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Switch to natural gas or stick with oil?

Member Posts: 6
I just moved into a home that has oil heating. It is a 1989 peerless boiler that provides hot water for baseboard heating and an indirect water storage tank for domestic hot water. I contacted our utility company who would install a gas line at no cost.

It’s too soon to tell how much oil we’re going to use in a year, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the current boiler, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it to upgrade right now. I’m not in the best position to upgrade right now financially, but if natural gas is going to be significantly cheaper than oil I could find a way to make it work. My other thought is that the oil boiler is going to have to be replaced at some point anyway, and if I wait then the boiler might die and and I’ll be stuck having to replace with another oil system. It can take 10 weeks for the utility company to install the line. But I heard they can last 70 years if well maintained.

my question is what does everyone else think about switching to natural gas? Is the savings going to be significant? We will be staying here for a long time. Probably at least 30 years. And I’m estimating at least 8-12k to replace the boiler? Current oil prices in my area are 2.91/gal and gas is 1.06 per ccf
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• Member Posts: 5,039
There is a ZERO return on investment in changing from Oil to NG!

• Member Posts: 1,625
Get the gas line installed, then when ready for upgrade, upgrade! Gas will already be there
• Member Posts: 1,964
edited December 2021
There is a ZERO return on investment in changing from Oil to NG!
Of course there can be a return!
Per MMBtu:
Gas: 1.06 x (1,000,000/103,700) = \$10.22
oil: 2.91 x (1,000,000/138,000) = \$21.08.

Gas can be more efficient too, so the gap widens. Oil + indirect is especially inefficient. Gas + indirect can be inefficient as well, gas tankless, gas modcon + indirect or just gas tank are all probably better options.

Obviously, no one on this forum knows what future oil or gas prices will be. Things to watch out for are the utility charges unrelated to the gas itself - things like \$/ccf delivery charges.

If the gas company will do it for free and the boiler is nearing end of life, why not?

• Member Posts: 161
Does the \$1.06 price for gas include all charges from the supplier(delivery, etc.)? Oil is easy because it’s generally an all inclusive price.

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
• Member Posts: 23,921
Would be nice if we could get prices for oil and natural gas like those you quote around here, @Hot_water_fan . Around here, new natural gas connections are simply not available at any price. Spot market oil is running almost \$4 per gallon, and I've seen LP over \$6.

In terms of costs down the road, I don't think anyone has a crystal ball. On the other hand, I doubt that any of the fuels will go down, but ng and oil will probably remain competitive in most markets for a while.

@thisismyusername needs to do his sums...
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 1,964
@Jamie Hall true, @thisismyusername where do you live? Prices are higher here too.
• Member Posts: 6
Brent H. said:
Does the \$1.06 price for gas include all charges from the supplier(delivery, etc.)? Oil is easy because it’s generally an all inclusive price. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
The 1.06 price should include all charges. While it’s easy to see that NG is cheaper, I wonder if it would still be significantly cheaper than oil in terms of efficiency? I’ve always had gas forced air systems, so having a boiler at all is brand new to me.

the no cost contract is valid for 60 days and then I have up to a year to get the heating system/appliances installed. I’m guessing if I didn’t then they would charge me for the gas line install. I only want to do it now if it would be a significant return on investment pretty quickly. My current boiler is 30 years old, but it has been well maintained and I’m told it could last for many more years
• Member Posts: 6
@Jamie Hall true, @thisismyusername where do you live? Prices are higher here too.
I’m in PA. Less than an hour from Philly
• Member Posts: 2,885
Seven years it is and then seven years it is not .. Most would recommend investing into insulation so what ever you burn to heat your home , you will keep it in. And lower all around fuel cost ...

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• Member Posts: 1,964
While it’s easy to see that NG is cheaper, I wonder if it would still be significantly cheaper than oil in terms of efficiency?
Oil won’t be more efficient. Ask your oil company for historical usage, that’ll help you size the boiler and determine how much is possible to save. A positive of gas boilers is that they come in smaller sizes than oil boilers. For the same house, a smaller boiler will be more efficient all else equal.
• Member Posts: 1,625
If your boiler is oversized it will be inefficient no matter the fuel. If it is properly sized and well tuned, it could save you money, You might be able to replace the oil burner with a gas burner.
• Member Posts: 15,965

At this point your decision is a crapshoot

Reasons for gas:

1. There is no guarantee gas will be available in the future for new installs. In many locations it's not available now. You could lock that in.
2. The utility is giving you a year to get the equipment installed. If this works finanically for you it gives you plenty of time to find a good contractor (most important) get quotes etc.
3. What kind of condition and what shape is your oil tank in? This could be a factor. Getting rid of the oil tank liability is important to some.
4. Your boiler is 32 years old. will it last 40, 50 maybe. How much money would you be willing to sink into it to keep it going

Reasons for oil:

1 saving money that you won't spend for a new boiler (but how long until the old one fails)

2. I really can't think of anything else.

I am an old timer that likes to keep old stuff running but in your case I think I would pull the trigger now. Especially since you have a year to plan for it.

