water heat - oil versus electric

Page 1 of 2  
Our 10+ year old oil-fired water heater (Bock 32E) is acting buggy, so we're getting it replaced. My plumber is going to replace it with a new Bock 32E, along with a new burner too. I'm choking a little bit on his estimate of $1800. I know that oil-fired heaters are more expensive to install, but it's a bit more than I was expecting. Also, the real question: I'm having second thoughts about going the oil- fired route again. I live in Connecticut, and we do not have natural gas available on my street, so that leaves me with the oil versus electric question. I've heard that electric is more expensive to run, but with the recent runup in oil prices, I'm not sure if that holds true anymore. Is it worth it to pursue an electric water heater, or should I stick with oil? Also, IF electric would be cheaper, is it a huge deal to convert a former oil-fired heater area/ space to an electric water heater operation?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just to make you feel a bit better, replacing a 6 year direct vent gas water heater is about $1600 in NC. Instead I went with a tankless gas unit for $3k because at least you get a 12 year warranty and maybe save a little gas.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 13 May 2008 20:08:44 -0700 (PDT), Pauli G

Hi Pauli,
Fuel oil is currently running in the $4.30 to $4.50 range (as I type this, the Nymex heating oil futures price stands at $3.70 and retail typically adds another $0.60 to $0.75). In Ontario, residential fuel oil now sells for as much as $1.36 a litre or $5.15 a gallon ($5.40 with tax).
Source: http://www.mjervin.com/WPPS_Public.htm
A conventional oil-fired water heater has an EF of about 0.55 whereas a good quality electric unit can reach upwards of 0.95. One gallon of fuel oil contains roughly 139,000 BTUs and at an EF of 0.55 you net 76,450 BTUs or 22.4 kWh(e). Dividing $4.50 a gallon by 22.4 tells us the operating costs of an oil-fired water heater are similar to those of an electric unit running at $0.20 per kWh.
Personally, I would go with a good quality electric unit for now and swap it out for a GE hybrid model when they become available in late 2009/early 2010.
See: http://www.geconsumerproducts.com/pressroom/press_releases/appliances/energy_efficient_products/doetanklesshybrid.htm
Video: http://www.geappliances.com/video_launcher.htm?emcid 44&empidI23&packageid00
My sources tell me they will retail between $1,200.00 and $1,500.00, roughly $1,000.00 more than the conventional alternative. However, at $0.16 per kWh (Connecticut's electricity rates are second only to Hawaii), the payback would be less than three years (i.e., 2,500 kWh savings @ $0.16/kWh = $400.00/year).
Cheers, Paul
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

oil recovery is much better than electric, another option may be propane.
heres a comparison chart of water heating costs, but with oil up in price so much its likely out of date
http://www.aceee.org/consumerguide/waterheating.htm
if you want to go electric does your main panel have the capacity space for breakers etc? if you use a lot of hot water you might look into 2 electric tanks in series, for better capacity
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 14 May 2008 05:37:38 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@aol.com"

Good point regarding slower recovery and the need for sufficient panel capacity. If the homeowner has an older home with a 60-amp service, they're probably out of luck, but 100-amps should be sufficient in most cases, provided there are at least two available slots.
If the homeowner has a large family or are heavy users of hot water, a larger electric model (e.g. 80-gallons) might make sense and provided they have enough free capacity, higher wattage elements if that option is available to them; that should greatly reduce the likelihood of run-out and speed recovery. Another option would be to keep the water heater set at a higher temperature (e.g., 150F or 160F versus 120F or 130F) and use a mixing value at the tank to reduce the risk of scalding; a higher tank temperature would bump up capacity but standby losses would increase and tank life would likely take a bit of a hit, so there's definitely a trade-off.
For smaller families, homes equipped with water saving devices such as low-flow shower heads and front load washers, or for individuals who don't typically use a lot of hot water (e.g., wash clothes in cold or warm water), a standard size model should do fine. FWIW, my parents had a 40 Imperial gallon (50 U.S.) electric with three shower-loving kids and I don't recall there ever being a problem and, frankly, at a whopping $0.16 per kWh, I'd do whatever I could to reduce my DHW consumption.
With regards to propane, its price tends to track that of oil fairly closely and the Mont Belvieu spot price has increased by more than 50 per cent in the past year alone. The latest DOE figures for Connecticut were as of March 17th, and at that time the average retail price was reported to be $2.907 per gallon. A gallon of propane contains 91,000 BTUs and with an EF of 0.55, you net the equivalent of 14.7 kWh per gallon. That pegs the cost of propane at that time at $0.20 per kWh(e), which is pretty much bang-on with that of oil; however, it could be even higher today if propane prices have increased in the two months since.
Cheers, Paul
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Hi Paul, Thank you for your help. Historically, have energy prices kept the same ratios? I'm just wondering if the relatively recent run-up in oil costs put a monkey wrench in considerations - ie. should oil prices stabilize, how would that effect cost estimates.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

much electric is generated by natural gas and oil, they all tend to be lck stepped together, although currently oil is running ahead cost wise.......
we are getting a new high efficency furnace, and looking to insulate some interior spaces,
in cold weather largely not heating unused rooms when not necessary
natural gas will be up at least 20% on one year
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

on electric units for insulation values and efficency ratings for units with burners
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 14 May 2008 07:47:56 -0700 (PDT), Pauli G

