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Opinions on Oil versus Gas for new Boiler

Steve Garson
Steve Garson Member Posts: 191
I'm installing a new steam boiler this summer to replace a 70 year old one. My present system is oil fired, with a one year old tank (had a leak) and new oil line. My home has natural has, so I could use it for heating and the pipe to the basement is large enough to supply a new boiler.

It looks like on a dollar per BTU basis, oil has been cheaper for most of the last ten years, just not right now. Oil needs a $75 tune-up every year and gas does not. Gas has a more acidic exhaust, so I would need a chimney liner, but the clay liner is fine for oil. It seems like gas boilers have a few more parts that could malfunction than oil. With gas, I can get rid of my new oil tank and have a bit more space, which is not a big deal for me. With oil, my friendly oil company does repairs; but with gas, the big gas delivery company that I will never know personally does the service.

With the gas company pitching everyone to convert to gas, I wonder about dependabilty of supply, especially with power plants also converting to gas.

I suspect this subject is a bit like religion, so I would appreciate the opinions of all your pros out there.

I would be curious to hear opinions and comments on this subject.

Comments

  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    Allow me to quibble...

    I agree that oil heat can be cheaper than gas in some areas. My area of the NE (Boston) has had discrepancies as high as 40% in favor of oil in the past. However, presently the prices are largely the same BTU/BTU.

    While the gas company advertisements may give you the idea that a gas appliance needs no tune-ups, nothing could be further from the truth. For safety and best combustion alike, a gas appliance needs an annual service. Granted, many HO's don't do it, but that doesn't make it right.

    The likelyhood of any appliance failing is directly tied to the number of parts that do things on it, all things being equal. Thus, I would expect a oil-fired condensing boiler to be more wear/fault prone (all things being equal) than a standing-flame CI nat. gas boiler that is running off a powerpile. Better efficiency has a price: modern appliances need better TLC than the cast-iron monsters they replace.

    The condensate of oil vs. gas is also something to consider. If your chimney isn't lined, then it should be. Either gas or oil flue gasses will rot out a oversized masonary chimney in no time, particularly if you have a modern, efficient heating plant. Oil flue gases are presently more acidic than gas-derived ones, BTW (pH 2 vs. 4, I believe). Once low-sulfur heating fuel becomes widespread, the pH of oil flue gases should rise somewhat towards neutral.

    As for what choice to pursue, I voted for oil in my new home.
  • Biged
    Biged Member Posts: 117
    Oil vs Gas

    I wonder if the gas company should be responsible for dispelling the myth about gas equipments not needing service annually?
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    One other thought

    Right now you have a new tank. If you don't like your present supplier you switch. If you go gas, how do you switch? Your hooked to them. Also check with your gas company to see if their will be a "delivery charge". Alot of people in my area are now finding that even though they don't use much gas in the summer the bill is still high from that surcharge....
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    And

    if you install an oil-fired boiler and in the future gas gets way cheaper per BTU, you can install a conversion burner. But you can't convert a gas boiler to oil.

    I'd stay with oil, especially since you have that brand-new tank.

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  • Ragu
    Ragu Member Posts: 138
    Oil vs. Gas

    Here in Maine we don't have natural gas, and propane still costs more than oil for spaceheating; however, people who move here from other places tend to request gas installations.
    The upfront purchase price of gas heating appliances is quite a bit more than for similar oil-fired units.
    With modern equipment, in chimney-vented applications, both fuels appear to be equal in reliability.
    Gas tends to offer more reliability in direct-vent applications so far.
    The biggest gap that I see is when there is a breakdown of a mechanical/electrical component, resulting in no heat. Individual components of gas appliances tend to be very specific to that unit or that model, whereas the individual components of oil units many times are not brand-specific. I can almost always get a broken oilburner running in an emergency, but I've been caught dead in the water several times with gas units.
    I've also found that there are more oil servicemen available than there are gas guys (at least around here).
    Just more food for thought to add into your equation.
  • Ragu
    Ragu Member Posts: 138
    Oil vs. Gas

    Here in Maine we don't have natural gas, and propane still costs more than oil for spaceheating; however, people who move here from other places tend to request gas installations.
    The upfront purchase price of gas heating appliances is quite a bit more than for similar oil-fired units.
    With modern equipment, in chimney-vented applications, both fuels appear to be equal in reliability.
    Gas tends to offer more reliability in direct-vent applications so far.
    The biggest gap that I see is when there is a breakdown of a mechanical/electrical component, resulting in no heat. Individual components of gas appliances tend to be very specific to that unit or that model, whereas the individual components of oil units many times are not brand-specific. I can almost always get a broken oilburner running in an emergency, but I've been caught dead in the water several times with gas units.
    I've also found that there are more oil servicemen available than there are gas guys (at least around here).
    Just more food for thought to add into your equation.
  • Ragu
    Ragu Member Posts: 138
    Oil vs. Gas

    Here in Maine we don't have natural gas, and propane still costs more than oil for spaceheating; however, people who move here from other places tend to request gas installations.
    The upfront purchase price of gas heating appliances is quite a bit more than for similar oil-fired units.
    With modern equipment, in chimney-vented applications, both fuels appear to be equal in reliability.
    Gas tends to offer more reliability in direct-vent applications so far.
    The biggest gap that I see is when there is a breakdown of a mechanical/electrical component, resulting in no heat. Individual components of gas appliances tend to be very specific to that unit or that model, whereas the individual components of oil units many times are not brand-specific. I can almost always get a broken oilburner running in an emergency, but I've been caught dead in the water several times with gas units.
    I've also found that there are more oil servicemen available than there are gas guys (at least around here).
    Just more food for thought to add into your equation.
  • B. Tice
    B. Tice Member Posts: 206
    oil / gas

    Steve, it seems to me that you are more comfortable with the oil. I would stick with it in that case.
  • Robert O'Connor_7
    Robert O'Connor_7 Member Posts: 688
    Oil or Gas?

    Oil.

    Robert O'Connor/NJ
  • Keith_8
    Keith_8 Member Posts: 399
    Oil V Gas

    Oil gets my vote

    Keith
  • Uni R
    Uni R Member Posts: 663
    Real Estate Value

    This may not be the case where you live, but in some places the fuel source for heat can affect the property value. In Toronto for instance, natural gas has tradionally been only a fraction of the price per BTU when compared to heating oil. NG's once huge pricing advantage is nearly gone, yet selling a home with oil heating is a strike againts the selling price. If there is a premium for oil or gas in your neighbourhood, you may want to factor that in.
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Constantin (the mere homeowner)


    nailed it.

    ANY combustion appliance needs to be serviced EVERY year.

    Find a good contractor in your area that knows steam and knows oil just as well.

    I can't think of a better application for an oil burner than steam production. No modulation necessary, just pure, raw btu's!!!!!!!

    Stay with oil.

    Mark H

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  • ernie_3
    ernie_3 Member Posts: 191
    O vs G

    I'm steering clear, as I have a tirade on this. :)
  • S Ebels
    S Ebels Member Posts: 2,322
    My vote goes for oil

    There are however a few circumstances that would cause me to consider LP gas. The first one would be if you are going to have a gas range and or dryer. Then you have to weigh the savings with oil vs paying for electricity for cooking and drying your clothes. I think it would be a toss up cost wise.
    The second would be if you have an application that is all low temp. A modulating gas boiler woud be tough to beat in that scenario. As it appears that you have steam heat, that's a moot point for you.

    To my way of thinking, a good oil burner that is properly tuned is a thing of beauty. Very clean intense heat, perfect for a steam application. You'll find many products out on the market that will give you a solid mid 80% efficiency even on steam.
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