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Replacing Oil Boiler with Gas Boiler in CT

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WillHall46
WillHall46 Member Posts: 3
edited February 2023 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi everyone,

This is my first post and I hope I'm putting it in the correct place. I've been reading posts on this website for quite a while and I'm hoping for some suggestions relating to my need to replace my boiler.

I live in central Connecticut. My home is a one-floor cape at just over 1,100 sq. feet without a basement. I currently have a 30+ year old Weil-Mclain boiler. It works, but since switching over to city water about a year ago from well water it is having a hard time keeping up. My biggest issue, however, is that without a basement the boiler is in the electrical room right behind my bedroom and the boiler is extremely loud. This time of year it seems to run all night long and despite putting up some sound-proofing, it is hard to ignore. I've had a few local companies come out to give me an estimate to replace the boiler and most of them suggested making the switch to propane as I would likely need to replace my aging oil tank as well. (Natural gas is not currently an option).

I won't get into specific numbers, but I've had different estimates ranging from just under $K to over $K. The lower quotes are for combi units like Navien and Pearless while the higher ones are for the Viessmann (B1HE120) and Energy Kinetics Accel boiler. I've heard great things about the EK System 2000 type systems (especially related to how quiet they run) and would be willing to spend a little more for a higher quality system, but some people have told me that it would be excessive for my size house and heating needs.

My electrical room is a small space and also houses the circuit breaker panel/box and only entrance to my crawl space, so I'm limited in terms of room for larger units. I don't use that much hot water so I'm not too concerned about having "unlimited hot water," but having a quiet boiler is very important and probably my biggest concern aside from cost.

My question is whether or not it is worth it to go with a higher end system like the EK Accel when my heating needs might not justify the added cost. I was impressed with the local dealer that gave me a quote for the Energy Kinetics system and would very much like to give them my business, but the cost was quite high compared to the other quotes. Any suggestions or advice you could share would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,661
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    First thing to do is to make sure you really know what your heating load is. Manual J or an equivalent calculation. That will determine just how big a boiler you really need for heating. Second thing to do is to measure the available radiation -- baseboards, radiators, what have you and its output at various temperatures. That will give you some information on how hot the water needs to be to heat the house -- and thus on whether a condensing boiler might be of value.

    Then having done that, really do some thinking on oil vs. LP. In western Connecticut, where I am, LP is a LOT more expensive than oil per BTU, but your situation may be different.

    Having done all that... then of the lot you mention, I would probably go high and go for the Energy Kinetics boiler... they have a very good reputation.

    On the hot water -- "unlimited hot water" is a fiction, unless you have relatively low flow requirements.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    MaxMercyWillHall46SuperTech
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 518
    edited February 2023
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    I live in central Connecticut. ..... I've had a few local companies come out to give me an estimate to replace the boiler and most of them suggested making the switch to propane as I would likely need to replace my aging oil tank as well. (Natural gas is not currently an option).


    You didn't really ask opinions of switching to propane from oil, but I'm also in central CT (a suburb of Waterbury). Today, oil is $3.15 per gallon and propane is $3.85 per gallon. That's a significant difference but it gets worse - propane has far less BTUs per gallon (the energy that heats your home) than heating oil - 42 percent less!! Considering propane costs more per gallon and has a lot less BTU per gallon, cost wise it's not even close.

    Now, propane might require a bit less maintenance, but around these parts, it's very expensive compared to oil.

    EDIT: Regarding the old boiler's noise, I suspect it's got a lot more to do with improper setup (like wrong nozzle for the burner head or the burner head and combustion being "eye balled" by a previous technician. My house is just under 3000 sqft and the boiler is very quiet (slant fin cast iron "old school" about 3 years old). Even very old boilers are quiet when in good repair/adjustment. My mom is running a 1969 Burnham Jubilee that is very quiet (pat myself on back).

    My point is that I wouldn't choose a mod/con high tech boiler over a traditional cast iron type because of quietness alone, although the mod/con might be a wee bit quieter. Mod/cons are more money, more efficient, and have a shorter life than a traditional cast iron boiler.

