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HELP!! gas vs oil fueled water heater

asle
asle Member Posts: 6
Just got first estimate for water heater. Never had one and thought since I might be selling the house soon that I should be looking into this. Was considering tankless but finally decided to go customary route. I thought my options were to choose between gas and electric fueled but then was told I could have oil fueled just to make the decision making process harder.  Was told oil was more  efficient than gas etc. i am Concerned of oil cost as my last monthly oil delivery charge was just over $800. Sooo … my question for anyone with more experience than me ( shouldn’t be hard) if I opted for gas fueled would it save on oil costs? And  is it really less efficient than oil fueled.  What would you choose and why?? Thanks so much 

Comments

  • heathead
    heathead Member Posts: 189
    Do you have gas service to the house? If you all ready do that is the route I would go. With an oil fueled water heater their is a lot more yearly mainatance cost. Other option if you don't have gas to the house then go with heat pump water heater, rebates maybe available.
  • asle
    asle Member Posts: 6
    Heathead.. thank you. Yes.. I-already have gas service to the home. This original estimate was from my oil service company so of course that left me curious if their comments were self serving. The gentleman did say it might cost a little bit more to add the water heater and fuel it but not much. He added something about lowering the temp of the burner?? to save $ and any maintenance being included in my service contract regardless. 
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 521
    Sooo … my question for anyone with more experience than me ( shouldn’t be hard) if I opted for gas fueled would it save on oil costs? And is it really less efficient than oil fueled. What would you choose and why?? Thanks so much


    Gas can be either more or less efficient than oil. If you have a boiler already, you could use the boiler to heat the water using an indirect tank which would be more efficient than your typical gas water heater, but not more efficient than the highest efficiency gas options. Tankless or tank can both be equally efficient, depends on the type. Oil is probably more expensive to operate, but depends on your local rates and future rates. No one on this forum knows what your future rates will be.
    asle
  • asle
    asle Member Posts: 6
    Hot water fan.. thank you for your response. No I didn’t mean to suggest that anyone could anticipate my oil rates.  Just needed someone’s general expertise. Is it true that gas fueled is less efficient ? He was recommending a BOCK 32e oil fueled and said it would give more BTU’s than a larger water heater . I hope I am describing this properly. Have no idea about any of this if this wasn’t already evident lol . 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,924
    You really have two groups of choices: what fuel, and what type. Since you already have gas on the property and oil, and presumably electricity, that isn't much help -- although the costs and characteristics of each are different.

    Direct fired tank type water heaters can be either gas or oil. In general, gas hot water heaters cost less to purchase for a given size heater than oil, however, you can usually get by with a slightly smaller tank with oil, as the recovery is quicker. In terms of cost to run, that is again usually -- but not always -- cheaper with gas; you need to check the price per BTU of each to be certain. LP as in the midwest tends to be less expensive than oil, but not on the coasts. Natural gas is almost always cheaper.

    Now there are also tank type electric water heaters. These need to be considerably bigger than either gas or oil for the same recovery. Straight resistance heaters -- the usual kind -- are, in most cases, much more expensive to run than either gas or oil, but the cost of the unit is moderately low. Heat pump water heaters can be significantly less expensive to run -- on a par with natural gas or oil -- provided they are sized large enough. Their recovery in heat pump mode (the inexpensive mode) is painfully slow; if they switch to resistance mode they are just as expensive as straight electric. The first cost is very high.

    Then there are tankless water heaters. These can be fine -- if you have a big enough gas service and a small enough hot water load. Even a one bathroom house, however, requires a 200,000 BTUh burner -- and that is a lot of gas.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 521
    edited March 25
    @asle

    A fuel cost calculator would be useful with your specific rates might be useful.

    The Bock is not more efficient than gas (Bock makes gas products with the same and higher efficiencies). It is also not necessarily a larger burner. So maybe talk to another pro.

    Note: the typical house doesn't spend all that much on heating domestic water, so this is a relatively minor decision.

    asle
  • asle
    asle Member Posts: 6
    Thank you Jamie Hall… I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. Yes. I have gas, oil and electricity service at the house Lol so there goes that. Electric was never an option in my mind. Just didn’t realize my choices would include oil. I think my quandary was part of me. … Maybe optimistically … thought I would save $ from having the water heater not increase my spending although I was told it would be minimal.  In your experience is it true that gas fueled is less efficient?? If I went with the recommended Bock 32e oil fueled would that be something any  new owners would likely be comfortable with?? I was reading reviews and BOCK seems favored.  Thank you again. 
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689
    Don't know about less efficient, depends on the type I guess. But I never had one of my customers run out of hot water with an oil fired water heater. They probably recover a little faster than gas.
    A bigger concern is venting. You can't just tee a gas & oil appliance together and run it into the chimney. So for gas someone is going to have to make a hole higher up in the chimney for the gas appliance connector-properly installed of course.
    There's also a whole thread going on here about the (dangerous-my words) problem with a draft hood appliance.
    steve
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,924
    No, I wouldn't say gas heaters are less efficient. Nor would I say they are more efficient. What I will say, with some enthusiasm, is that the Bock oil heaters recover faster than gas ones, so that one can usually go one size smaller (for instance: a 32 gallon Bock vs. a 40 gallon gas). The amount of oil -- or gas -- used is not that much (even in today's prices, a half gallon of oil per day, maybe), so the running cost is really not a consideration.

