About to buy home with oil tank + gas lines; trying to navigate options??

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Hi group - let me start by saying I am not DIYer but rather a good candidate for a reality show on a newbie home buyer that you might laugh at for her naivete - have lived in apartments for 20 years and before that dad took care of everything ;-)
Here's my situation, and I'm hoping for some basic advice/thoughts:
-- House is in Stamford, CT and built in 1925, 2 stories, 2000 sq ft. (have not yet moved in) -- hot water radiators in each room -- oil tank in basement, that inspector said has been 'patched' and therefore cannot be insured (otherwise seems to be working) -- gas lines already run right up from street into basement but were capped off, as if it was gas at one point but is no longer -- when heat came on during our viewing it had a loud boom noise, and it seemed like forced air (I could be losing my mind -- there are radiators present so it doesnt really make sense -- or maybe they converted and there is both??)
My deal:
-- I'm from CA and oil tanks weird me out; I find them bizarre and am mildly suspicious -- We are happy to keep the house quite cool in the winter, don't need it above 60 and dont need whole house heated (would love a room by room option) -- I dont mind investing a few thousand up front if it will payback long term -- trying to be as eco-responsible as possible (but not in a position to be super hardcore) -- the appliances are electric, but I'd love to go to gas one day -- though buying all new ones is not in the budget for a few years. -- I like the idea of radiators, but can you control which rooms actually use them at one time? (in a way that would conserve - save money?)
I am really inclined to abandon oil and switch to gas, but is there some type of electric option thats best for people like us who like it cool and only heat rooms we use? I dont want space heaters, but maybe there's some device that can go where the radiators are?
My confusion is that there are almost too many options, and I dont get how they work together. For example, does gas power radiators or is gas always matched with forced air?
If anyone out there is mildly entertained enough to reply, I'd really appreciate it -- I actually do want to learn about these things and have to start somewhere ;-) (and dad is now retired in las vegas :-)
best regards, d-g
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It is possible to have electric baseboard heaters in each room with their own respective thermostat. There are plain element electric baseboard heaters, oil filled electric baseboard heaters, and in -the-wall fan driven electric heaters all of which can be controlled on a room by room basis. Usually electric is the most expensive and least efficient way to heat a house.
Water filled radiators can be zoned for each room with a respective thermostat. An on demand boiler might keep your fuel costs down.
That boom that you heard may have been the ducts expanding from air pressure.
You should get some heating contractors in there to find out what your options are.
A house built in 1925 could probably use some serious insulation upgrading if it hasn't been done already.
Do you care about central A/C?
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One thing about electric baseboard heat is that once it is installed properly it is the most reliable heat available.
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yep but costs a lot to operate, and in a power failure a gnerator isnt likely to help much.
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Just a quick note as others will most likely be able to answer better.
First I doubt you have hot water and forced air the only scenario possible is if you have some sort of localized air handler that was added to heat a certain area it sends the hot water through a heat exchanger which heats the air and blows in it into a room. Again highly unlikely because I think the water for this kind of system has to be over 130 degrees to work right and your system may not put that much heat out. What you most likely heard was the circulation pump come on and the boom could have been air in the lines. Depending where you are in the house it could sound like a fan.
You can get a gas fired boiler I don't think they have the same efficiency as a forced air unit but adding a forced air system to your house would require running duct work which would be expensive.
I have never heard of electric heat ever being cheaper except if you live in an area that gets all its power from hydroelectric plants.

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Converting to electric heat is going to be a loser in most places and definitely in CT, which is cold enough and with high electric costs. No reason to freak out over this oil tank. The real issue with oil tanks is when they are old and buried in the ground. Then you have the possibility of the tank being rusted out and leaking oil into the ground. If you were to buy a house with an underground oil tank, that issue needs to be carefully looked at, as the cleanup could costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Your tank is in the basement where if it has been leaking, it's obvious. If the tank was patched in some fashion, then on home inspection it should be flagged and you can insist that the seller give you a further discount to pay for a new one. With a new tank, you're good to go. While I prefer nat gas too, oil actually has some safety advantages over gas. Even if some oil did escape the tank, it's not an explosive risk like you have with leaking gas.
Oil or nat gas can be used with forced air, hot water baseboard, radiant, etc. If you really have gas lines already run into the basement, that would be my choice for a fuel. Gas fired systems are far more reliable than oil and lower cost to run, or at least no higher than oil.
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Converting to electric heat is going to be a loser in most places and definitely in CT, which is cold enough and with high electric costs. No reason to freak out over this oil tank. The real issue with oil tanks is when they are old and buried in the ground. Then you have the possibility of the tank being rusted out and leaking oil into the ground. If you were to buy a house with an underground oil tank, that issue needs to be carefully looked at, as the cleanup could costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Your tank is in the basement where if it has been leaking, it's obvious. If the tank was patched in some fashion, then on home inspection it should be flagged and you can insist that the seller give you a further discount to pay for a new one. With a new tank, you're good to go. While I prefer nat gas too, oil actually has some safety advantages over gas. Even if some oil did escape the tank, it's not an explosive risk like you have with leaking gas.
Oil or nat gas can be used with forced air, hot water baseboard, radiant, etc. If you really have gas lines already run into the basement, that would be my choice for a fuel. Gas fired systems are far more reliable than oil and lower cost to run, or at least no higher than oil.
I would have the oil tank inspected and removed if there is any possibility of leakage. Some years ago we had a situation where a 275 gal tank leaked in a freak accident in a basement and required $125,000 worth of work. If you have a potentially live gas line, I'd use it and replace the boiler, second to electric, it is the most trouble free system you can have, and of course way less expensive than electric in the NE. I know it's not like California, but Stamford has some really nice rocky beaches you'll enjoy, great parks, and be sure to visit United Home Wreckers
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RBM wrote:

Hmmm, OIL is DIRTY. By all means I'd try to avoid using it.
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You are a dunce.
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Tony Hwang wrote:

Oil is not "dirty." Like any fuel it needs to be used with a properly adjusted system in order to optimize the efficiency of the burner.
I am concerned about a patched oil tank though. The seller should correct this by replacing the oil tank. A leaking oil tank is no fun.
I've had electric, gas and oil systems and favor oil. With today's oil prices though I wonder if a wind turbine and electric heat might not be a better solution.
Boden
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On 5/19/2008 7:31 PM Boden spake thus:

Just curious why you'd prefer oil over gas.
--
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute
conversation with the average voter.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Having had the excitement of one gas explosion I'd rather not experience another.
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Well since natural gas is the majority of home heating nationwide, its explosion rate is very low, or multiple homes would go boom daily:(
Do you hve electric? it must cause many more home fires yearly
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Replacing the oil tank in a basement is not gonna break the bank. Maybe $2500, probably less. I've never heard of patching an oil tank. By the time they leak, they are totally shot. If its patched, it may have been done just to sell the house without an active leak being apparent. I would not move into that house without a new tank already installed. Not something to guess around with. If it lest go, you will never get the smell out of the house as long as you own it, and the cleanup will be very expensive. Just replace it and foget about it.
Electric heat in CT is out of the question. Also bear in mind that switching from hot water to forced air heat would LOWER the value of the home.
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wrote:

Hi Cliff,
I think you're right, but just with regards to the comparative cost of oil and electric heat, a lot has changed in the past two years, so this gap has narrowed considerable and in some cases their positions have reversed.
Heating oil in New England now runs in the range of $4.25 and up. A gallon of fuel oil contains 139,000 BTUs and an oil-fired boiler with an AFUE of 83% would net you about 33.8 kWh heat; at $4.25 a gallon, your cost per kWh of oil heat works out to be about $0.126. Although it does vary widely by state and CT happens to have the second highest rates in North America, the national average currently stands at about $0.103/kWh.
See: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html
If you opt for time of use rates and can shift much of your electricity demand to these lower cost hours, off-peak electric heat and electric DHW could be a relative bargin -- for homeowners without access to natural gas, it might make sense to heat with oil by day and electricity by night.
Better yet, a high efficiency ductless heat pump such as the Fujitsu 12RLQ would provide economical heat, as well as dehumidification and air conditioning. With a HSPF of 10.55 (Zone 4), it provides an average of 3.1 kWh of heat for every kWh consumed. If a Connecticut homeowner pays just under $0.18 per kWh, the effective cost drops to less than $0.06, which works out to be the same as heating oil at $1.95 a gallon (at the national average of $0.103 per kWh, the cost falls closer to $1.12 per gallon). According to one ebay listing, the installed cost of a Fujitsu 12RLQ is as little as $2,500.00, so the payback in fuel oil savings could be less than two years.
Cheers, Paul
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wrote:

Wow, great answer Paul. One day I want to talk to you about the efficiencies of converting to solar power. It sounds like you have some answers. Lou
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wrote:

Hi Lou,
I'm afraid I'm not all that familiar with solar thermal or PV systems, but I can certainly help you get started with the discovery process. Thankfully, there are some great folks out there with year of first-hand experience to draw upon and who are more than eager to share their knowledge with others.
Best regards, Paul
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On Sun, 18 May 2008 06:18:30 -0700 (PDT), Dairy Godmother

Hi D-G,
Have you had a home inspection and, if so, what was their opinion on the general condition of the heating system? What about your realtor; did they offer any specific advice?
Given that you won't be able to obtain home insurance due to the condition of the tank and replacing it would involve a considerable chunk of change, I'd be inclined to switch everything to gas now. And if you're putting in a new gas boiler, you might consider going with an indirect water heater or "combo" unit as opposed to a separate stand-alone unit (higher efficiency) and adding a Tekmar control system (another a big money saver). Also, see if they can easily split your heating system into two or more zones for added comfort and potentially lower operating costs. In addition, if you opt for an Energy Star model, you may qualify for state and/or utility rebates/low-interest financing, so check that out too (I would still recommend a high efficiency model in either case).
Lastly, if this home is deficient in terms of its insulation and air sealing, best get these matters addressed too. A couple hundred bucks spent on a proper energy audit could save you a substantial amount of money over the long haul and improve your overall comfort considerably. Good luck!
Cheers, Paul
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wrote:

Listening to a realtor for advice about a heating system is like going to the auto mechanic when you have a tooth ache.

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On Mon, 19 May 2008 04:24:08 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Then you haven't chosen the right one. Mine is knowledgeable and professional and just as quick to point out each home's faults as their strengths. Her business is based on repeat customers and referrals, so she won't sully her reputation just to make a quick sale.

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