That's a great question for which I have no good answer. Historically speaking, oil and natural gas have been more volatile and I suspect that's going to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. Electricity does hold an advantage in that it can be produced by other sources such as wind, water and nuclear which are not subject to quite the same external pressures. To be safe, count on all of them escalating at a rate well in excess of inflation.
Someone else mentioned time-of-use rates and off-peak water heating which I think is an excellent way to go, provided you have sufficient storage capacity and/or can shift a good portion of your DHW needs to those off-peak hours (e.g., by scheduling laundry on weekends and using the time delay setting on your dishwasher, if so equipped, so that it runs overnight).
At this point, the operating costs of an oil or propane water heater are 25 per cent higher than a conventional electric unit and some two and a half times higher than a heat pump water heater such as the GE model I mentioned earlier. If you are relatively low to moderate user of DHW and can generate the bulk of your needs off-peak and still avoid run outs, then a heat pump water heater + TOU rates strikes me as the ideal solution.
Cheers, Paul
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I would have to think that anything would be better than using oil for heating, even if it's just a water heater.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The hybrid water heater in the link provided above looks interesting, but wouldn't that essentially provide air conditioning for my basement (which doesn't need it at any time of the year). It does look like an interesting device for people who live in warm climates and don't have the water heater in their basement. Unless I'm mising something here?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 14 May 2008 10:34:13 -0700 (PDT), zzyzzx

Generally speaking, most homes in New England have full basements and this is where the water heater is normally located; this area may be finished or unfinished and, by extension, conditioned or semi-conditioned. For roughly six months of the year, a HPWH would be pulling heat from the home when there is presumably at least some heating demand, while during the remaining six months it would provide free dehumidification and cooling.
That could be key. Living on the coast, I run my basement dehumidifier seemingly non-stop from May through September; otherwise, I run into serious issues with mould and mildew and musty odours. If a HPWH eliminated that demand by providing both hot water and "free" dehumidification, it would save me about 1,800 kWh/year (i.e., 150 days at an average of 12 kWh/day). So, in this case, not only would a HPWH cut my water heating costs in half, it would eliminated the second largest electrical load in my home after my heat pump.
With respect to winter operation, we should still come out ahead. Assuming the HPWH is located in a fully conditioned space that is heated by oil (arguably our worst case scenario), it would likely consume 10 to 12 kWh of space heating demand per day depending upon how much hot water is used. It then becomes a matter of comparing how much oil would be used by the OP's boiler or furnace to supply the heat subsequently taken away by the HPWH versus the amount of oil that would be needed to provide the same amount of hot water using a conventional, stand-alone tank. Most oil-fired boilers and furnaces have an AFUE of 75 to 85 per cent -- a conventional, stand-alone oil-fired water heater would have an EF of 0.50 to 0.55. Thus, to generate the same amount of hot water, an oil-fired boiler or furnace "feeding" a HPWH would consume about one-third less oil than what would be required to operate a stand-alone tank. Moreover, an oil-fired water heater would suck conditioned room air up the stack 24 hours a day whereas an electric or HPWH would not.
When you add it all up, a heat pump water heater makes a lot more sense, even when your electricity costs are almost double the national average.
Cheers, Paul
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Hi Paul, I have talked with my plumber/HVAC guy and canceled my order for the replacement Bock oil water heater - I'm going to convert over to electric water heat now. Question: what brands/models do you recommend? I know I should get a 9 or 12 year warranty one, but anything specific that you like brand wise? (50 gallon)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Get what has the best insulation and install thermal breaks on the water lines at the heater.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 15 May 2008 09:03:19 -0700 (PDT), Pauli G

Hi Pauli,
I'm not sure there's a lot of difference between one brand and the next -- I get the impression most are made by the same handful of manufacturers who just slap on the appropriate name as they come off the assembly line. For example, the Sears Kenmore model I brought home yesterday is made by State (I also heat my DHW with oil and this electric tank is a temporary stand-in until such time as I can get my hands on a GE HPWH).
If you think a HPWH makes sense, see if you can lease an electric water heater from your local utility during the interim -- some still offer this service but most have abandoned this practice which dates back to a time when electrical utilities were competing with gas to build load. If this option is available and you don't plan to keep the tank very long, it could save you some money provided you can terminate the lease without penalty.
That said, if you plan to buy your own tank, look for one with a high EF rating, preferably 0.93 or better. Also, check to see if your state and/or utility offers rebates or low-interest financing on high efficiency models (again, some do/some don't). With respect to warranty, find out who else in your neighbourhood has an electric tank and see how long they generally last; if you live in an area where tank life is cut short due to aggressive water, a longer warranty might make sense, but keep in mind that if it's pro-rated by years of service, it may not be worth a whole lot should your tank require replacement towards the latter part of the coverage.
Definately take a look at TOU rates if you think you can shift a reasonable amount of your electricity use to off-peak hours. Your electricity is particularly costly, so you could presumably save a good chunk of change without hopefully too much inconvenience. If you do decide to go this route, get a larger model (e.g., 80 gallon) so that you have sufficient capacity to ride through the peak periods.
Cheers, Paul
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

That makes a lot of sense. Buy a water heater now and then another one in two years.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 14 May 2008 06:43:24 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

It makes perfect sense if the OP has to replace his tank now and can't hold off for another two years. As noted, Connecticut's electricity rates are the second highest in North America and the payback on the second install could be as little as three years and possibly less if it qualifies for federal or state rebates/tax credits, low-interest financing, utility incentives and the like.
Additionally, if their local utility leases electric water heaters and the lease can be terminated at the end of two years without penalty, then the OP's out-of-pocket expenses could be even less.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Judging by these numbers put in an electric now and keep the oil unit as a tempering tank and backup.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Contact your electric company. They can give you the facts on the cost of operation. Note: Electric is less complex so there is less maintenance on them.

--
Joseph Meehan

Dia \'s Muire duit
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.