Home boiler, oilfired or gas fired??

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Believe in redundancy. Live in Virginia Beach. Natural gas recently installed in front of this 3 BR, 2000 square foot, ranch house. Have HP as well as a currently 50-year old cast iron Burhnam Jubilee boiler. Right now the boiler is only used on really frigid mornings/days. Though my boiler guy says the boiler will still be standing when the house falls down, each time he works on it I worry about a fitting cracking, or the work tearing loose something in the guts. (So does he) The Tankless WH leaks a bit, and the replacement down't exist, provided one could free up the bolts to get it out of the boiler. I have also become a fan of pumping away, and this boiler installation is not plumbed that way. So, all things being equal, do I want to replace it with another oil fired boiler, or should I shift to natural gas. Is the only difference really the heat source, i.e. an oil burner or a gas burner in the same boiler, or are they specifically designed for one or the other, for some technical reason I would not understand. Not familiar with gas fired boilers at all, though I see Burnham makes them. Anyone else make good ones? Will welcome any/all opinions. (re: redundancy - Also have a propane fired free standing stove/fireplace in the family room, which can be used when there is no power. When the power fails (this is a coastal area - feel lucky that my power has ony been out for 30 continuous hours so far this year) it can heat part of the house, or be used to cook on. And, I have a generator which will power the boiler/circ pump, but not the HP. Besides heat. it can be used to provide hot water for showers, welcome winter and summer when there is no power) TIA starrin
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starrin wrote:

Since the boiler is only used as a backup, gas does not make sense due to the service charge which you will pay every month even though you don't use any gas. If you have the LP fireplace already, and a large LP tank, and LP boiler would be a reasonable choice, otherwise another oil fired one. The key point is that since the boiler is standby/backup, you want to fuel it from a source that does not have a constant service charge associated with it even when there is no usage.
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Do some cost comparisons. NG is about $17 per million Btu while propane is $40 for the same heat. If you can save will over $1000 a year or more for heating cost, the $10 a month service charge is cheap.
http://hearth.com/econtent/index.php/articles/fuel_cost_comparison_calculator/
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Exactly how is the OP going to save anything by paying $10 every month when he's not using any nat. gas? Read the OP's post and my reply again, this boiler is fallback for the few times a year that the heat pump can't keep up.
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Right now it is the fallback. However, if you read my entire post, I suggested he review in entire heating scenario. It may be cheaper for him to convert to NG and save a bundle of money over the propane he is now using. In addition, he may have more comfort in the house. If he does not heat the house for 6 months and pays $60 in service fees, but saves $500 on propane cost by using gas, he is $440 ahead. Meantime, he may use the NG for cooking and/or water heating and save over what he is now using.
Did you check the fuel cost comparisons? No I didn't think so. In most every location natural gas is less than half the cost of propane. Electric (the fuel of a heat pump) is generally the most expensive way to heat. Since he needs that boiler once in a while the HP is not up to the task so why not go for the best value? . I suggested he do a complete review of his heating needs so he can make an informed decision. I'm doing that now. My boiler is still working but since it is 30 years old I want to have a plan in place rather than be backed into a corner on a cold January day. The OP should do the same.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

He's using propane for a fireplace, not a furnace.

Electric resistance is generally the most expensive, not a heat pump. Heat pumps can be some of the least expensive.