    If it were mine to do, I'd go with oil -- but that's me.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    asleSTEVEusaPA
  • asle
    asle Member Posts: 6
    @STEVEusaPA.. thank you for your response. Ok.. so now more for me to check into with your comment about  the thread going on about the problems with a  draft hood appliance. Thank you 
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 521
    What’s the current heater? Oil or gas doesn’t determine recovery time: btu output does. Bock makes both so brand name doesn’t matter. The highest end gas tank will be more efficient, the standard tank will be about the same as oil. Probably not worth worrying about. 
    asle
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,190
    edited March 25
    To put the comment "oil is more efficient than gas" in perspective, is to say that the standard 30ish gallon oil fired water is going to provide MORE hot water than an 80 gallon electric or a 40 gallon gas water heater. This is based on the fact that some homeowners may experience "running out of hot water" with the Gas and Electric options while not "running out of hot water" with the oil fired water heater. That is because of basic thermodynamics and the physics of water. The BTU is the ruler that we use to measure how heat works on water. One BTU will raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree.. More perspective: a kitchen match will provide about 1 BTU of heat

    The smallest oil burner nozzle you might easily place in a oil burner that will operate in the water tank is 0.50 GPH. Since oil contains about 140,000 BTUs of heat per gallon, the math implies that the firing rate of the water heater is about 70,000 BTU per hour.

    The most common 40 gallon Gas water heater will come with a 40,000 BTU per hour burner.

    The most common electric water heater will come with two 4500 watt elements, but is set up to operate only one element at a time. Since 1 Kw of electricity will produce about 3412.142 BTUs per hour, when we do the math we can see that the 4500 Watt will only make about 15354.6 BTUs per hour.

    So in terms of "I want what I want when I want it!" the oil heater is more "Efficient"

    The actual combustion efficiency of the burning process depends on the burner design. Oil burner in a water heater tank might be about 78% to 84% efficient, the gas burner in an atmospheric burner type of water heater (the most common type of tank style water heater) is between 68% to 81% combustion efficiency and that also depends on the burner, tank and environment where the tank is installed. Electricity is nearly 100% efficient when you measure the electricity you pay for thru your electric meter and the amount actually delivered to the appliance. Essentially a COP of 1 (Coefficient Of Performance of 1). But that still is not enough for most people to choose electric over oil or gas water heaters.

    The heat pump option will afford a lower cost for the electric water heater user. The COP of greater than 1 makes the water heater perform at a lower cost that electric element alone tanks.

    So... The bottom line is not really Efficiency as most of the experts herein will explain. Efficiency has nothing to do withe the type of fuel. I believe your oil company representative was referring to the amount of hot water available at any given time, and the fact that you probably won't run out of hot water with an oil fired water heater.


    just the random thoughts of an old fart.

    Mr.Ed

    PS
    Edit: Another option that no one has mentioned regarding water heaters is the indirect. This is a tank that has a heat exchanger inside it. The space heating boiler (if it is at least 80,000 BTU input and of a high efficiency ...over 80%) is a great source to use to heat your domestic hot water (DHW) all times of the year. That space heating boiler can be allowed to go cold in the summer, and only heat up when there is a demand for hot water. The storage tank is not connected to the chimney vent, therefor the off cycle loss of the indirect tank is minimal. With some tanks the insulation is so dense that they loose as little as 1/2° per hour if no one is using the DHW. This option is actually more efficient that an oil fired water heater that must be connected to the vent or chimney.

    More random thoughts for @asle and others
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    pecmsgasle
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,992
    @asle

    What are you heating your hot water with now??

    And how many people in the home using hot water??