Find the right contractor Try (find a contractor On this site) & post where you are located someone may have a recommendation
• Member Posts: 6
@thisismyusername At this point your decision is a crapshoot Reasons for gas: 1. There is no guarantee gas will be available in the future for new installs. In many locations it's not available now. You could lock that in. 2. The utility is giving you a year to get the equipment installed. If this works finanically for you it gives you plenty of time to find a good contractor (most important) get quotes etc. 3. What kind of condition and what shape is your oil tank in? This could be a factor. Getting rid of the oil tank liability is important to some. 4. Your boiler is 32 years old. will it last 40, 50 maybe. How much money would you be willing to sink into it to keep it going Reasons for oil: 1 saving money that you won't spend for a new boiler (but how long until the old one fails) 2. I really can't think of anything else. I am an old timer that likes to keep old stuff running but in your case I think I would pull the trigger now. Especially since you have a year to plan for it. Find the right contractor Try (find a contractor On this site) & post where you are located someone may have a recommendation
These are all good points. Just curious, Whats the reason that new gas installs are not available in some areas? Thats a good reason right there for me to justify doing it now
• Member Posts: 127
the no cost contract is valid for 60 days and then I have up to a year to get the heating system/appliances installed. I’m guessing if I didn’t then they would charge me for the gas line install. I only want to do it now if it would be a significant return on investment pretty quickly. My current boiler is 30 years old, but it has been well maintained and I’m told it could last for many more years
When I had gas installed at my rental this year, Duke said it could be any appliance - even an outdoor NG grill.

John
• Member Posts: 1,454
edited December 2021
These are all good points. Just curious, Whats the reason that new gas installs are not available in some areas? Thats a good reason right there for me to justify doing it now
Environmental. Same reason ICE Vehicles are having a sunset date imposed in some states and countries.

I'm an environmentalist at heart but even I do not really agree with out right bans of technology and fuel sources. I am a fan of financial incentives to go to renewables but sometimes there just isn't a substitute for a hot flame. Or exploding gases.
• Member Posts: 23,921
"These are all good points. Just curious, Whats the reason that new gas installs are not available in some areas? Thats a good reason right there for me to justify doing it now"

New gas installs are not available in some areas for several reasons. The least obvious to many people is that there simply isn't enough gas available. Period. There have been several pipeline projects which have been stopped -- for various reasons -- and there is the problem of providing backup electric power to "renewable" energy when coal and nuclear plants are closed. Result: there simply isn't enough gas to go around.

It's important to note that the gas exists, and that up until a bit less than a year ago the US was exporting natural gas to other countries which need it more than we did. Political decisions have been made which means that that is no longer the case, and there is no longer enough gas -- for political reasons -- to meet the domestic demand, never mind export.

Second, in some areas it simply isn't worth the cost to install the necessary distribution mains. There is a definite minimum demand per mile of main below which distribution isn't economically reasonable.

Third, in some localities local political decisions have been made to forbid new natural gas installations.
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 15,965

I know some cities in MA where I am are trying (or may have already) to put the stop to more gas installs...it's a "green thing. These idiots have not figured out that getting rid of gas & oil that using electricity will cause more pollution. And also in many areas the gas company have over extended their distribution. They add more customers then find out they are short on pipe size etc. If the gas company falls short on supply in the winter due to undersized pipe etc they shut off some large industrial users, better to deal with 1 angry customer than 1,000 homeowners

Some places charge for gas line installs under any conditions.

I am sure if you sniff around the internet you will find some information.

Looks like your area is good.....for now
• Member Posts: 6
Appreciate everyone's feedback on this. The utility actually just informed me that the contractor told them that there is a strong possibility that they would have to cut into the full length of our driveway due to the location of the the gas main and other utilities. This would be a length of approx. 180ft which they would not cover to repair. Driveway restoration would add thousands onto the project. We live on a flag lot so we are set back pretty far from the street. Which is why I was surprised they covered the full cost to run the line. But driveway restoration was not something I was factoring in before.
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These idiots have not figured out that getting rid of gas & oil that using electricity will cause more pollution.

