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Time to replace 30 year Oil Burner with Propane?

Yep, my NY Boiler is still chugging but I tire with it running in the heat of the Summer to keep the adjacent hot water tank hot. Price of oil in upstate NY is also quite high.

It takes a few mins for hot water to get to the 3rd story (Basement furnace, kitchen 1st floor, bedroom/bathrooms on 2nd story) but thats about a 40' run so assume I have to live with this. I already have stove and dryer on propane and just installing a propane fireplace. So, timing is right to make a change.

So, instead of replacing the existing oil furnance with another, I'm looking at putting in one of those high-efficiency propane burners. I have hot water baseboard heating with 3 zone valves. My propane guy is coming next week to talk about options so looking for any experiences/advice/recommends?

Comments

  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 730
    edited September 16
    If you want all propane, by all means go for it.
    Economically, propane has 91,500 btu per gallon and oil has 138,500, so $3/gallon propane is the same value as $4.54/gallon oil. You can condense some with propane so there’s an added benefit there. It’s hard to imagine you’ll be saving money, but it does simplify things some I suppose. If you don’t want an indirect, don’t have an indirect. You can get standalone oil, propane or electric water heaters for DHW. Most people don’t have indirects. 
    EdTheHeaterManRhinebeckDude
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,633
    edited September 16
    Owning your own Propane tank offers you the ability to shop for fuel from different suppliers (like oil) but if you go with the propane dealer tank two things happen.
    1. You are locked in to that dealer
    2. You sometimes pay a premium or rental fee for the use of their tank.

    Who is removing the old oil tank?

    What is the current price for LP per gallon, delivered to your location?
    What is the price for oil per gallon delivered to your location?
    @Hot_water_fan has a good point!
    Keep in mind, What ever I am selling is always better than what others are selling. Even if it isn't


    Just things to consider.

    PS. Why are you @Hot_water_fan ... Shouldn't that be @Hot_water_pump ?
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org

    Hot_water_fan
  • RhinebeckDude
    RhinebeckDude Member Posts: 4
    @Hot_water_fan yes, I will work those numbers so that comparative exists.

    If I choose to only deploy a Direct-fired Hot Water heater that tradeoff would be that I could shut-off my oil burner for 6 months of the year?

    My oil tank is above ground and about 5 years old.

    I will probe on own vs rent economics for the propane tank, the one I have will need to be expanded for the new fireplace demand and if I choose to deploy a DFH appliance.

    yes, buyer beware. Every year my oil suppliers for the last 15 years have been asking about upgrading my boiler. I can't tell how inefficient it might be or same for the indirect HW tank but I'm looking to get new perspectives from both the propane and oil companies; as well as from a local plumber who has done this for other clients.

    Will update again next week.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 730
    If I choose to only deploy a Direct-fired Hot Water heater that tradeoff would be that I could shut-off my oil burner for 6 months of the year?

    Yes! Indirects can be great, but most (probably >95% of Americans) don't have them. You have plenty of options.
  • RhinebeckDude
    RhinebeckDude Member Posts: 4

    If you want all propane, by all means go for it.
    Economically, propane has 91,500 btu per gallon and oil has 138,500, so $3/gallon propane is the same value as $4.54/gallon oil. You can condense some with propane so there’s an added benefit there. It’s hard to imagine you’ll be saving money, but it does simplify things some I suppose. If you don’t want an indirect, don’t have an indirect. You can get standalone oil, propane or electric water heaters for DHW. Most people don’t have indirects. 

    Currently in my area, propane is around $2.50 and oil is closer to $5.00 so I'd be saving some money, but alone it won't justify the change. I need to see what the cost for a high efficiency propane unit with installation is vs replacing the existing oil furnace.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 350
    edited September 21
    How about either a Heat Pump Water Heater, or an Electric Resistance Water Heater?
    Large household? Do you currently use large quantities of hot water?
    RhinebeckDude
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 730
    Currently in my area, propane is around $2.50 and oil is closer to $5.00 so I'd be saving some money, but alone it won't justify the change. I need to see what the cost for a high efficiency propane unit with installation is vs replacing the existing oil furnace.


    You have a boiler if you have baseboards. Why replace the oil boiler at all?
    SuperTech
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 3,063

    If you want all propane, by all means go for it.
    Economically, propane has 91,500 btu per gallon and oil has 138,500, so $3/gallon propane is the same value as $4.54/gallon oil. You can condense some with propane so there’s an added benefit there. It’s hard to imagine you’ll be saving money, but it does simplify things some I suppose. If you don’t want an indirect, don’t have an indirect. You can get standalone oil, propane or electric water heaters for DHW. Most people don’t have indirects. 

    Currently in my area, propane is around $2.50 and oil is closer to $5.00 so I'd be saving some money, but alone it won't justify the change. I need to see what the cost for a high efficiency propane unit with installation is vs replacing the existing oil furnace.
    You'll never save the cost of the conversion!
    SuperTech
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 701
    You can roughly figure the cost of heating the hot water in the summer by tracking the boiler run time. It's obviously not ideal to heat a heavy cast boiler full of water in the summer just to heat another tank of water. The question is will you save any money changing equipment for that reason ? Why not see what a heat pump water heater would cost to run .... In some areas the rebates make them the cheapest tank type to purchase. No running the boiler in the summer and most oil burners heat the area where they sit in the winter