    We need to know this to help you make a choice. There is no one size fits all
    EdTheHeaterManasle
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,545
    edited March 26
    Hi @asle , I'll throw in a few more random thoughts. Start by understanding your hot water needs, both what they are now and what they could be if you made your hot water system efficient. There are very good 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) showerheads available. Pipe insulation, well done, could do a lot to prevent water waste and give you better performance in the form of faster hot water on all but the first draw. There are demand activated recirculation pumps that do a lot to get you hot water faster with less water and energy waste. When you can, you may have the option of downsizing lines, if pressure is adequate. Anything that reduces the volume of water in the system is your friend. Also, heat pump water heaters have been mentioned. Decarbonization, or no longer using fossil fuels is a likelihood in all of the US, though it's only law in some form or other in roughly forty jurisdictions now. Dsireusa.org is a site that will show you what incentives exist for using heat pump units in your area. If you go that route, as has been mentioned, they heat much more slowly than other units, so having a bigger storage tank is needed. The bigger tank also makes the units work more efficiently. If you have a warm basement or equipment room, that would be an ideal place to put the heat pump. They act as dehumidifiers also. Anyway, that's probably enough randomness for now :p

    Yours, Larry
    asle
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,190
    edited March 26

    @asle

    What are you heating your hot water with now??

    And how many people in the home using hot water??

    We need to know this to help you make a choice. There is no one size fits all

    A little forensics on the 5 posts from @asle:

    My bet is that they have a tankless coil in the oil boiler presently, and are not getting sufficient hot water. Since they are contemplating a property sale in the near future, the choice of DHW appliance is being discussed with the current oil dealer. This customer is a loyal automatic delivery client with a service and maintenance contract that many full service fuel dealers offer. Since the price of oil just shot up, and the amount of available hot water is in question, this person wants to make an informed choice on the best way to make hot water. Both the cost of the new appliance and the cost of operating the new appliance are in play. "What if we don't sell the home for several years? We will be stuck with the cost of operating what ever we select."

    A dilemma I faced with a home I purchased in the 1980s. It was a temporary home for me, so I upgraded the place based on that assumption . There was no central AC so I added is cheaply, There was electric baseboard for heat, so I added a second hand wood stove. Then added an oil fired water heater and put duct coils in the system to use the oil fired water heater to heat the place. I added a pressure treated deck out back. Eventually I found it easier to just stay there. Now, over 40 years later, my son lives there and is putting on a master suite addition. Not so temporary! LOL

    I hope @asle will come back to confirm or deny this analysis. only time will tell
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    asle
  • asle
    asle Member Posts: 6
    @EBEBRATT-Ed. @Larry Weingarten

    Damn guys! This is really putting my brain into overdrive despite the fact I have re read your posts several times..  S L O W L Y  and am REALLY trying to understand these concepts and terms you are all throwing around so effortlessly. Thank you all for your insight and expertise.  I really appreciate it. 

    I listened intently as I obtained my first estimate.. tried to be prepared with my own research information and asked questions. However.. the retention of his answers seems questionable now that I’m trying to relay to you all what I was told. I’m sorry if I sound clueless but… well.. lol I am. 

    @ Ed..  yes you seem to “ get” my situation and articulated it beautifully. I’m a Loyal oil customer since we moved into this “ starter home”. .. some 25 years ago. Lol. 😊… With the requisite service and maintenance contract. I assume I have the tankless coil in the burner of which you refer as my current heat source. A never ending divorce, finally over, and recently retired has given me plenty of time to contemplate how I should address “ updates” to my home now that it’s solely mine. However, I sadly lost my two daughters in the past 2 1/2 years and so I don’t know if I will stay here in the house or relocate. The price I was quoted isn’t crazy .. I just wanted to make sure that I was spending it wisely.. Either for my family or as a good thing for the next owners. I wasn’t concerned of paying it off or being stuck with the operating costs well, until you mentioned it but it doesn’t sound like the operating costs will be outrageous. I just wanted to make sure I was making an informed decision and not one that will only benefit my oil company and keep me forever in their debt . 

    @ Larry I have NO idea what type .. gpm? ( another thing I’ll google. Something per minute?? ) but the estimator and  I did touch on the water pressure and size of pipes in my home. Think smaller than some houses .., old house.. and now Less people in the house but even beforehand… running out of hot water was not really an issue. Just thought this .. water heater thing was something I should be addressing going forward. And yes. To whoever questioned..  That’s what the guy said ..I think..🤷‍♀️That   the BOCK 32e would supply more BTU’s faster than a larger 50 or 100 gallon. (?) 

    I think maybe I’ll call and get a second estimate so I can get more information to digest. . In the meantime you’ll find me reading up on basic plumbing and HVAC trivia and fixing up the rest of the house.., either I’ll stay lol or my son  will 
    Take it off my hands.   Thanks again guys. You’re the best!! 

    EdTheHeaterMan
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,545
    Hi @asle , I’ve edited my prior post to clarify and fix typos! What the right work is really depends on your needs, how long you plan on owning the house and what the norm is for the area. There is a LOT of experience on The Wall that enjoys helping people find solutions, so whatever questions come up, do let us know B)

    Yours, Larry
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,190
    edited March 26
    @asle, to clarify the tankless coil in the heating boiler. The oil company may call it a summer/winter hook-up. You have one oil burner that heats your home. That water runs thru the radiators or baseboards that heat the building. That same oil burner also operates in the summer to heat your Domestic Hot Water (DHW). There is a coil inside the heating boiler that separates the boiler water from the potable water. You don't want to drink or shower with boiler water. so the hot water in the boiler heats the water in the coil as it passes thru the hot boiler water.