I think that's mostly untrue.
• Member Posts: 11,157
We have a very small power plant in our village. We are in a co-generation agreement with the state grid.
So in the summer or any time there is a peak load we generate and we burn diesel oil.
We had to go on line when Texas had the wind turbine fiasco.
And I am sure that the coal burners in the Midwest had to contribute to that "green" effort that took place. Also some diesel "peakers" were probably up and running.

The electric grid faces the same problems that NG has on the East coast.
The future is here now.
• Member Posts: 800

These idiots have not figured out that getting rid of gas & oil that using electricity will cause more pollution.

I think that's mostly untrue.
It is true if they're trying to use intermittent sources (wind/solar) to do it. It's not if they're using fission.
Trying to squeeze the best out of a Weil-McLain JB-5 running a 1912 1 pipe system.
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It is true if they're trying to use intermittent sources (wind/solar) to do it. It's not if they're using fission.
Even natural gas is cleaner when turned into electricity for a heat pump than burning on site! Obviously wind/nuclear/solar/hydro all contribute too.
• Member Posts: 165
I am converting from oil to gas. 10 weeks? I am in the 17th week, and still have no idea when the gas line will be installed. My town marked out the water line, so I might be getting closer.
I am converting because 1) my 65 year old boiler is shot 2) I live in NJ and everyone has been brainwashed that oil is bad 3) I have an under ground tank I want to remove because NJ has everyone brainwashed lol.
I love oil heat. It is super safe, it will never explode or catch on fire. I can buy it in the summer when it goes on sale, and it is mine, one bill a year. With gas, we have no control what they send us. They can put more water vapor in it, or if they run out they can cut it off entirely. We can't store NG. Oil generates more heat than gas, pound per pound. Switching to gas will not save you money and it is not a reason to convert. I will never ever recoup the cost of the conversion. But the nice thing about NG is it burns cleaner than heating oil. An oil burner needs to have the oil filter and nozzle changed every year, and a good vacuuming every other year. It makes more soot. It is like a diesel truck vs gasoline truck.
If your oil fired boiler is in relatively good shape, in my opinion you may as well wait until it is on its last legs. It won't suddenly break and not be fixable, what happens is they slowly deteriorate and rust away.
With all the green new deals going on limiting the use of fossil fuels, we all might end up burning firewood in the fireplace for heat.
I'm not a plumber or hvac man and my thoughts in comments are purely for conversation.
• Member Posts: 6
Jersey2 said:

I am converting from oil to gas. 10 weeks? I am in the 17th week, and still have no idea when the gas line will be installed. My town marked out the water line, so I might be getting closer.
I am converting because 1) my 65 year old boiler is shot 2) I live in NJ and everyone has been brainwashed that oil is bad 3) I have an under ground tank I want to remove because NJ has everyone brainwashed lol.
I love oil heat. It is super safe, it will never explode or catch on fire. I can buy it in the summer when it goes on sale, and it is mine, one bill a year. With gas, we have no control what they send us. They can put more water vapor in it, or if they run out they can cut it off entirely. We can't store NG. Oil generates more heat than gas, pound per pound. Switching to gas will not save you money and it is not a reason to convert. I will never ever recoup the cost of the conversion. But the nice thing about NG is it burns cleaner than heating oil. An oil burner needs to have the oil filter and nozzle changed every year, and a good vacuuming every other year. It makes more soot. It is like a diesel truck vs gasoline truck.
If your oil fired boiler is in relatively good shape, in my opinion you may as well wait until it is on its last legs. It won't suddenly break and not be fixable, what happens is they slowly deteriorate and rust away.
With all the green new deals going on limiting the use of fossil fuels, we all might end up burning firewood in the fireplace for heat.

Wow that's interesting. I'm not against oil or anything, just don't know much about it. But learning slowly. We actually have two 230 gallon oil tanks in the basement which will cut down on how many times I need to fill up. Had to just fill up with 400 gallons last week for the first time so we will see how long it lasts. Will definitely buy in the summer moving forward though. The biggest reason for wanting to convert was seeing numbers about how heating with NG is 50% cheaper than oil. Real life doesn't seem to be quite that much savings though?
• Member Posts: 165
I had read that NG was projected to have a 30% increase in price. But that means that heating oil will go up too. They seem to go up or down in price together. This is what I paid for heating oil over the years. My boiler heats the domestic water too, I generally use 700 gallons a year for heat and hot water:

Date \$/gallon Quantity Total
09/21/2021- \$2.7995 X 549.7 = \$1,538.89
9/14/2020- \$1.84 x 700 = \$1,288.00
09/12/2019- \$2.649 X 700 = \$1,854.30
09/24/2018- \$2.42 x 700 = \$1,694.00 + \$2.10 NORA Tax (11/19/2018)
09/05/2017- \$2.08 x 600 = \$1,248.00
08/31/2016- \$1.93 x 700 = \$1,351.00
04/08/2015- \$2.08 x 700 = \$1,456.00
05/27/2014- \$3.16 x 670 = \$2,117.20
05/21/2013- \$3.06 x 700 = \$2,142.00
01/23/2013 \$3.57 x 300 = \$1,071.00
05/29/2012- \$3.25 x 500 = \$1,625.00
I'm not a plumber or hvac man and my thoughts in comments are purely for conversation.
• Member Posts: 15,965
@Jersey2

The oil price may go up but 700 gal/year is pretty low
• Member Posts: 5,039

Jersey2 said:

I am converting from oil to gas. 10 weeks? I am in the 17th week, and still have no idea when the gas line will be installed. My town marked out the water line, so I might be getting closer.
I am converting because 1) my 65 year old boiler is shot 2) I live in NJ and everyone has been brainwashed that oil is bad 3) I have an under ground tank I want to remove because NJ has everyone brainwashed lol.
I love oil heat. It is super safe, it will never explode or catch on fire. I can buy it in the summer when it goes on sale, and it is mine, one bill a year. With gas, we have no control what they send us. They can put more water vapor in it, or if they run out they can cut it off entirely. We can't store NG. Oil generates more heat than gas, pound per pound. Switching to gas will not save you money and it is not a reason to convert. I will never ever recoup the cost of the conversion. But the nice thing about NG is it burns cleaner than heating oil. An oil burner needs to have the oil filter and nozzle changed every year, and a good vacuuming every other year. It makes more soot. It is like a diesel truck vs gasoline truck.
If your oil fired boiler is in relatively good shape, in my opinion you may as well wait until it is on its last legs. It won't suddenly break and not be fixable, what happens is they slowly deteriorate and rust away.
With all the green new deals going on limiting the use of fossil fuels, we all might end up burning firewood in the fireplace for heat.

Wow that's interesting. I'm not against oil or anything, just don't know much about it. But learning slowly. We actually have two 230 gallon oil tanks in the basement which will cut down on how many times I need to fill up. Had to just fill up with 400 gallons last week for the first time so we will see how long it lasts. Will definitely buy in the summer moving forward though. The biggest reason for wanting to convert was seeing numbers about how heating with NG is 50% cheaper than oil. Real life doesn't seem to be quite that much savings though?
B S

Post those #'s.

Over a 10-year period NG and oil are about equal.
• Member Posts: 23,921
There is absolutely no substitute for running your own numbers with your own prices on this stuff. "They say" is useless. Even if what "they say" happens to be true for someone in East Overshoe, that doesn't make it true in West Podunk. And very often "they say" simply isn't true to begin with.

There are generalities, yes. But even those change with time. About the only broad generalities which don't change are first, that there is plenty of fossil fuel (natural gas, oil, LP) available around the world and in this country. Second, there could be plenty of true zero emissions electricity constantly available (base load -- not just when the sun shines or the wind blows). Third, political maneouverings and posturing make both of those unavailable to the people. And the price will go up and reliability go down.
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 1,625
oil vs Gas

An oil burner requires much more maintenance that can not be ignored.

A gas burner is pretty much maintenance free after initial start up.
• Member Posts: 2,081
@thisismyusername. Let's assume that most technicians/service people in your area are nincompoops. An oil boiler will suffer greatly from being nincompoped. Gas boiler,  not so much so. If your gas boiler is never serviced or maintained by someone competent,  the negative affect will probably be marginal. Not properly servicing a oil boiler can have drastic effects on reliability, efficiency, and safety.
• Member Posts: 5,039
SlamDunk said:

oil vs Gas

An oil burner requires much more maintenance that can not be ignored.

A gas burner is pretty much maintenance free after initial start up.

@thisismyusername. Let's assume that most technicians/service people in your area are nincompoops. An oil boiler will suffer greatly from being nincompoped. Gas boiler,  not so much so. If your gas boiler is never serviced or maintained by someone competent,  the negative affect will probably be marginal. Not properly servicing a oil boiler can have drastic effects on reliability, efficiency, and safety.

Gas fired equipment still should have an Annual Inspection.
• Member Posts: 1,625
edited December 2021
To be clear, I am talking burners, not equipment.

For example, 32 years ago, my father in law had a NG furnace installed and never maintained. Last month, out of curiosity, I stuck my analyzer in stack and found excess air to be (can't find photo) around 80%. The air shutters were never moved from full open.