Based on the information the OP has provided, it may be most economical to do away with the boiler entirely if/when it craps out since it's in backup service as it is.
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It may or may not be. I suggested he do a study to see what is most economical TODAY. When the house was built and since re-fitted they may have chosen the best option at the time. This is an opportunity to do better. Why do you have a problem with checking into that? When the last choices were made, NG was not an option. Today it is. Heat pumps are still fueled by expensive electricity. Do you have the facts and figures of operating cost per million Btu?
The boiler is used on very cold days so yes, it is needed or some other form of assist is needed. The OP also stated he likes redundancy. Eliminating the boiler eliminates the redundancy.
I did not state what is best because until a study is done neither I, nor you, can say what the best option is. Making informed decisions usually is the smart way to approach these situations. Including considering changing the fireplace to cheaper NG.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Try running the comparison on the site you referenced, only replace the 100% efficiency listed under electric, which represents resistance heating (as noted on the site) and replace it with 400% which represents a good heat pump, since heat pumps move a lot more heat energy than the amount of energy they consume.
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It has a slight advantage at rates here, but, it still needs backup and a boos in lower temperatures. So, he still needs another source of heat. That propane fireplace is very expensive if he is using it for heat and not just looks once in a while. Be sure to factor in the cost of hot water when looking at the entire picture. That is much cheaper made with most anything other than electric as it is resistive heat.
Only the OP knows what he wants as an end result and what the most cost effective method is.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Yes, and the normal way to implement this for the couple days a year when it's too cold for the heat pump to operate is with electric resistive backup integral to the heat pump system. A very inexpensive way to implement this, and an insignificant electric expense for the very low run time they get.

The propane fireplace is mostly cosmetic, the bit of radiant heat it provides offsets the "radiant cold" found in a room with a lot of glass.
On hot water, electric is not at all expensive, particularly since electric tank water heaters have lower standby losses than gas or oil fired tank type heaters.

Well, he seems to have some questions, and really needs to find a competent contractor who can review the big picture in detail that we don't have access too. My bet however is that gas will not be the best option, continuing with oil may well not be either. It may be best to upgrade or tweak the heat pump installation to optimize it.
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wrote:

I have an oil-fired boiler and if I could turn back the hands of time I would install a small electric boiler as a backup to my ductless heat pump and eliminate oil altogether. Even if I had to pay a few hundred dollars more each year in higher operating costs, the roller coaster ride in oil prices is just not worth the aggravation. My tank was topped up a few weeks ago at $0.969/litre ($3.67/gallon) which, in my case, makes oil slightly more expensive per BTU than electric resistance, currently $0.1067/kWh; earlier this summer, fuel oil had been selling locally for as much as $1.419/litre ($5.37/gallon) and had my tank been filled then, needless to say, I wouldn't be a happy camper now.
I'm adding a second ductless heat pump that will effectively eliminate my remaining fuel oil requirements. Initially, I was going with a Fujitsu 24RLXQ, but I'm now leaning towards a Sanyo KHS1271/CH1271. This particular model works down to -22C (-8F) and has a nominal heating capacity of 4.2 kW. At -18C (0F), output falls to 2.3 kW, but the heat it provides at even this bone chilling temperature is still less than half the cost of oil at today's lower prices. Over the course of the heating season, it will supply an average of 3 kWh of heat for every 1 kWh of electricity consumed, and at $0.1067/kWh, that's the equivalent of fuel oil at $0.31/litre or $1.18/gallon (82% AFUE). You could TRIPLE my electricity rates to $0.32 per kWh and I would still come out ahead, dollar wise -- the peace of mind of knowing I'm no longer going to be jerked around by volatile oil prices is an added bonus.
This Sanyo unit retails for $1,482.35 CDN ($1,250.00 US) and installation and miscellaneous hardware will likely run another $500.00. This translates to be about a two to three year payback. In addition, I get a 17 SEER air conditioner that I can run it in "dry" mode to remove humidity without excess cooling, thereby ridding myself of my noisy, power guzzling, empty-the-damn--bucket-every-other-day dehumidifier.
Cheers, Paul
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wrote:

He is running a heat pump. Means he has forced air. Adding a natural gas "furnace" in place of the air handler would LIKELY make more sense than replacing the old boiler with a gas fired boiler.
If the fire place is switched from propane to NG, and a NG domestic water heater is installed, the minimum gas useage will likely be adequate to make it worth while. A NG cookstove and clothes drier would almost definitely tip the scales.
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Bad assumption. Heat pumps can be any combination of air/liquid to air/liquid.

Replacing a heat pump with a nat gas furnace will have no payback at all since the operating costs are pretty much the same. It would be money thrown away for no reason.

Replacing all the appliances you indicate, would give a payback time of centuries unless the relative cost of nat gas to electric shifted drastically.
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wrote:

OK, MOST heat pumps up here in the frosty north are forced air.

