I've never had any reliability problems with oil burners or oil service.
The nozzles also cost about $6 and take 2 minutes to change. Very DIY
friendly as are the filter at the tank and the filter screen on the
pump. I can do this level of annual service on an oil burner in 15
minutes for >$20 and also inspect the condition of the burner, soot
buildup and roughly check the combustion.
Unless a problem is noted with soot buildup or poor combustion I don't
need to call in anyone for service. When I see a problem I can get a
service call for a hundred dollars or so since I don't have a soot vac
or combustion tester and can't really justify spending the money on
since a service call every few years is pretty cheap.
I did take (and pass with the highest score in the class) an oil burner
service class at a local tech school so I have a pretty good idea of
what I'm looking at when I inspect the burner.
Gas furnaces are not immune to problems and indeed some dangerous
problems like cracked heat exchangers can go unnoticed readily on a gas
furnace and actually kill you from CO buildup where the same problem on
an oil furnace would typically choke you out of the house with
detectable fumes before the CO would get you.
Annual inspections are an important safety requirement, whether you do
them yourself with appropriate training or call someone in. Whether oil
or gas the furnace does not necessarily need any actual service each
year, but since you have a tech there inspecting the filters and nozzle
get changed because they are too inexpensive not to just change
regularly. Unless you get really dirty oil the nozzle and filters can
easily last several years without problems.
I was in the northeast. I never had gas service, but I recall hearing
numerous reports on the news over the years of various areas having gas
service interruptions for various causes. In a large city vs. smaller
suburban areas it's probably a less frequent occurrence, but when it
does occur it probably affects more customers.
Why don't they have generators? Certainly loosing power can be more than
an inconvenience since you can have significant losses from frozen pipes
in cold weather and lost food in hot weather. A small generator is cheap
insurance against those losses.
Because they are not "far more remote" unless you are in a large city.
The much higher safety risk of gas is also another reason for oil. I
recall a brief ad campaign by a gas company touting gas as "Clean, Safe,
Dependable" which mysteriously changed to "Clean, Dependable" presumably
after a false advertising lawsuit.
Thousands of gas explosions every year vs. about zero oil explosions
every year certainly calls that "Safe" claim into question. The hundreds
of CO deaths each year are heavy on the gas furnace failure end due to
the lower detectability of the fumes from a gas furnace vs. oil.
The cleanliness claim is also questionable since a modern properly
maintained oil burner is just as clean as a modern properly maintained
gas burner. The clean claim is largely based on the bogus comparison
between a new gas burner and a 50yr old oil burner.
The efficiency claims you also see are also questionable with the
difference between top oil and gas units being only a couple percent.
Unless you have already done every possible thing you can with regards
to insulating, caulking, high R windows and ERVs, that couple percent is
pretty irrelevant and might save you enough to buy a cup of coffee each
And again being locked into a monopoly that charges you every month
whether you use any product or not is the final nail in the gas coffin
You may be able to do it, but how about the typical homeowner, who
can't? Or how about the vacation house where there is no one ready
with another nozzle when it craps out?
And are you suggesting that the typical homeowner should take a class
too? Or just use gas and avoid all this?
And you can't have a cracked heat exchanger on an oil furnace? The
oil furnace has exactly the same issues, plus more.
I'd say a gas furnace could easily go 3 or 4 years between inspections,
while an oil furnace cannot.
You are in dream land. I live in NJ and have neve had a gas
interruption. I have had plenty of electric interruptions though.
Just last week I was without power for 7 hours. Had gas the whole
time. So, why worriy about gas, when electric is already an order of
magnitude more prone to outage?
Because it just aint' worth it. Like last week. My power was out from
10pm till 5am. No big deal. And that was one of the longest
interruptions in the last 25 years that I've had. And let me see,
what's easier? Replacing $150 worth of food in the slim chance that it
MIGHT spoil, or putting in a transfer switch, generator, and
maintianing a fuel supply for it? BTW, my fuel of choice would be nat
gas. But since you don't like that, tell us about how you keep a fresh
supply of fuel safely stored? How do you rotate it? Since you're
worried about nat gas exploding, how about the gas for a generator?
When you look at the pros and cons, a generator doesn;t make sense for
most people. Now, there are exceptions, like those in hurricane areas.
