Gas or Oil?

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Hi all,
I'm a homeowner on Long Island, NY. My heating system is about 45 years old now, so I guess it's finally time to replace it.
I've met with a couple of contractors already and I must say I'm still not at all sure whether I want to go gas or oil.
Currently I have an oil system. I'm in a 2500 sq foot house with 2 zones and there are 4 people in the house. It's baseboard hot water heat. I have a 275 gallon oil tank that's about 7 years old and it's inside the house. I haven't had any problems with oil over the 6 years I've been here and the oil company has serviced my account and system very well.
Since I'm replacing the whole system, I figure I might as well look at converting to gas. We have gas cooking and the gas meter is about 12 feet away from where the new boiler would be placed. The gas contractor installed my central A/C, so I'm pretty sure he'd service the gas boiler properly as well.
I guess the first consideration would the price of the fuel. The gas people say natural gas is cheaper and the oil people say oil is cheaper. I'm locked in at $1.65 for the winter. I think I timed it right before it skyrocketed in October. I think a 1 year cap price now is about $2.10. The gas company told me gas is at $1.72/therm. How do I compare the numbers to see which is cheaper? What's the equation to figure that out? Is there any indication of which would be cheaper over time or are there just too many variables and it's impossible to know which will be cheaper 5 years from now?
The oil company suggested a Weil-McLain WTGO-4. They didn't think that I'd need a separate hot water heater. I'm easily getting enough heat now without out and with a new unit, I guess I'd get hot water a little faster, but my needs might go up as the children get older.
The gas company has conversion special for a Burnham Q205. The gas contractor says that's what I'd need.
How would these boilers fit my needs based on the size of the house and number of people?
With a 50 gallon hot water heater and removal of my oil tank, going to gas is about $650 more than going with oil (without the hot water heater). I think a hot water heater from the oil company was another $1200 or so. I only have to buy oil from the oil company for 1 year at the standard cap price. There's no long term commitment at a "posted" rate.
I think that pretty much covers everything. What are the pros and cons that I should be weighing to make this decision?
Thanks in advance for all replies.
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I recently compared my natural gas bills (92-04) with someone's memory of gasoline prices, and found that both had gone up the same 230%.
With gas, you pay whatever you utility charges you, thus it is one less thing to have to worry about, the oil market place, capping, timing, etc.
What has the price of gas done over your billing history for the stove?
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First of all, gas, oil and electricity are more or less tied to each other, so you aren't going to see massive long term differences in equivalent pricing.
Electricity is always going to be the most expensive for a number of reasons, including higher generation and distribution costs, as well as lower over all efficiency (yes, people like to point out that electricity is 100% efficient in the home, but conveniently ignore the rather large line loss involved in pushing it as much as 2000 miles across the country).
Oil has the problem of a limited number of refineries in the US as well as the tie to suppliers like OPEC. Any time one goes down for unexpected maintenance, prices spike. I suspect (but haven't checked) that oil furnaces also lead gas in emissions.
Natural gas used to be significantly cheaper than either of the above, but that difference has narrowed as more gas fired generators and industrial users have come on line.
I would still go gas as it avoids the hassle of dealing with potential tank removal problems, leaks, as well as the refinery issues.
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An "All Electric" house can be quite cost effective. You have to have electric service anyway and when you have, say, gas heat you pay the top seasonal rates for both gas and electric. With all electric you save (directly and indirectly) the cost of bringing one more utility to your property including stuff like reading the meters.
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On Thu, 28 Oct 2004 06:21:49 -0400, someone wrote:

artificially low below market electricity). Fuel is burned to create heat from which electricity is made (inefficient process). The electricity is then transmitted a long distance (somewhat inefficient process). At the house, it is converted back to heat (that part is efficient).
If what you really need is the heat, is in inherently more efficient to burn the fuel at your house.
-v.
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You HAVE heard of the "heat pump," havn't you?
With electricity the situation is that just about EVERYONE wants air conditioning in the summer. Gas air conditioning is, at best, a PITA so electric is the default. SO: whether you also have gas or oil makes NO difference in your electric bill in the summer. That gas is cheaper in the summer isn't particularly important as the meter charges are usually on the order of fuel use for hot water and cooking.
In the winter, GAS/OIL are expensive but electric service (for "all electric" homes) is CHEAP.

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On Thu, 28 Oct 2004 13:15:30 -0400, someone wrote:

COLD out instead of just cool??? It switches over to its electric resistance backup! At the times of highest use, it becomes electric resistance heat.
Heat pumps work fine in mild climates like VA or further south. In New England they don't work out that well, too much time with the backup on. (Some people have fuel burning backup - but then its not "all electric" any more.) The cooling function of a heat pump (which as we all know is just a reversible "air conditioner" is also not so sought after in colder climates, where heating is the important load. Thus, my observation is that heat pumps are relatively rare in the North.
-v.
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snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net (v) wrote:

Actually, there is a new version of heat pump that works quite well in very cold climates. I was able to look at one installed in North Dakota last summer.
The traditional air vented pumps do not. The newer geothermal heatpumps use multiple wells with a closed circulating coolant running 100-200 feet underground. The temps there are around 55 degrees year round, which is optimum for a heat pump in summer or winter.
Don't know how the capital (installation) costs compare though...
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That's hardly "new." Just about every variant in ground source heat pumps has been established for years.
Some 6 years ago I was very interested in ground source and other heat pumps. (My HVAC guy basically said, "forget it" but it was fun looking.)
Anyway, one interesting design for VERY cold climates which was marketed in Finland used what they called a "Cold Finger." The outside evaporator presented a vertical "finger" with smooth flutes. In operation, it would ice up (just like any heat pump in cold weather) but because of the shape the ice would just flake off. No outside fan, no (or little) defrosting. And it would look "cool" standing out in your back yard!
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On Fri, 29 Oct 2004 14:07:02 -0600, someone wrote:

They are nothing new, back when I was in college in the 70's, one of our class projects wasw design of a geothermal heatpump system. I was indeed talking about the "usual" air system. I doubt that geothermals are even 1% of the actual in service installations, so I omitted them. Their capital cost is huge compared to a "normal" system. They don't work for every site either.
Glad you got your in.
-v.
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If your thinking geothermal heat pump heating, then you might be correct. If you're talking about resistive heating in cold weather and air-to-air heat pump in mild weather, then you don't understand electric rates in the northeast US.
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I understand very little about the NE United States.
But I do understand that even resistance heat can be cost effective under certain circumstances. Resistance heat truly provides heat ONLY when and where it is needed.
Frankly, I have usually lived where electric rates are reasonable (partly because the utilities have build and properly maintained nukes plants.) With the Canada hydro power, the NE should have reasonably priced electric. If the NE had a few more nukes ....

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1) The Three Mile Island cleanup is one of reasons electric rates are so high in the NE US. :-)
2) Good luck finding support for building more nukes in the densly populated NE US with all of this talk of terrorism. There's a battle over offshore wind farms on Cape Cod because of "environmental impact" and they will "ruin the view" and you think we'd be smart enough to build _nukes_ before oil reaches $150/barrel?
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Ive always felt this way also.
It would seem to me that sense resistive electric heating can be so easily controlled and "zoned"...... that maybe THAT could make up for the inefficiencies in the cost of it. Yes?
In other words..... given that electric heat costs more.... can one finesses it more by zone heating and other controls and save overall over gas?
Talking ONLY resistive elect heat here.... not geothermal.
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snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net wrote:

Of course you can zone ANY heating.
--

-Bill

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On Thu, 28 Oct 2004 20:52:18 -0500, someone wrote:

It takes a certain number of btus to heat a given area to a given temperature. Electric resistance btus are more expensive than fuel burning btus. The only way this seems to make sense, is similar to the analagous artificial argument made for gas fireplaces vs. central heat - someone compares heating the whole house, to only heating a small portion of the house. Of course heating a smaller area is less money, if all else is equal.
If you compared the same sized zone, it would still be cheaper to heat it with a properly sized fuel burning appliance. This can become ridiculous if one defines down the zone so much that there is no furnace or boiler that small - and set up a hypothetical to make the electric resistance come out on top - but in any "normal" application, the fuel burning btus are cheaper.
BTW, there is another issue - personally, I find that forced air heat is poor from a comfort standpoint - either blows hot or cold. That is why I prefer baseboard. But baseboard doesn't have to be electric. Comparing electric baseboard to fuel burning forced air is therefore also not comparable - you should compare to electric forced air, which has been done but is very rare by itself, but IS what happens when a heat pump system has to switch to its electric backup.
-v.
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On Thu, 28 Oct 2004 13:21:26 -0400, someone wrote:

ANY heating system that uses a thermostat is supposed to only supply heat WHEN needed - there is nothing inherently more accurate about a thermostat controlling a resistance heater, in fact the ones mounted on the heaters themselves have additional problems from being both down on the floor, AND near to the heat source.
As to WHERE, there can indeed be some issues when trying to use a duct system optimized for cooling, for heating purposes. However, either a ducted or baseboard system actually designed for heating, also puts the heat where it is needed.
As for cost to operate - do the calcs. There is NO WAY that resistance heating can provide btus for less $, in any place with normal market electrical rates. This has not changed in the 30 years that I have been paying attention to the issue. It is inherent in the "system".
In a primarily cooling climate like FL or maybe So. TX, etc., if one is looking at capital costs, electric heaters can make sense as they will seldom be used, so go for the cheapest up-front cost.
-v.
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says...

Here in Vermont where the tree huggers took over, we don't seem to build anything we need. We do have a contract with Hydro Quebec. Lets look at the electric bill I just paid today. Over in the corner of the bill is a box labeled Current Month Average Cost. It comes to 0.133, or 13.3 cents per KWH
I can't afford electric heat with those rates...
Bill
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Some utlities charge less if you have electric heat. Nstar in Massachusetts charges 13.358 cents per KWH for regular residential service, but 11.344 cents per KWH if you use electric heating (there are slight variations depending upon what town/city you live in).
-al sung
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John Gilmer wrote:

In the cold climates in most of northern USA, heat is definately needed :) Air heat pumps don't cut it. Their efficiency falls way down in cold weather and on top of that frequent defrost cycles (where you are pumping heat from the house to the great outdoors) are required. Where available gas is fairly efficient. Unlike oil, gas furnace/boilers can reach efficiencies in excess of 95%. If you invest in high efficency heating, that can make quite a difference over the years in cold climates.

Actually nuclear power has proven to be one of the most expensive methods of generation, save for peaker plants. Even where electric choice options have come into place in the northeast, incumbent utilties still get cash from ratepayers ("stranded costs") to pay for their nuclear white elephants, whether that customer buys juice from that utility or not. In the 1960's the president of PECo (and many others) said that nuclear energy would be too cheap to meter. Today that utility, which spent billions and bilions and many more billions building a small fleet of nuke reactors, is always in a photo finish for the highest rates in the nation. And they want to stick their own security costs for their private property to the state government (national guard) on top of it. As if the Guard doesn't have enough to do. A neighboring utility which decided to go in another direction is much cheaper.
Now if you live in an area where the utility is subsidized/owned by the government and they run nuclear plants, then you may think differently, but that's only because Uncle Sam is paying the extra bills. Say thank you to the taxpayers.
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