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Oil to Gas Conversion-- with additional questions

JoeDJoeD Member Posts: 4
I moved into my home 6 years ago, which at the time had a 60-year old coal converted to oil boiler. After several winters of bleeding cash to pay for oil, I bit the bullet and replaced the boiler with a Burnham V8 boiler. At the time, we considered converting to gas, I ran numbers and figured oil still made sense. Sadly, I don't believe oil will ever be the price it once was, but have been beating my head against the wall on whether this makes sense, and of course everyone has different opinions. This is where I am at:1) In trying to do an apples to apples comparison I've run these numbers:I figure oil will be around $2.40/gallon this year (or worse given the recent trends). Figuring oil has 140,000 BTU's per gallon, I figure $17.14 for 1 million BTUs.We received a quote from the gas company for $.74 per CCF. Understanding that gas has 1000 BTUs per cubic foot, I calculate $7.40 for 1 million BTUs, or roughly 43% of the cost. So first, are my understandings correct and do those calculations make sense?2) Clearly a conversion is not an isolated project, and this is what I figure is included---Gas must be brought into the house-- the gas company has come out and bringing it from the curb will be free (we're within 50 feet)-We'll need to reline the chimney-- this is a bit of a wash as we have been told that our chimney needs to be relined sooner rather than later anyway. Are there any pros or cons to relining for gas over oil or is this a similar expense regardless of which way we go?-We need to pay for gas piping within the house. The boiler is very close to where the gas would enter the house, so I don't envision this being too bad, though we will be asking for taps for the DHW, dryer, and stove (all are "some day" items, I just would like to be prepared)- Of course we need to pay for the actual conversion of the boiler (assuming it's possible)3)Overall is there anything I am missing, or are my assumptions as to the entire project correct? This boiler is rated at 83% efficiency right now, is there anyway to calculate what the efficiency would be after conversion?I appreciate any insight.


  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,820
    First thing I'd ask

    is, does the gas company's quote include all the taxes, fees etc that appear in very fine print on the gas bill? I bet it doesn't. But in almost all cases the price per gallon of oil does.

    Call the gas company back and ask them. Better yet, talk to someone who does use gas and see what they're paying.

    This sounds like a clear case of "if it sounds too good to be true, it is".
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 4,365
    Joe D are

    you converting your existing oil boiler over to gas by using a gas power conversion burner? If that is the case you want to be sure that Burnham approves the conversion of their boiler. In addition make sure the company doing the conversion has lots of experience with doing conversion burners. It is also a good idea to make sure they leave the oil burner there in case you want to switch back later if prices flip flop, as someone who has been in this heating business and worked for a gas company for 28 years, prices have gone up and down over the years.

    As Steamhead noted there are hidden charges on the gas bill over and above the cost of fuel. You will see that when you get your first bill.

    Is your chimney now unlined or does it have a clay tile liner? If it is clay tile it may not need lined.
  • JoeDJoeD Member Posts: 4

    At Steamhead's suggestion, I did call the gas company and did learn that the $.74 ccf charge is for the gas, and that there is another $.28 ccf charge, bringing the "to the door" charge to about $1.02/ccf.  There is also a flat $10 monthly fee, I guess for the joy of having gas service.  Taking that into account and looking at my usage from last year, it looks like moving to gas would save me between $450-$500 per year (that includes the $10 fee, etc). 

    While the $500/year figure is a goodly deal less than I had originally figured (which was $800/year), it's still a good chunk of money.  I have read that some feel oil gives more supplier options, but the fact of the matter is that when I called around last year, the difference was a few cents/gallon, which does not tremendously effect the situation.  While I know no one can predict what oil is going to do one week from the next, I am convinced we will never see heating oil, or gas for that matter below $2/gallon (and the way it's going lately we may be seeing $3/gallon soon).

    The chimney is currently lined with clay, which was done when the house was built in 1947.  When we moved here in 2003, we had the chimney flues inspected and were told at the time that the one flue was nearing the end of its life.  This was reiterated by the oil company a few weeks back during our annual boiler inspection/tuneup, so I must assume that the tile are nearing the end of the life.

    I had not considered whether Burnham would certify the use of a conversion setup-- I assume that is for warranty purposes?  I can certainly call them and perhaps they may even have recommendations.

    This is a great site with its wealth of knowledge.  Am I overlooking anything here?

  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,820
    What about

    taxes on the gas? is the extra 28 cents the "delivery charge" or does it also include the taxes? 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 4,365
    I would be curious to know

    what is wrong with your clay tile liner. My clay tile liner in my chimney is 60 years old and it is fine.A gas conversion burner can fire into the same chimney as the oil fired into so a liner is not necessary unless local code folks are pushing it to be done. Keep in mind that flexible metal liners have 20% less capacity than say "B" vent.

    Concerning gas bill here is an example of the bill for my training center: National Grid is the company.