BS. Gas outages are very few. If you never had it, how would you even
know? By reading the newspaper about the rare occurance where a
construction crew hits a line? Even then, it;s likely out for a few
hours, not days. Compare that to electric, where a summer storm can
put it out.
Yeah, oil just brings things like $100K environmental disasters when
the tank rots out. Or the insurance company denying coverage. If nat
gas is so unsafe, why do insurance companies that have to pay claims
not have any issue writing policies, while it you have oil they want ot
know how old the tank is, where it's located, etc?
You can say MONOPOLY all you want, but all the data say nat gas and oil
are competitive in price. And they have to be, otherwise people would
switch. The utilities are regulated in terms of prices they can
charge,. just like the water company.
The typical homeowner *should* be able to do it, however we have as a
whole lost more and more skills over the years. It used to be that the
bulk of people changed the oil in their cars themselves, now most don't
even know how to open the hood, much less check the oil.
If you're having an annual service done they get replaced well before
they would crap out unless you are buying the low grade, nearly crude
fuel oil they run cargo ships on. With most any #2 fuel oil the nozzles
and filters can easily last several years without failure so annual
replacement keeps them well within their life expectancy.
I'm suggesting that the typical homeowner should have at least *some*
knowledge of those hulking monsters in their basement, not total
ignorance. If you want to be ignorant you should be a renter.
Using gas avoids nothing at all and indeed using gas can allow your
ignorance to kill you if you don't have annual inspections. You can just
as readily run an oil burner for years without inspections or service,
but in either case, oil or gas, the inspections are necessary for
I once saw a gas water heater that had the chimney connection completely
fall apart. The homeowner had not noticed it at all while it was pumping
out CO, where if it had been oil fired they would have noticed it in
minutes. They were lucky that it was in a service closet off the garage
and fairly well isolated from the house or they could well have been
killed by CO.
Apparently you didn't read what I wrote.
A cracked heat exchanger on a gas furnace is far more likely to go
unnoticed than a cracked heat exchanged on an oil furnace due to the far
more noticeable fumes from an oil burner. Both can pump out CO which can
kill you, but the oil burner has the added safety of being readily
detected. It's the same concept as the odorant they have to add to gas
so you can detect a leak.
Oil furnaces are also less likely to have a cracked heat exchange since
they are generally built more ruggedly than their gas counterparts,
though you can of course find both crap and very high quality in both
I'd say you are absolutely incorrect. I know of several examples of oil
furnaces that have gone that length of time or longer with no issues and
these include some pretty old units.
As I said the annual inspection is primarily for safety, not out of need
for service. The service is done as a preventative measure since the
parts replaced are very inexpensive and the tech is on-site anyway.
First off, it is not "dream land", you can check the news archives to
see the frequency of gas outages in most areas. Second off, *I* have
backup for the electricity so it is not an issue for me. With oil I have
backup for heat and hot water as well.
Diesel generator. Share the fuel supply with the nice safe reliable oil
furnace. #2 fuel oil and #2 diesel are exactly the same, the only
difference is transportation fuel taxes and a generator is not a
I had a near 72 hour outage during a winter ice storm in the northeast a
few years back. I ran on my diesel generator the whole time and went
about my life normally while people around me had freezing pipes and
freezing butts. At least their food didn't spoil since it was cold.
Hurricane areas, ice storm / snow areas, tornado areas, flood areas,
basically almost every area. Since power plants are few and far between
relative to consumers, a problem a good distance away can leave you
without power even if everything else is ok locally.
I heard of dozens of gas outages in my immediate area over the years
when I had not a single oil outage. As I noted, I am well prepared for
an electric outage, with gas you don't have the option of being prepared
for a gas outage.
Politics pure and simple. Large gas monopolies have more lobbyists than
the smaller competitive oil dealers. The big energy companies don't care
much either way since they sell both NG and oil.
Regulated means little. The fact remains that the gas monopolies are
allowed to charge you even when you are not using any of their product,
which is not the case with oil. That and the other problems with gas
provide solid reasons *not* to use gas.
The typical homeowner *should* be screwing around with her oil burner innards?
Monster? Our gas furnace isn't much bigger than a small filing cabinet. Just
about as noisy as a filing cabinet too.