    WillHall46
  • WillHall46
    WillHall46 Member Posts: 3
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    Thank you for the great responses! I had originally planned to stay with oil vs. propane. My oil tank is located in a shed attached to the back of my garage (no basement) and needs to be replaced due to age (regardless of upgrading the boiler). The first company I had come out suggested a Roth tank that would sit on the exterior wall of my boiler room. Almost every company I had come out since has started with an estimate for an oil boiler but then decided propane would be the better solution. I'm certainly open to both options. The other issue is that space is so limited in the boiler/electrical room that a traditional cast iron boiler might not fit (both for getting to it for service and meeting town code due to electrical unit being so close). Almost every company suggested a wall-hanging unit for size, convenience, and noise levels.

    I did a lot of research on the Energy Kinetics units and even spoke to the Northeast Rep. over the phone about my situation. I really liked what I saw in terms of options and the company's customer service overall, but one local company that installs EK units told me they wouldn't recommend the System 2000 in my case because of size and heating needs. The second company recommended the Accel CS Propane boiler with a switch over the propane. I know I need to do something soon but don't want to overspend if I don't need to. Again, I appreciate all of the feedback and suggestions!
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,917
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    How much oil did you use last year? You might have other options if it's low enough.
    archibald tuttle
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,491
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    Many feel the ability to modulate and run low temperature makes the mod con attractive, 15- 20 years is a reasonable life expectancy for the better brands.
    Todays cast iron are nothing like the good old days. Lower water content, thinner castings, controls that will obsolete just like mod cons in 15 years :)

    After a load calc do an assessment of the heat emitters, see how low of a temperature that can run and provide adequate heat.
    Know that 80% of the heating season is not at design conditions. So with outdoor reset control the mod con could modulate to the demand, both on SWT and firing rate.

    The biggest unknown is the future fuel costs. Someone posted oil at close to 6 bucks a gallon in Seattle yesterday. Following @STEVEusaPA oil post those prices can fluctuate widely day by day.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Grallert
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,844
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    @WillHall46

    Don't rush into anything the heating season only has 4 weeks to go. You might touch base with @Charlie from wmass

    EK boiler are well thought of
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,333
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    Reasons for propane over oil. 1. Propane can be sized and controlled better for small loads. 2. Propane boilers can be more readily available in condensing boilers. 3. Propane can easily be a combi boiler and occupy much less real estate than any oil options. 4. Many propane options are not club only boilers. I hate products I am expected to be a member of a secret society to install or get parts for. 
    Wall hung 
    Lochinvar combi of 199 mbtu with the heating limited to your heat load and set to a proper outdoor reset would be a great option. Any smaller would be disappointing to anyone besides the most frugal of hot water users with New England ground water temperatures. 
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    hot_rodSolid_Fuel_Man
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,176
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    Even though the EK quote was substantially higher, you can be assured that the contractor has probably done his homework. EK does not sell their boilers to any bozo that has an account with the local supply house. I know this because one of the companies that I worked for ,between owning my own businesses, was a fuel dealer that installed EK boilers. Every job needed to have a load calculation and the boiler size was selected accordingly. They also do not have an economy price "Push/Pull" boiler only type of job where all the old valves, expansion tanks, and hydronic accessories were left there. Every new boiler had everything new in the boiler room, New thermostat(s) in the rooms, new fill valve, circulator pumps, zone valves (if used) expansion tank, air separator, purge valves.

    The worst thing you can do to a customer is install a new boiler for thousands of dollars, then have a service call a month later... When the service person arrives and finds that the old existing whatchamacallit is the reason for the failure, you get it fixed and charge a couple of hundred for it and say "That was not included in the price of the boiler"

    Read the contracts of the lower price jobs carefully to see if everything on the EK contract is included in the low price job! most EK jobs will be for heat and hot water. the water heater is where the otherwise wasted heat is put during the off cycles. It's a whole design thing that Roger from EK can better explain.

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    SuperTechGrallert
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,333
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    The area of Berkshire County Massachusetts I spent my first 40 years in was the exclusive sales area for a major Bozo who pushed their boilers and proved to me their vetting was pay to play. Color me unimpressed. They were cutting edge in the 80s now they are clunky and old-fashioned imho. 
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    SuperTech
  • Jersey2
    Jersey2 Member Posts: 165
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    Try to figure out the cost of oil vs. propane. If there is significant savings burning oil, you may want to just get the new oil tank and oil lines and keep your current boiler for the time being. Roth or not, a new tank will be good for a long time and you will have peace of mind knowing that it won't spring a leak.
    I'm not a plumber or hvac man and my thoughts in comments are purely for conversation.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,967
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    Jersey2 said:

    Try to figure out the cost of oil vs. propane. If there is significant savings burning oil, you may want to just get the new oil tank and oil lines and keep your current boiler for the time being. Roth or not, a new tank will be good for a long time and you will have peace of mind knowing that it won't spring a leak.