Two years ago, my brother had an oil furnace installed and about three days after start up, soot was spilling out of barometric damper. After two more attempts to tune, the installer ghosted him. I had to go up, and with help from this forum, dialed it in. Because of COVID, I haven't been able to return but it is still sipping oil and burning clean. But, I don't expect it to continue to do so. Certainly not 32 years from now!

• Member Posts: 2,081
pecmsg said:
oil vs Gas An oil burner requires much more maintenance that can not be ignored. A gas burner is pretty much maintenance free after initial start up.
@thisismyusername. Let's assume that most technicians/service people in your area are nincompoops. An oil boiler will suffer greatly from being nincompoped. Gas boiler,  not so much so. If your gas boiler is never serviced or maintained by someone competent,  the negative affect will probably be marginal. Not properly servicing a oil boiler can have drastic effects on reliability, efficiency, and safety.
Gas fired equipment still should have an Annual Inspection.
I am discussing reality. Most boilers are not maintained. The one's that are maintained,  are often effectively not maintained (because the maintainers are nincompoops).
• Member Posts: 16,083
edited December 2021
pecmsg said:

Jersey2 said:

I am converting from oil to gas. 10 weeks? I am in the 17th week, and still have no idea when the gas line will be installed. My town marked out the water line, so I might be getting closer.
I am converting because 1) my 65 year old boiler is shot 2) I live in NJ and everyone has been brainwashed that oil is bad 3) I have an under ground tank I want to remove because NJ has everyone brainwashed lol.
I love oil heat. It is super safe, it will never explode or catch on fire. I can buy it in the summer when it goes on sale, and it is mine, one bill a year. With gas, we have no control what they send us. They can put more water vapor in it, or if they run out they can cut it off entirely. We can't store NG. Oil generates more heat than gas, pound per pound. Switching to gas will not save you money and it is not a reason to convert. I will never ever recoup the cost of the conversion. But the nice thing about NG is it burns cleaner than heating oil. An oil burner needs to have the oil filter and nozzle changed every year, and a good vacuuming every other year. It makes more soot. It is like a diesel truck vs gasoline truck.
If your oil fired boiler is in relatively good shape, in my opinion you may as well wait until it is on its last legs. It won't suddenly break and not be fixable, what happens is they slowly deteriorate and rust away.
With all the green new deals going on limiting the use of fossil fuels, we all might end up burning firewood in the fireplace for heat.

Wow that's interesting. I'm not against oil or anything, just don't know much about it. But learning slowly. We actually have two 230 gallon oil tanks in the basement which will cut down on how many times I need to fill up. Had to just fill up with 400 gallons last week for the first time so we will see how long it lasts. Will definitely buy in the summer moving forward though. The biggest reason for wanting to convert was seeing numbers about how heating with NG is 50% cheaper than oil. Real life doesn't seem to be quite that much savings though?
B S

Post those #'s.

Over a 10-year period NG and oil are about equal.

I bought my house in 2011 and put natural gas in back in 2011.
I have several friends with similar houses that use oil.

NG is most certainly cheaper than oil over the past 10 years. Significantly. For a few years the price difference was big enough to make you puke. Over the past few years the gap as shrunk.

I don't know how it compares right now though and anyone can speculate what's going to happen over the next year and easily be wrong.

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
• Member Posts: 1,625
All it takes is the slightest instability in the Middle East and the price of oil will out pace the price of natural gas. Our best defense is properly sized furnaces/Boilers and well tuned oil burners. It helps reduce the sting.
• Member Posts: 23,921
SlamDunk said:

All it takes is the slightest instability in the Middle East and the price of oil will out pace the price of natural gas. Our best defense is properly sized furnaces/Boilers and well tuned oil burners. It helps reduce the sting.

Conversely, @SlamDunk , if Mr. Putin decides to get ambitious, the price of natural gas will soar in a most spectacular way. And either he or Mr. Xi can run either one up or down in minutes with a stroke of a pen.

It's so nice to be completely at the mercy of one's enemies, isn't it? Oh and by the way -- think about what happened 80 years ago today.
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 1,625
As far as I know, we export more gas than we import. And we import from Canada, not Russia. Pootin is more of a problem for Europe.
• Member Posts: 16,083
SlamDunk said:

As far as I know, we export more gas than we import. And we import from Canada, not Russia. Pootin is more of a problem for Europe.

Yes, I believe this is accurate.
I'm not sure how our enemies would make our natural gas prices soar.

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
• Member Posts: 11,157
Are we sure we know who our enemies really are?
Not all are overseas IMO.
• Member Posts: 1,625
JUGHNE said:

Are we sure we know who our enemies really are?
Not all are overseas IMO.

You know what they say....Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't out to get ya!
This discussion has been closed.