"Less likely?" My average gas furnace has a transferable Lifetime Warranty on
its Stainless Steel heat exchanger.
At the very least, it's good to check the fan motor and clean the blower and/or
a/c coil as some amount of dust will inevitably get past a filter and very slowly
accumulate over a season.
Please explain what the frequency is, since you are claiming this is relevant.
Our furnace needs (a little with the ECM motor) electricity to operate, but our
water heater and range do not. They operate just as normal without caring if
power is lost, except I have to find matches to light my stove and might have to
reset the clock later.
Huh? Do you think the "smaller competitive" oil dealers are manufacturing oil
somehow? Or do they participate in the global oil market? They can charge
whatever they like, and the only thing the competition does is keep the costs
similar, but the costs will all go up with the price of crude and/or refined
product. By the way, we can now "choose" our gas supplier, so if that was
really a concern that issue is moot. Gas distribution is a regulated monopoly
and as such they cannot raise their prices unless their costs increase, and the
price they charge must by law be in line with their costs.
So you forget to mention that you have solid reasons *not* to use an electric
They *should* have the minimal skills necessary to change an oil burner
nozzle by following instructions. Recall this requires only the skill to
operate two wrenches and is little different from the skill to change a
faucet aerator, couple a garden hose or connect a propane tank to a
grill. Changing a nozzle does not require any knowledge of burner
controls, combustion adjustments or anything else technical.
Monster as in the unknown which historically has scared people. Oil and
gas furnaces are about the same size for the same capacity unit. They
both used to be huge and both have steadily shrunk over the years as
technology (and home insulation) improved.
Noise levels for modern gas or oil furnaces of comparable capacity are
comparable as well. Older units of both types were noisier.
Yes and average oil furnaces are cast iron with similar warrantees. Many
low end gas furnaces are not stainless steel and have much shorter life
expectancies. Only a very few bottom of the barrel oil furnaces use
plain steel heat exchangers.
Quite correct and with either oil or gas, if there is an A/C unit
incorporated there is a significantly greater need for service since air
(and dirt) is circulated all year instead of just during the heating
season. Without A/C both oil and gas are also comparable in cleaning and
In the town I was in and the adjacent towns during the past couple
decades I recall hearing of a gas outage of some duration at least every
few months. This is also an area with relatively sparse gas service,
probably less than 50% coverage of residences in the area. I recall
several times there were multi day outages during the winter where
people had to go to shelters.
Your point is? With oil heat / hot water and a generator (it doesn't
have to be a very big generator either) I have heat, hot water, range,
oven, clocks, TV, etc. with little more than a few minutes interruption.
With a diesel generator and the typical 275-300 gal oil tank even at
half full I have enough fuel for heat and generator for at least a week
without outside utilities.
The costs of nat. gas also go up with the cost of other energy
commodities and also with the growth of nat. gas fueled electric
generation "peaking" power plants. Nat. gas is not some fixed cheap
energy source unaffected by the rest of the energy market.
My concern is that they are allowed to charge you even when you do not
use gas. This has no parallel with oil. If I don't use any oil I don't
pay anything. With oil you also have the option of having a larger tank
and purchasing off season to get better prices something you can not do
Excuse me? I have solid reasons to have a generator as backup for the
electric companies outages. Outside of that the electric company can
provide me power at a lower effective rate than I can generate it myself
for since they can keep their generators fully loaded and therefore at
A generator loaded to 25% of it's rated capacity as it would by much of
the time supplying a single home will still consume far more than 25% of
it's full load fuel consumption. If you could maintain a steady load
from the house so that you could match the generator size perfectly then
you could generate at close to utility rates.
So it is most economical to use an electric utility because of the lower
cost and the fact that it is practical and economical to have backup for
that utility. Electricity (like oil) also does not present the hazards
of gas. If the insulation on an electric line fails it does not fill
your home with explosive gas. If an electric line is shorted a circuit
breaker or fuse interrupts the power. Gas services generally do not have
comparable protective devices other than very recent seismic valves in
earthquake areas and those provide no protection from any other faults.
So since this is so easy, safe, and common, which oil equipment manufacturers
this service as a customer done item, like changing light bulbs? (and lighting
lights in the old days)
I've never heard an oil furnace, even brand new top of the line, that was even
silent. Even thirty years ago natural gas was nearly silent (except the ho hum
motor and maybe the click of a relay and gas valve opening).