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

    Per 100 Million BTU's
    Oil @ $3.15 $3,028.34
    LP @ $3.85 $4,959.23
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,844
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    @Charlie from wmass

    The bozos that sell a lot of boilers (and do the worst installs) get the most attention and the wholesalers think their great and the MFG only knows what the wholesaler tells them. EK has cut out the wholesaler, maybe they have mor control over their contractors. Unfortunately sales drive everything.
    Charlie from wmass
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,333
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    I realize my experience is not an accurate representation of the equipment as bad installations are no way to evaluate equipment, but the difficulty getting parts when you are not a member of their club bothers me deeply. If being a licensed professional does not give you access to repair equipment Show Me something besides a sales brochure to explain why.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,090
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    calling @Roger . I like some of the thinking that goes into the EK concept, especially the post purge approach although I am a big believer in the 'right to repair' concept which is to say that parts and tech info (not necessarily proprietary operating alogrithms) should be open source. HAdn't really thought about

    Partly relating this to the problem that started the thread and to my recent looking into this, I'm not as big a believer in the small footprint combi systems although i think the engineering of those is coiming better. IIRC EK is using a domestic coil in the flu somewhere on condensing boilers (as other manufactuers are doing as well these days) vs. a plate heat exchanger or an inidriect w in tank heatexchanger, which need higher boiler operating temps and don't take advantage of incoming water temps to promote condensation and low exhaust temp.

    If I had enough evaporation capacity, e.g. if you're making a deal for propane get a 500 or even 1000 gallon storage tank, i much prefer a takagi or similar on demand for domestic water and a single purpose simple modulating condensing boiler for the heat. Although i'm with @Jersey2 and vicariously with @Hotrod that I would first ascertain the condition of your existing boiler. A 30 year old weil mclain could serve you another 30. changing to city water should not have affected the ability of the boiler to transfer heat. you should have the efficiency checked and figure out why it is running noisy and long (longer than usual or you just notice how long because of the noise).

    Another possibility that has a little less noise is keep the boiler and have a conversion propane burner installed.

    @pecmsg obviously the economic merits of those fuels change constantly. for my region propane is king this year since you really didn't get a lot of conversions in the pipeline but the supply is domestic and less in demand for export than LNG and Oil. So our Propane is running me like $2.34 while oil hasn't dropped much below $4 and was as high as $6 so I'm winning this year. But you don't count on that. I've kind of broken even on propane conversion over the last decade since I swapped but I use a lot but I get a pretty good deal because I got a lot of storage and get 2 fills a year.

    In general propane is a little better to service which was as much why I switched. you'll never get a clogged nozzle. and the EZGas has been very reliable platform.


  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 518
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    So our Propane is running me like $2.34 while oil hasn't dropped much below $4 and was as high as $6 so I'm winning this year. But you don't count on that. I've kind of broken even on propane conversion over the last decade since I swapped but I use a lot but I get a pretty good deal because I got a lot of storage and get 2 fills a year.

    I never realized how much difference there is in fuel prices between regions. As I type this 1:40PM 2/23/23, oil is at $3.02 cash price (3.09 credit) and propane is $3.81 per gallon for my zipcode 06716.

    Question - do homeowners own the tank or is rented from the provider, and if so, does that lock the owner into one provider? I do like just calling any oil supplier I chose when I need oil.


  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,333
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    Ownership of a propane tank is a regional thing. I would check with your local gas inspector perhaps even check online with them. In Massachusetts you can either rent your tank or own your tank. There are benefits to both arrangements but even after owning the tank at my childhood home for over 35 years we have never changed propane providers even with shopping around.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    WillHall46
  • Jon_blaney
    Jon_blaney Member Posts: 322
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    No one has addressed the "having a hard time keeping up" issue. When you went with city water did the supply pressure change? With the temperatures we have had this winter, the boiler should not be running all the time. Do not make a change because of noise when that may be correctable. Another thought, how about a small addition boilerroom.
    WillHall46
  • AFOCT
    AFOCT Member Posts: 5
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    Did your hot water production suffer after the change? Most likely from an increase in water pressure.