    When I did my fist Buderus cast boiler (gas) over 30 years ago the Eccomantic controls that came with it had a DHW control time clock. The presets had the DHW production locked out after 8pm and set to reheat in the early am during the week and a bit later on the weekends. I thought it was odd ... but left it alone. What I discovered -- it worked. The heavy Buderus indirect tank held the heat late into the night if someone took a shower and/or ran the dishwasher .... plenty of hot water. Why heat the boiler and tank at 10pm when no water is needed until 6am? The Eccomatic control would have the tank all hot in the morning before we needed it ..... Plus, the boiler would be hot to reheat the tank after showers and breakfast use. So here was a simple thing that saved at least one full boiler cycle every day .. that system is still going strong (second indirect). Most of the german boilers have a time cycle

    Propane is a necessary evil IMO ... with around 50 projects over 35 years I have only installed all new oil over propane once. It was a very big house and the ability to both store and get propane at the location was a problem. A few times I just had older boilers that needed a good cleaning and maybe a new burner. The oil stayed. Most times when rebuilding an old property I was faced with a wreck of a 50 year old system with an even older tank .... Propane went in. There is over time no real dollar fuel savings IMO -- it's the sound and service issues where propane wins. This was true with old cast boilers and it seems most of the condensing boilers of the last 10 years have been reliable. Maybe not 30 year reliable. Nothing needs less servicing than a gas cast boiler.

    I typically bury a 1k propane tank -- my last about 2+ years ago was in $5500.00 range not including the excavator. That was for the tank and running the lines and regulators.
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 423

    If you want all propane, by all means go for it.
    Economically, propane has 91,500 btu per gallon and oil has 138,500, so $3/gallon propane is the same value as $4.54/gallon oil. You can condense some with propane so there’s an added benefit there. It’s hard to imagine you’ll be saving money, but it does simplify things some I suppose. If you don’t want an indirect, don’t have an indirect. You can get standalone oil, propane or electric water heaters for DHW. Most people don’t have indirects. 

    Currently in my area, propane is around $2.50 and oil is closer to $5.00 so I'd be saving some money, but alone it won't justify the change. I need to see what the cost for a high efficiency propane unit with installation is vs replacing the existing oil furnace.
    When you have the new equipment quoted, consider that the combi units (boiler & tankess water heater all in one) do NOT like hard water, and will only add to the delay you currently experience at the tap. A dedicated boiler & indirect water heater is a better setup.

    Depending on your electric rate and hot water consumption, a heat pump water heater might be something to consider.
  • RhinebeckDude
    RhinebeckDude Member Posts: 4

    Currently in my area, propane is around $2.50 and oil is closer to $5.00 so I'd be saving some money, but alone it won't justify the change. I need to see what the cost for a high efficiency propane unit with installation is vs replacing the existing oil furnace.


    You have a boiler if you have baseboards. Why replace the oil boiler at all?
    My boiler is on its last legs,,,for the last 5 years :) so any conversion is taking into account the fact that I need to upgrade my oil boiler...given this, I am considering switching away from oil. It doesn't need to be a money saver in the end. Ideally...
  • PRR
    PRR Member Posts: 59
    edited September 29
    5 years back I changed my scorched-air from oil to propane. So far I am pleased. The oil burner was grossly over-sized (I hear he got it cheap), the propane job is just-right. The stray heat from the classic oil burner would flay your face, the 94.5% exhausts just above body-heat, the plastic smoke-pipe does not feel warm. I may even be saving a few bucks on fuel, but not enuff to pay-off the new burner in my lifetime. I gained a lot of cellar space with the smaller furnace (the old one was low-boy which was just wrong) and no HOT stack clearance and by yanking the oil tank. (Lost the space outside with propane tanks.)

    I looked at owning my tank. Is a lot of up-front money, especially if you dig it (no digging on my shallow rock). The first winter I *could* have made-back half that cost if I had bought at just the right time; propane prices soared for a few cold weeks. Since then my gas guy and the distribution system have been buffering price-swings better so I have not been tempted. (This winter may be different; propane is traditionally local/regional but global politics are changing.)

    I had domestic hot water off the oil/steam boiler in my last house. And the house before that except he had replaced it with the most stupendous electric water heater I have ever met. Here we had on-demand gas hot water, which was pretty screwy with our cold-cold well water. It was handy to have infinite warm water for un-freezing the septic line. We supplemented/bypassed that with the cheapest electric tank in the store. I have not noticed the added electric cost, but we are two retired persons out in the woods.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,633
    edited September 29
    There are 2 ways to consider payback on investment.

    1. Total cost of the job divided by annual savings = over 20 years in most cases and can be 30 or 40 years

    example: $10,000.00 job. $200.00 per year savings. = 50 years (not counting inflation)

    2. If you need to replace the boiler anyway then it is the cost difference between the lowest cost job and the price of the more "operating cost efficient" job. divided by the annual savings.

    example: $10,000.00 job must be spent because the old equipment has failed
    ............ $12.000.00 is the price for the more efficient equipment job
    ............ $ 2,000.00 is the difference ÷ 200/yr. savings = 10 years.

    It is all in the way you look at it. Is it worth the extra cost to get the better boiler? In many cases the answer is yes. Will the entire job be cost effective over the equipment life? Probably not.

    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org

    PRRMikeAmann
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 701
    Just to add. There are national players in the propane game -- this is not new as one bought my oil/propane dealer back just after the downturn in 2008.

    When I was getting another project going just before covid that company was bought by Amerigas ... they still did the tank/ lines/ regulator install and filled the tank but the pricing was not competitive. Even owning the tank you can't just get a fill from a company like calling a different oil dealer. All want proof of tank ownership and all do so form of safety check. When logged on to get my tanks filled in July -- Amerigas was at $3.99. With twin 1k tanks both 20% I needed a fair amount. Anyway .... found another family run supplier that is expanding (due to Amerigas pricing) they filled them for $245 -- with a set at $2.52 refill until next April.

    The big players buying up the dealers is a problem .... especially the old school oil dealers that had great install departments.