Cast iron would rust in a high efficiency (condensing) furnace.
What town was that in? If natural gas service was really that unreliable, I'd be
looking at propane.
And gee, why is so much electric production being shifted away from oil and to
You said you are dislike gas because it is a regulated monopoly utility. You
dislike gas because it has nominal fees for minimum usage per month. Electric
has both of these qualities. Therefore, your arguments are also in opposition to
None that I know of since as I indicated the population as a whole has
lost a lot of skills and common sense over the years.
Perhaps the comparison is better between gas and oil boilers which I
have more experience with. Even so, with current oil furnaces the
difference isn't that significant. Old units were certainly louder.
Yes, it would. Oil furnaces don't do the condensing thing (yet) due to
cost factors mostly. If a fair increase in upfront cost would be
tolerated by the market they could bump the efficiency up further that
way with more expensive materials.
Look to the northwest corner of CT.
Because it hasn't? Very little electric production was ever oil. It's
gone to nat. gas from coal and of course nuclear because of both
political and economic reasons. Nat. gas used to be a lot cheaper before
those peaking plants were built, which is one reason they were built to
begin with. The siting and permitting for the relatively small nat. gas
peaking plants was also easier which also led to the increase.
I *also* said nat. gas is less safe and less reliable than oil. All
those factors combine to give more than adequate reason to avoid nat.
You are also incorrect with your electric service analogy. I have more
than a dozen electric suppliers I can choose from, only the distribution
is a monopoly. Electric also is practical to provide backup for during
outages where nat. gas is not.
And what is causing the aforementioned "cost factors???"
(dirty exhaust, sulfer, soot, acids....)
Where should I look there?
"At the time of the 1973 oil embargo, about 17 percent of U.S. electricity was
burning oil, and about five percent from nuclear energy. But, twenty-five years
represents only about three percent of U.S. electricity production, while
supplies almost twenty percent."
By the way, a number of larger power plants have been outfitted to burn either
oil OR gas.
Yet they are burning gas predominantly nowadays. Why?
And why would permitting and siting be so much easier for those natural gas
that it would be lot more harder. You know, they must be blowing up and
exploding on a
And I *also* said that I disagree with your hypothesis.
Too bad you snipped it out, because you missed the point. You were all hot and
about gas because a gas bill contains a minimum billing charge. I pointed out
electricity utilities have the same deal, and also the savings from gas makes up
nominal fee in spades.
"monopoly" so I pointed out that electricity is a monopoly too. Both for the
portions. You appear to be located in Texas with a incumbent distributor of TXU
options range from about 13.4 cents to 16 cents per kW/hr. So some "choice"
but a very
minor spread between the highest and lowest, with most options very close
between, all with varying terms.
Absolutely false. Natural gas generators are a wonderful thing, and do not
fuel storage, deliveries, etc. They also burn much cleaner than say, a diesel
Most anywhere. You'll find some small cities with gas service surrounded
by many miles of moderately dense semi-rural area with no minimal gas
service. Check the CT DPUC site or the sites of the gas utilities
covering the area and you should find reports of service interruptions.
I know the CL&P / Northeast utilities site has such reports for electric
outages, I expect the gas utilities have the same.
17% = Very little.
Cost. And gas turbines are pretty multi-fuel to begin with.
Hardly. Industrial settings are the one place that gas is fairly safe as
they generally get serviced and maintained properly, particularly power
You can disagree all you want. I still won't use gas any time soon.
If I were currently using oil, if the pricing was to get too high I'd
install a geothermal heat pump long before I'd consider nat. gas.
I'm afraid I don't make long term decisions like heating fuel choice
based solely on price.
The effective spread is a bit larger than those numbers appear since
it's multiplied by a couple thousand KWH / month as opposed to a couple
hundred gallons / month.
You clearly don't read very well.
It is practical to provide backup for electric service outages with a
generator (gasoline, diesel, propane, nat. gas.)
It is not practical to provide backup for nat. gas service outages.
There is no practical way to provide on-site storage for a useable
quantity of nat. gas, gas appliances other than generators are
particular to the gas type (different burner orifices) so you can't
switch on the fly to a "hot dog" propane tank in the back yard either.