Not replacing the heat pump. Read what I wrote. Replace the "air handler" of the heat pump with a gas furnace. The air handler is the box with the a coil in it and the blower fan. Vast majority up here have resistance heaters in them for backup, but many use a small gas furnace - medium efficiency non condensing, instead.

Payback on an electric water heater can be a couple of years. Uf the clothes drier and range are getting on in years the switch to new gas appliances NOW instead of next year CAN make sense and save money.
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Yes, and the cost of that new gas furnace, along with the monthly gas service charges will vastly exceed the operating cost of those backup resistive heat strips that operate a few of the coldest days of the year.

An electric water heater has lower standby losses than a gas or oil fired unit.
With electric, you have multiple options for your supplier (at least here in TX I certainly do), with gas you are locked into a monopoly. Both gas and oil prices vary a lot, at least with oil you can purchase at the time of your choosing when the price is best, with gas you are stuck with the current rates. Electric rates tend to be a lot more stable. If you're so inclined you can even purchase "green" electricity, no such thing as "green" gas or oil.
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That all may work out well in Texas, but here in CT and MA we pay the highest electric rates in the country at 18 with green options adding another 2 or so.. Gas is always a much cheaper option here. Large users have choice of sources also and eventually residential users will also. Fact is, de-regulation and that choice of suppliers jacked the price from the monopolies that existed.
Our gas bills at work are in the range of $10,000 a month. Oil would have put us out of business.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Well, electric choice worked here and suppliers are quite competitive. It mostly is a function of whether it's real deregulation, or mock deregulation like what CA tried that got them in so much trouble.
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Electric choice here is quite competitive too. They are all high. The best choice was to stay with the old electric company as long as you could.
The Hartford Courant had an extensive article about deregulation and the cost of electricity. They showed how it is traded, bought and sold by people that have no business doing so except to skim a few pennies from us. Brokerage houses like Goldman Sachs buy it and resells it to another money fund and it goes through a few hands before finally getting sold to the consumer at inflated prices.
The old bill used to be one line. This is how much you used, pay it. The new bill has eight calculations for delivery, distribution CTA, FMAA Transmission, etc.
I've yet to see an advantage to deregulation, certainly not lower cost. I'm generally opposed to regulation, but this was not in our best interest from what I've experienced.
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You have many considerations. How much oil do you burn in a year? How much total fuel is used? What is the source for your hot water?
There are many options but in general, gas if far cheaper than oil in most locations. What is the cost of bringing the line into the house? Can your propane burner be converted to NG? That is another savings to be had.
The old oil burner you have is probably 50% to 65% efficient. New gas heaters can be 95% efficient, oil burners can be about 86% efficient. Another consideration is the hot water. The tankless coil is the least efficient way of making it, while a side tank to a boiler is the most efficient and cheapest.
You state the oil is used only on the coldest days. If the operating cost is low, it may be best to use it for you main source of heat and save over the cost of propane. Do some cost comparisons here http://hearth.com/econtent/index.php/articles/fuel_cost_comparison_calculator /
The do some reading up on boilers www.crownboiler.com www.buderus.net http://www.energykinetics.com/index.shtml
This is an opportunity to do it right and save a lot of energy in the long run. You can also increase the comfort level of your home while saving money. Even if you stick with oil you can save probably 30% or more over that old boiler.
I hope to make a change also. My choices are the three listed above with the system 2000 the front runner.
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wrote:

I will have to work out the oil versus HP figures as last winter was the first time I relied heavily on the HP. The Propane tank is relatively small and my preferance would be to eliminate it entirely

Free to get it to the meter. As far as prices, watching the curent yo-yo prices, the savings today, may not be the savings tomorrow

No, but I could swap in the same model with a NG set of logs

Currently, my hot water is provided by an electric water heater in series with the output of the tankless coil in the boiler. When the boiler is hot, it preheats the electric heaters input. The tankless by itself proved inadequate as the kids grew up

Thanks to you and all for your inputs. Things to think about during the winter days ahead. Anyone with anything to add, be my guest starrin
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