency comparison and has nothing to do with the cost of fuel

    And many would like to rid their property of the potential liability of having an oil tank on site.

    On the other hand having a months worth of fuel sitting in a tank on site reassures some people

    Think the Massachusetts gas disaster a couple of years back
    STEVEusaPA
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 178
    The theoretical efficiency on gas will always be slightly lower than on oil in a non-condensing boiler due to the greater latent heat loss in the flue gas as noted above. However, a properly adjusted gas burner will not soot up the heat exchanger over time. Older oil burners generally do, and even the newer ones are not completely soot free; and soot degrades efficiency. So the real world efficiency on gas may be better than on oil, depending on the circumstances of the individual installation.

    Bburd
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,306
    bburd said:

    The theoretical efficiency on gas will always be slightly lower than on oil in a non-condensing boiler due to the greater latent heat loss in the flue gas as noted above. However, a properly adjusted gas burner will not soot up the heat exchanger over time. Older oil burners generally do, and even the newer ones are not completely soot free; and soot degrades efficiency. So the real world efficiency on gas may be better than on oil, depending on the circumstances of the individual installation.

    If it isn't soot free, the wrong guy is working on it!
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    STEVEusaPASuperTech
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,857
    I agree with @Robert O'Brien

    Modern oil burners soot very little if adjusted properly. I have seen many boiler where the flue passages do not need cleaning for 3-4 years and even then you might get 1/2 a coffee can of soot out of them not enough to degrade efficiency. Requires a technician that can tune the burner properly and the equipment be properly sized. To many starts and stops is not good
    SuperTech
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,634
    I agree wholeheartedly with @EBEBRATT-Ed and @Robert O'Brien. My Peerless WBV-03 hasn't needed to be brushed and vacuumed in years and I am running at 84-86% combustion efficiency.  The Energy Kinetics EK-1 boilers that I work on look practically brand new every year when I do the annual maintenance. 

    Heating with modern oil fired equipment can be very clean and efficient. It just needs to be installed properly and tuned by a competent technician to a true zero smoke and adjusted for the correct draft. 
    STEVEusaPA
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