The only way to provide backup for nat. gas service is with redundant
appliances for an alternate fuel.
geothermal heat pump for radiant heat, or would you go with forced
air? What drives your decision in this case?
I am not going to try to convince you that nat gas is safe and reliable
in residential use as you are clearly so frightened by the risks that
you will go to almost any lengths to avoid using natural gas.
As it stands presently in Texas with the electricity and natural gas
prices we have now, geothermal heat pumps make enormous financial sense
as they are 4-5X more efficient than electric resistance heat, and in
dual speed compressor models, run at EERs above 20 in low speed and at
EERs of 15-17 in high speed. A properly sized geothermal heat pump
would rarely run at high speed in the winter in south texas, and would
run in high speed mode only when outdoor temps exceed 90-95F in a
properly insulated and sealed home. OK, they are NOT cheap to install
as the wells or ground loops are very expensive to install.
interruption in many many decades of service. We just don't worry about
it, we don't worry about the need for a backup.
In misc.consumers.house firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
But when natural gas does go out, its a big pain in the rear. Its out for
longer and requires someone to come inside your home to get it turned back
I have a generator. I don't have a transfer switch but I have my furnace
on a twist lock plug I can plug into an alternate outlet powered by my
generator. I also have generator powered plugs near my fridge and sump
pump. Fuel supply maintenance means dumping the generator gas cans in
the cars twice a year and filling the cans again. I found that the
generator didn't do any good powering the furnace when the gas was out.
I live in MA. A few months after moving into my house I called
the gas company (Keyspan) to report an outage. I was rudely told
"the gas company doesn't have outages, you want to call the electric
company because your power must be out." I informed them I was talking
to them on a cordless phone, I was well aware that my lights were on
and I'd like to speak to a supervisor. I was finally told someone
would arrive between 8am and 4pm and I had to be home because they
wouldn't touch anything without me being home. Two calls later and
a guy shows up at 6:30pm thinking my gas valve had been shut off and
padlocked for non-payment. Even with the help of someone back in
the office he couldn't locate the street side shutoff to see if
someone had shut it off. After 20 minutes he finally unscrewed my
meter from the house and got nothing. He unscrewed the street side
and got blasted by high pressure gas. He used the house side
shutoff valve just before the meter and then replaced the meter.
He then came into my house and lit the pilot light on the furnace
and water heater because I was obviously too incompetent to light
them although I had to tell him how to light the furnace because he
couldn't follow the little stick diagram. He also had to verify
that my dryer and stove were electronic ignition because I was
obviously too incompetent to know that either. I wasn't too
Last winter a large section of a town in eastern MA (Lexington, Concord,
or Acton I think) lost gas for 3-4 days of single digit temperatures.
Lots of people had to drain their pipes as best they could as they were
forced to evacuate their homes.
Luckily I haven't had any gas issues in the last 5 years and I now have
a wood stove that will keep the important rooms of the house 60 degrees
warmer than the outside temperature.
Gas being lighter than air normally dissapates if it leaks.
Oil pools and settles , causing a possible safety clean up issue with
guys in moon suits hauling away contaminated soil:(
Thats why homeownerts insurance is requiring oil tank replacement based
on age of tank.
That only works to a limited extent and less and less as homes get
"tighter". If windows and doors are closed well nat. gas will just
accumulate from the ceiling down. LP gas is heavier and will accumulate
from the floor up. In either case unless the home is quite drafty /
leaky it will continue to accumulate until it finds an ignition source.
This is *not* a safety issue, it is an over hyped environmental issue.
Fuel oil has a strong smell and is very likely to be noticed before much
leaks. Even when a lot leaks, most undamaged concrete floors contain it
pretty well if it's discovered and cleaned in a day or two.
And that is why new underground oil tanks are double wall construction,
just like new tanks at gas stations. Some new indoor tanks are double
wall as well though most are still single wall since there is minimal
risk. Just because a 50 year old single wall underground tank is no
longer viable in no way means that oil heat is no longer viable.
Technology changes and advances and the current high velocity flame
retention burners and controls with pre and post purge cycles are a far
cry from the old burners as well.