    Does your oil burner stay on all summer? If yes, then you have a tankless coil in the boiler that makes your hot water. That said... If you have a oil fired boiler that is efficient, you should really consider the Indirect water heater. Properly installed and the boiler control reconfigured, you will have a tank that will last a long time and a lower fuel usage. Since the heating boiler can become a cold start boiler, there will be less off-cycle loss up the chimney. Less waste up the chimney = lower fuel usage = lower operating cost.

    The reason you want a cold start boiler is to make the temperature difference of the air, venting up a chimney during the off-cycle, much lower. less temperature in the boiler = lower heat loss up the chimney. As long as the storage tank is keeping the hot water hot, there is no need to keep the oil burner maintaining a higher boiler temperature.

    With your current system, as the off cycle air that travels thru your boiler and goes up the chimney, the boiler temperature falls as it releases heat to the air leaving the house via the chimney. once the boiler temperature drops to say 150° the oil burner will come on to get the boiler back up to 160°. This is so you will have hot water when ever you need to use it. With a cold start boiler, when the temperature drops to 150° in the boiler, the burner will not come on. The boiler temperature will continue to drop until the boiler reaches the same temperature as the basement or boiler room. No added oil energy to maintain temperature. This illustration may help.

    Since the DHW tank is not connected to the chimney vent, the down time temperature loss is much slower. This type of storage tank that is "Indirectly" fired from the boiler has saved many of my customers thousands of dollars over the years. The key is the oil boiler for space heating must be maintained at a high efficiency. If the heating boiler is an old inefficient monster, then you will be using the inefficient heater to make hot water also. But you are doing that anyway so abandoning the tankless coil in favor of an indirect water heater will save either way. There are very few exceptions to this type of water heater. Ask your fuel dealer about a Crown Mega-Stor or Amtrol BoilerMate on my favorite, Buderus indirect water heaters. I believe that is more efficient than a Bock 32e because that Bock tank is connected to the chimney vent, and all that hot water will have a higher off-cycle loss up the chimney.

    Mr.Ed

    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    bburdasleLarry WeingartenSuperTech
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 606
    edited March 26
    I have had both oil and gas water heaters in homes that I owned. In my first built home 1978 to 1998 I had a 30 gallon oil fired water heater. It had quick recovery and served me well. I never ran it out of hot water even when my family took very long showers. In my next built home, 1998 to the present, I have an upright 50 gallon natural gas water heater. I just replaced the original tank with a like tank, same type and size. I have never ran this tank out of hot water either. Both types of heaters, oil and gas served me well. Now for the pros and cons. The oil unit required much more maintenance including yearly service to replace the oil filter, oil nozzle, cleaning, combustion check and adjustments. The gas unit required very little maintenance. The oil unit makes a lot more noise than the gas unit, so my choice is the gas unit. I never had an electric unit so I can not comment on this type except to say that the electric unit would cost a lot more than either the gas or oil units to operate.
    asle
  • jimna01
    jimna01 Member Posts: 19
    As a homeowner who has owned two oil fired water heaters and and an indirect, I will take the indirect any day. I had a Ford water heater when I moved into this house in 1994. I don’t know how old it was but it failed in 2000. At that time I had an old Crane boiler which consumed huge amounts of oil so I wasn’t too keen on in the indirects.. I put in the Bock 32 oil fired water heater ( no gas in this house and with New England electric rates you would be insane to considered any resistive heat). It worked fine until 2017 until it started to leak. I had since replaced the boiler with 3 pass cold start cast iron boiler, so I did not think twice about installing an indirect. The real issue I had with the standalone water heaters was, it’s another oil burner to maintain and clean. They aren’t easy to clean thoroughly. The indirect performs admirably and like the standalone it’s hard to run out of hot water. The whole system is extremely reliable only requiring my annual cleaning and tune up for maintenance. In this day if I could deal with the slower recovery on a hybrid water heater I would consider that .
    asle
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    If you get a large enough heat pump unit, the recovery is not an issue
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,449
    For 1 or 2 people household a heat pump water heater is great. I removed a leaking 25 year old Bock 32e at my retired parents home and put in a 50 gallon heat pump water heater. They have never had any issues with running out of hot water. Their oil usage dropped by 200 gallons annually. This was done 3 years ago. 

    Our electric rate is very high at 24.7 cents. And they estimate their bill went up $15 a month after the install. So the economics work out well. 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!