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Is an oil to gas conversion worth it in NYC?

GigiRod
GigiRod Member Posts: 25
Hello everyone!

I need to replace my boiler, it finally gave out at the end of last winter. I'm told it is original to the house. Last winter a full tank got us ~3 weeks with only turning the boiler on 3x a day for ~2hr (takes ~1hr after turning on for heat to kick in).

I live in Brooklyn, 2-family house, 2000 st ft, built in 1899. We have steam heating, 10 radiators (9 similar to pic attached, 1 very large one in the front hallway). We currently have gas that goes to the water heater, dryer, and kitchen stoves. My family has lived here since the 70s. According to the DOB site, it has no Certificate of Occupancy and no records of any permits or job filings.

I am trying to decide if it is worth it to convert to gas. Last fall, I got a few quotes, but nothing came of it because people didn't get back to me, so I am getting quotes again.

I have been told very different things. I am trying to figure out what is true and what I would need to address to pass inspection.

1) Permit: One person told me I need a permit, another that I don't need one but do need an inspection (he quoted me very cheap for the installation but said filing the job would cost me $3500-4000), and another told me I don't need a permit because I already have gas and inspection would bring me problems. Oddly enough, the DOB boiler division did not give me a straight answer, the guy sounded uncertain and told me a permit was for a 5+ unit bldg, then he told me to call the plumbing unit.

2) Water heater: only one guy mentioned it and said he would need to register it. Is this true? A family friend installed it a few years back. Would there be any issues with it, did it require a permit?

3) Inspection: each plumber pointed out different issues, no single issue was mentioned twice

- one plumber told me he would need to upgrade the gas line because the current one is too small, he was the only one to tell me it was necessary
- he also said we would fail the pressure test because our pipes are old and then our gas would be cut off
- guy that mentioned registering the water heater said it needed
a) 4" flue instead of the current 3"
b) 3/4" pipe instead of the current 1/2"
c) Vent needs to be pitched upwards
- union fittings on gas line are not to code w/o a shutoff valve
- dryer duct needs to be rigid instead of semi-rigid, and the inspector would need to check the vent on the outside (which is under the very much not permitted deck)

Basically, is a conversion worth it or should I just stick to oil? If I convert, is inviting DOB into my home going to bring me more problems? Will they stick to just the boiler and gas line or go looking for other violations (e.g. electric, water lines) that I am unaware of?









Comments

  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,209
    The flue on the water heater is down pitched. FAIL.
    For safety reasons alone, I would follow the letter of the law no matter where it leads you.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,345
    I find it hard to believe in cash strapped NYC a permit is NOT needed.

    Be prepared for a major expense.
    Asbestos Abatement
    Nylon rope is not an acceptable hanger.
    2) 3/4" gas lines? Why.

    Remember once inspected any Major / Minor violations old or new and Con Ed WILL shut off the gas so everything old and new needs to be brought up to todays code.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,857
    @GigiRod , unless that boiler was properly converted from coal firing, I'm not surprised it was expensive to run. A new boiler will be much better no matter which fuel you burn.

    Were any of the proposals you got from our Find a Contractor list, here?

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/

    If not, they should be. You'll find some excellent Steam Men on there.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    SlamDunk
  • GigiRod
    GigiRod Member Posts: 25
    No, I didn't know I could find someone here. I'll be sure to try it. All the guys I got were through Angie's List/Homeadvisor. I stumbled on this site when I was looking up how to change a leaky radiator valve.
    pecmsg
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,345
    Angies list, home advisor and all the others are a Pay for review site. If we subscribe to them only good reviews appear.

    Several Great Steam heads here that service Brooklyn!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,857
    pecmsg said:

    Angies list, home advisor and all the others are a Pay for review site. If we subscribe to them only good reviews appear.

    Several Great Steam heads here that service Brooklyn!

    This.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 758
    The change over to gas will require a new gas service. The problem involved is the old gas piping. Because a shut down to the gas service is required a pressure test to gas piping system is needed. Based on what you tell us it is most likely that you will fail the the test on the gas piping which will lead to a lock out on the gas service till all the leaks are repaired or the gas piping is changed out.

    My advice on the boiler replacement is to stay with oil for the time being.
    When a boiler is selected make sure that the boiler will be able to accept a gas gun similar to the oil burner.