Pete. let me summarize for you:
1 - I've lived in homes with both oil heat and nat gas heat. In over
40 years experience, I've found nat gas to be consistently more
reliable. I've never had to make a single call for service where a
natural gas furnace stopped working. On the other hand, I have made
many emergency sevice calls for oil heat due to clogged nozzles and
2 - In 40 years, I have never had nat gas service go out. I'd like to
know where you live that you think nat gas is so unreliable and what
exactly makes that nat gas system unreliable. IMO, for just about
all, the very small chance of losing nat gas service pales in
comparison to electric outages that most of us routinely live with.
3 - Most people do not have backup generators, which come with their
own set of new problems. And they obviously have made the judgement
that their needs, probablilities, etc don't justify having one.
4 - As to the risk of dying from carbon monoxide from nat gas, vs oil
heat, here is some data:
How great is the risk of carbon monoxide in my home from natural gas?
deaths). This is an average of 50 deaths per year. You are more likely
to die from a lightning strike (approximately 80 deaths per year).
Estimated 130 people die each year from non-fire carbon monoxide
poisoning in the US 2001 ((US Consumer Product Safety Commission,
National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 2003)
Estimated 58% (75) people die each year from non-fire carbon monoxide
poisoning caused by heating systems in the US 2001 (US Consumer Product
Estimated 36.4% (28) people die each year from non-fire carbon monoxide
poisoning caused by natural gas heating systems in the US 2001 (US
Consumer Product Safety)
So, of the whopping 130 people who die each year from non-fire CO, 75
are caused by all heating systems, and of those 28 are attributable to
a natural gas system. That should put to rest the notion that natural
gas systems are more prone to CO problems. Compare this to the 50K
people killed on our roads each year to put it in perspective.
5 - If nat gas were unsafe compared to other heating system, insurance
companies would charge higher rates or not insure buildings that use
it, yet this is not an issue.
6 - Your suggestion that most homeowners should know how to change
nozzles in a furnace that stops working in the middle of the night is
bizarre for 2 reasons. First, clearly most homeowners do not have that
level of experience and knowledge. Second, it's very strange for
someone so concerned about the safety of nat gas vs oil to be
recommending that most homeowners start fooling around with their own
oil burner. IMO, that is far more likely to result in injury or a fire
than having a nat gas furnace ever would.
7 - People can make their own choices based on their needs and
priorities. But to suggest that nat gas is unsafe or unreliable
compared to oil heat is bogus.
Carbon monoxide deaths related to natural gas furnaces at 28 per year, I
wonder what the break down is with age of the furnace.
Used to be we had pilot lights. Pilot lights came equipped with
thermometer that kept the gas off unless the pilot was on. Point of
use failure causing death was then attributable to a thermometer failure
that allowed gas to flow with out a pilot. This was the design in
place 30 years ago, I do not know what preceeded it. I had gas valves
fail, but then it just got cold, no excess gas flowed. I had a
termometer fail, but again it just got cold, no excess gas flowed
Now we have hot surface igniters, much like gas ovens do. No pilot,
but the hot surface MUST reach a proscribed temperature, measured by a
thermometer before the gas will flow. I had an igniter fail in a
stove. Stove stayed cold, no excess gas flowed. Replace the igniter
and all works well.
Natural gas has been safely piped to millions of homes nationwide for
decades. The risk of injury or death due to natural gas incidents is
far far lower than the risks you take every day to drive your car, ride
in an airplane, eat out at a fast food restaurant........
And it's 28 CO deaths per year for gas heating SYSTEMS. I'm sure if
you look at the incidents in more depth you would see that most of them
have nothing to do with the furnace. For example, a very common CO
situation is a blocked chimney. That would be counted as an incident
with gas heat, even though the furnace wasn't the real problem. We
had a family here in NJ where people died a couple years ago because a
contractor had temporarily put something in the chimney opening during
work in warm weather to block it, then forgot to remove it. Come
heating season, the CO killed them.
DIFFICULT, but not impossible for small birds to get in there. The gap
to my fireplace is a bit larger than my furnace flue, and small birds do
find their way to the fireplace from time to time. In 28 years, never
such an incident in either gas water heater or gas furnace.
A maintenance worker sticking a rag down the flue and forgetting to take
it out seems to be a more likely scenario. such an action is more
likely to occur at the bottom of the stack, at the furnace, rather than
on top of the roof.
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