    32 days actual reading  5598

    Previous                       5597

    Usage                               1 CCF x 1023 BTU content of a cubic foot

    Delivery charges   $19.12

    Cost of gas            $1.12 (1.023 Therms x 1.0975)

    Other Charges       $2.25

    Total charges      $22.49 for 1 CCF
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,123
    Two more things

    1- the efficiency of the boiler if it can be fired with a conversion burner without voiding Burnhams warranty will be lower, 2 or more percent lower in what I have seen.

    2- the meter fee they quote is often for a meter that is not large enough to supply all the appliances you mention. I did not check for the BTU load of your current boiler so this may not be a factor but for some of these big old houses near me it is. The old 210 meters are fine until the water heater, boiler, gas fireplace, Wolf range and dryer all call for heat at the same time. then things start shutting down or carboning up.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 4,365
    I have found that

    properly set up with some baffling (you better know what you are doing) the Combustion Efficiency numbers I am getting is around 83%. Burnham claims in their testing the can't get higher than I believe 81 or 82%. The real efficiency is the bottom line however which is the customers bill.

    Meter sizing and delivery pipe size is done by the local utility when application is made for gas and as this person stated they are going to run the gas line for free so all the sizing will be set up to load.
  • JoeDJoeD Member Posts: 4

    Ok, I've continued to dig, and we had 3 folks come out for quotes today.  I don't have those yet, so I can't factor those in right now.

    I spoke to my neighbors who have gas and though they looked at me like I was crazy, they allowed me to look at a few of their gas bills so I could see the real deal.  So, there is the $.74 ccf fee, a $.28 ccf delivery fee, a 6% tax (that's MD state tax) and a $.004 ccf additional tax (yes, that's 4/10 of a cent).  And plus, there is the $10/month flat billing fee.  Based on last year's oil useage and doing the calculations to ensure I was looking at BTU apples to apples, I calculate that to heat the house for the year it would have cost about $1031 (that's all inclusive of those above-noted fees).  In looking at the DOE site, it looks like heating oil is $2.68/gallon in MD right now, so using that figure, last year would have cost me $1608, or a difference of around $575.

    Two installers told me the Burnham V8 does not have a gas conversion available and one was unsure, and would get back to me.  These same two told me there was no way a clay liner should be at the end of it's life in 60 years, and there is no code reason to add a liner (the third said I should get an inspection-- not a bad response but he didn't have answers for much).  They also reminded me that I would be eligable for a tax rebate (not deduction) of 30% (up to $1500), so that takes a solid chunk right there.

    I'll make another call to the gas company to ensure that they know we will be running (or will want to run) the aforementioned appliances to see if there is any differences in pricing.  I don't understand that (I can see why the pipe size may need to be bigger, but I don't understand why that would change the pricing, but always better to be safe on the front end).

    Once again, I am indebted to the knowledge of the folks here.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,820
    edited October 2009
    Joe, where in MD

    are you?

    I'm in Baltimore.......

    Also, is this a steam or hot-water system?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • SteamHeatSteamHeat Member Posts: 134
    edited October 2009
    Read The Fine Print.

    According to the DOE gas prices are cheaper during the heating season because the gas companies have a larger usage over which to spread fixed costs.

    The tax rebate from the fed for conversions has a lot of gotcha's in it just like the rebates from the gas company. Read the fine print carefully.

    My impressions while going through this are that it is not much difference financially between oil and gas unless there is trouble with the supply of oil due to political situations. For me it is more about getting rid of the diesel odor, soot, oil deliveries, etc.

    Just some things to think about. For what it is worth.
  • JoeDJoeD Member Posts: 4

    Nope, I'm not in Baltimore, we're about 70 miles to the west in Hagerstown.

    To be sure, there are some "extra" benefits of going with gas though I have never been too bothered by the deliveries (they come out regularly without my calling and we've never once come close to running out)-- my wife would like a gas stove and gas dryer (those aren't my domain, so I haven't much to say about that).  Of course, we could bring in gas without converting the boiler.

    I've read the DOE requirements and once the quotes are received I will ensure that the recommended boiler meets the DOE specs.  It didn't seem to be that convoluted, but I'll look closer once those detailed quotes arrive.

    As for the cost of oil-- I don't know, it just seems to me that we are consistently in a mess where the policitcal situation is determining the cost of oil.  X happens in Iraq, Y happens in Iran, Z happens in Afghanistan, or there is some storm in the Gulf Coast.  The energy traders take advantage of every little item (talk about unregulated supply).  Can the same thing happen with natural gas?  Sure, and I expect it 10 minutes after I convert!  Ha!  But, like I said, in crunching the numbers, the gas benefit seems to be there (today).  I don't see oil dropping extensively in price anytime soon.

    Also, just to answer your question-- it's a hot water system and while my friends all laugh when they see the big radiators and it drives my wife crazy as they always seem to be in the way of where she wants to put furniture, I don't think I'll ever move into a house without hydronic heat now that I have been spoiled.  I love it!
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