    That being said did any contractor that was an EK dealer suggest the Ascent or Ascent +? More hot water production and quiet as a church mouse. The most common boiler I install and I am in Tolland county. Typically offer the option of Ascent and Sys2K.



    SuperTechszwedjWillHall46
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,491
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    MaxMercy said:



    So our Propane is running me like $2.34 while oil hasn't dropped much below $4 and was as high as $6 so I'm winning this year. But you don't count on that. I've kind of broken even on propane conversion over the last decade since I swapped but I use a lot but I get a pretty good deal because I got a lot of storage and get 2 fills a year.

    I never realized how much difference there is in fuel prices between regions. As I type this 1:40PM 2/23/23, oil is at $3.02 cash price (3.09 credit) and propane is $3.81 per gallon for my zipcode 06716.

    Question - do homeowners own the tank or is rented from the provider, and if so, does that lock the owner into one provider? I do like just calling any oil supplier I chose when I need oil.


    MaxMercy said:



    So our Propane is running me like $2.34 while oil hasn't dropped much below $4 and was as high as $6 so I'm winning this year. But you don't count on that. I've kind of broken even on propane conversion over the last decade since I swapped but I use a lot but I get a pretty good deal because I got a lot of storage and get 2 fills a year.

    I never realized how much difference there is in fuel prices between regions. As I type this 1:40PM 2/23/23, oil is at $3.02 cash price (3.09 credit) and propane is $3.81 per gallon for my zipcode 06716.

    Question - do homeowners own the tank or is rented from the provider, and if so, does that lock the owner into one provider? I do like just calling any oil supplier I chose when I need oil.


    The EIA website tracks all the various fuel costs across the country, it updated weekly, maybe.

    You can also look back 10 years or more. Although past cost trends may be out the window these days for making predictions.

    You’re right, the price swings are eye openers. Typically Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma have the lowest lp
    Hydroelectric areas the lowest electric rates
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Roger
    Roger Member Posts: 344
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    Thank you all for your posts and comments. @WillHall46 , as you are space constrained, the particular system that will be suitable for your application will need to be reviewed. Talking with our territory manager in your area will help all around, including answering many of your other questions and facilitating with the dealers you've contacted if needed. System 2000 is whisper quiet, and the Accel CS is even quieter, especially on low fire.
    @Charlie from wmass , I'm sorry to read your comments - we work hard to make sure all heating professionals have access to our parts and technical support. We sell parts to all heating professionals, our boilers have nearly all industry standard parts, and systems can run without most non-industry standard parts in a pinch. We also carry a deep inventory of parts so they are readily available (even systems dating back 44 years), and if you're a heating professional, you have full access to our technical support and territory managers. Give us a call if in doubt. (908) 735-2066.
    President
    Energy Kinetics, Inc.
    AFOCTErin Holohan HaskellEdTheHeaterManWillHall46
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,658
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    I'd be using the Viessmann Combi boiler. It has a small footprint and can burn propane or natural gas without having to convert the gas valve. It's also the quietest appliance and makes less sound than a refrigerator. I've been impressed with it's performance and have installed over 30 of them.
    WillHall46Grallert
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,090
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    @MaxMercy what tank size and quantity of propane are you dealing with to get that quote for propane? . . . i'm only a state away and EIA shows our rates as pretty close to the range you quote, but my tank is bigger than yours, so to speak because I'm paying a dollar and change less than that. These days one doesn't crow about using a lot of any fuel; but i feel like those prices are more like 50 gallon stove tank deliveries.

    here are a couple EIA charts as @hot_rod correctly notes, since we pay a bunch of folks to collate this information, might as well use it.