    You have many issues with the piping as was stated by the other members of this site.

    One major problem is the asbestos which needs to be removed from the near boiler piping and the encapsulation of all the other insulation. Additionally you have other steam piping that needs to be insulated.

    The new boiler installation must adhere to the manufacturers recommendations. Failure to do so voids the warranty and can lead system problems such as banging and poor heat distribution.

    You are into a costly replacement of the boiler. Additionally, you need to address the existing violations in the basement. You need a plumbing company that has an oil service company or a licensed oil burner installer and has an expertise in steam heating.

    The boiler installation is one part of the upgrade, the other part of the system upgrade requires a flushing of the wet return and possible replacement of the wet return.

    JOHNNY of New York is a good contractor to call he is an old timer and fully versed in steam heating and boiler replacement additionally he a licensed master plumber and honest. He participates on this site and you can find him through the local contractors on this site.

    Hit find a contractor he is one of the best.

    Jake
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,761
    Why, thank you, @dopey27177.
    I appreciate your confidence in my work.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,857

    JOHNNY of New York is a good contractor to call he is an old timer and fully versed in steam heating and boiler replacement additionally he a licensed master plumber and honest. He participates on this site and you can find him through the local contractors on this site.

    Hit find a contractor he is one of the best.

    Jake

    This!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    JohnNY
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,761
    In these pictures I'm looking at backpitched flue pipe, non-compliant water connectors, a union on gas pipe not within 36" of an appliance or within 24" of a shutoff valve, friable asbestos, gas meters held up by string... I'm thinking that statue of Jesus truly is your Lord and Savior.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
    SlamDunkpecmsgCanucker
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,111
    FWIW to OP, I had that exact boiler, five sections. 1930 coal to oil to natural gas. My natural gas bill was routinely 5-600 per month. It eventually died and I eventually replaced it. Now my fuel bill is routinely 150-200/month depending on weather. Sometimes 300 if we have a cold snap in the teens for a week.

  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 758
    Johnny

    It is a pleasure to recommend a contractor to help people in need of correcting serious problems.

    I have gotten to know you on this site. I am originally form NEW York and a retired LIC. MASTER PLUMBER and consultant that worked all five boros of the city.

    ope you get this half a nightmare job and show this potential customer what can be done.

    In my answer to the person I stated that they have a costly job on their hands. What I forgot to mention is that they can upgrade to gas in the future when the gas piping situation is resolved and other violations are removed. The boiler replacement is paramount as is any corrective work to the heating system.

    Jake
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,978
    edited August 16
    Those gas meters don't look terribly old.
    Someone from the gas company actually swapped those in with the pipes not supported properly!?

    How is that even possible?

    I mean, I don't believe such a thing would ever happen and yet there it is.........


    Yes, I also recommend @JohnNY
    Have him come out and go with his recommendations. You'll be happy when everything is running good and it's 0F outside and no one's got a bad headache or worse from CO....

    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
  • Jersey2
    Jersey2 Member Posts: 50
    It looks like fish tape that contractors use to pull wires through conduit, holding up the pipes. If you switched to gas are you also required to have the oil tank pulled? My guess is to get a oil burner because of the guys pointing out that bad gas piping, I can even see that it is bad. I am only a customer though, my advice is to be taken with a grain of salt.
    I'm not a plumber or hvac man and my thoughts in comments are purely for conversation.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,345
    JohnNY said:
    In these pictures I'm looking at backpitched flue pipe, non-compliant water connectors, a union on gas pipe not within 36" of an appliance or within 24" of a shutoff valve, friable asbestos, gas meters held up by string... I'm thinking that statue of Jesus truly is your Lord and Savior.
    And I’m sure you’ve seen a lot worse. 
  • GigiRod
    GigiRod Member Posts: 25
    Thanks, everyone for the advice :) . I knew the situation was bad but I guess what I really wanted to know was if it was worth it to convert if I addressed the violations. It honestly looks like it would bring me more problems than I can afford right now (I wasn't even aware of the support issue, no one brought it up!). So I'm leaning with sticking to oil, but I will reach out to the pros mentioned and see what they tell me.

    @ChrisJ Idk how old the meters are, but I know Nat Grid came by within the last year or so to do some piping work, so they def saw the support situation.