    I will say that the residential propane record corresponds more or less to what you quoted, but i'm paying somewhere between 75¢ and a dollar or more less over the historic record. (converted in 2012 so most the time i've heated with propane is reflected in the above chart. and I wouldn't say I drove that hard a bargain and I was solicited for business this year such that I did get a slightly further discounted rate from my longtime supplier - ferrellgas. i can't believe i'm that good of a bargainer so I would try to interrogate what quantity of use the price is based on. of course, on the other hand, if you don't have an old country ark of a house with a two pipe steam system but a really well sealed and insulated 'manse' with radiant heat, volume might be less.

    whereas heating oil, I never had as much success obtaining discount on volume although the prices posted by EIA for our region seem high at the moment compared to the cash and carry price. So maybe each of these records is higher than the market on the street, although both of them I think are closer to real pricing during surges.

    and speaking of surges. you can see the start of the war in both records last february, but you can also see that the lasting impact was much higher on heating oil, partly because heating oil is also a road fuel and had far less elasticity in consumption when prices spiked. Stuff still needed to get delivered whereas people driving less in response to high prices brought down gasoline, not so easily diesel.

    On the other hand if you notice the historic 2014 surge in propane, higher even than the ukraine war surge, that was corn drying in the great plains! Now it doesn't take much to get me started about how we use up to a tenth of the btu value of ethanol just to dry the corn nevermind the actual manufacturing process while on the margins driving much higher prices for heating and eating. Unfortunately the pencil pushers at EIA have a counter incentive to call that what it is: government stupidity. But propane is simply subject to different market shocks than oil while maintaining their background relation and mild pricing tie as source of heating btus. Even back in 2014 though, the highest I paid was like $3.08 I think . . . That didn't look so smart when oil was around the same price but overall I've been happy with propane.

    In any event @Jon_blaney. It us buried in another of my novels on this thread; but, I did have 1st on my list to try to figure out why efficiency was down and noise was up before even thinking about changing boilers or fuels because change from well to city water doesn't strike me as driving that impact.

    "I would first ascertain the condition of your existing boiler. A 30 year old weil mclain could serve you another 30. changing to city water should not have affected the ability of the boiler to transfer heat. you should have the efficiency checked and figure out why it is running noisy and long (longer than usual or you just notice how long because of the noise)."

    I was seconding a similar sentiment from @Jersey2 and @Hotrod . I think we all just buried the lead. You are right to say that is absolutely the first question.






    WillHall46
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,176
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    @WillHall46, You might put more thought into the EK options. I bet you will not get the president or CEO of any other boiler manufacturer to personally answer questions in this or any site!

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    RogerWillHall46MikeAmann
  • Roger
    Roger Member Posts: 344
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    Thank you for your kind words, @EdTheHeaterMan .  @WillHall46 has a unique application and needs - I’ll be happy if everything works out well for him. If that’s an Energy Kinetics boiler, that’s great, but I’d want to make sure it’s the right solution. 
    Best,
    Roger
    President
    Energy Kinetics, Inc.
    WillHall46
  • WillHall46
    WillHall46 Member Posts: 3
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    Thank you everyone for the really helpful feedback both in the comments and those who reached out by private message. There's a lot to consider (especially given the tight space I have for a boiler) but I do have a few new things to look at when making the decision. I also appreciate @Roger taking the time to share his thoughts and I will definitely be reaching out to Energy Kinetics directly to see if there is a good solution.
    pecmsgRoger
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 671
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    If I had to live in the same space as my boiler sound level would be one of the very first things I'd look at.
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    Propane is a funny thing. If you buy yoyr own tank it can the price/gallon can be really cheap compared to oil, even when you factor in the 40% drop in BTU/gallon. 

    Here we were looking at $5.60 for oil, and $1.85 for LP this fall for a 7,500 gallon a year account. 

    But for the average Joe, LP was over $4 a gallon while we were paying $1.85. Large account and owning the tanks. 

    Oil is a much tighter market it seems, while with LP much of the costs are the tank, regualtors and insurance for the trucks. So bulk and owning your tank pays dividends. 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,892
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    With limited space, the EK-1 Frontier with the tank stand might work for you.
    It can also be sidewall vented which might be beneficial. 
    You'd have to work out the cost difference between Fuel Oil and LPG to see if it's worth the conversion. 
    If it were me, and I was converting, I'd go with the Accel CS. 
    Keep in mind, with the Frontier you could stay with oil now and convert to gas down the road with only a burner swap and dip switch settings. 
    RogerszwedjWillHall46