First time post for this guy...
I am in need of some advice.
I live in the Northeast and am pondering the idea of re-tooling the
mechanicals in the house. I now have an oil fired furnace for hot-water
base board heat and domestic hot water. I go through roughly 1,200 gallons
of heating oil in a 12 month period (2,600 sq ft home).
I have done some research on the "point of use" HW heaters and am
considering an electric type. I'd need to upgrade the electric service to
200 amp in order to do this ($1,500 - $2,000) plus the cost of the unit
(approx. $650 for one sized to accommodate the whole house). Or should I
switch to propane across the board? I have ample room for a couple of gas
tanks/bottles in the back yard and it would be nice to cook with gas again.
Does anyone have any experience with a switch from oil to propane? Am I
headed in the wrong direction $$-wise? I've heard that some propane
suppliers in the area will subsidize the cost of the equipment in order to
get the gas sales - has anyone else heard of such a thing?
Thank you all for any help you can give
Add: @sbcglobal.net for my e-mail address
My house is all electric, so I can't help a lot. The only
way to compare costs is to find out how much it costs for
each type of fuel to heat the same volume of water 1 degree.
That will tell which one is the most expensive to use. Add
in conversion costs and replacement units from time to time
(i.e. electric water heaters every x years) and you will
have an idea of what you are going to be paying over the
long run. Most fuel costs follow oil sooner or later,
especially propane, so don't expect a miracle price anywhere.
If, by a "point of use" HW heater, you are referring to an
in-line type that heats the water as it is being drawn, I
have been told that they don't work all that well if the
incoming water temperature is below a certain temperature
(maybe 50-55 deg F.) which may be the case for you in the NE
(US, I presume) at least in the winter. I'm in Quebec and my
plumber said to stay away from them and I think that my
brother in Nova Scotia had one years ago and he took it out.
Things may have changed so ask lots of questions.
A) Install a $220 electric hot water heater -- leave the old oil heater
in as well but turn it off.
B) Buy half a dozen $10 15A electric space heaters from Wal*Mart.
Your total equipment cost is only $280 or so. Only heat the rooms you
are using when you are in them. If oil prices ever go back down, or
electric shoots up, switch back to your oil fired unit.
Hope this helps,
PS: If you are determined to spend a lot of money and embark on a large
project look into a geothermal heat pump. The up-front cost is high
but the incremental cost per BTU is less than Electric resistance heat,
Oil, or Propane.
In addition to the responses you've received here, you might also want
to check out the following discussion on the alt.energy.homepower
And as others have indicated, a tankless electric water heater is
unlikely to provide you with good performance when your inlet
temperature is just this side of freezing. From my own first-hand
experience, I think they're a horrible idea.
On Sat, 13 May 2006 12:53:23 GMT, "FrankO"
Calculate your cost per Btu of each. For me in the midwest electric is
50% or so more than Ng. Your local price delivered will be different for
each. I would expect electric to cost you the most probably rulling it
out. You can get higher efficiency gas boilers and tankless water
heaters then oil will provide, you like gas cooking, I would expect a
gas dryer and all apliances to save you the most.
Thanks all for the responses. BTW - Northeast US - Connecticut, USA to be
exact. Sorry for being so ethnocentric as to think that the whole world
know what I meant. I'm a dumb American.
Has anyone converted from oil to propane?
I guess I'm just wondering if, let's say someone has already done a
conversion - did their bottom line heat bill increased or decreased from the
Also, thanks for the feed back in "point of use" HW heaters. I've always
suspected the electric models because of the thermal transfer
characteristics of the electric heating elements to the actual potable water
supply. Has anyone used the gas models? I understand the thermal transfer
rates are better with gas fired unit (that's what THEY say anyhow).
Again, thanks for all the responses.
for my e-mail address
I didn't really want to get into the point-of-use hot water heater
debate but now I feel compelled. The truth is that electric
point-of-use hot water heaters work GREAT! but everyone purchases
undersized units with not enough degrees of temp rise so they are all
unhappy. The manufactures are probably partly to blame because they
know an appropriately sized unit may be cost prohibitive for many
buyers so they try to make believe that you can get away with less.
Don't shy away from them because they don't work --- they do work quite
well, shy away from them because of the cost and if you do buy them
don't skimp on the specs.
Hope this helps,
HW point of use will REQUIRE large electric supply upgrade, a electric
unit to supply just one fixture at a time like a single shower with
cold incoming water requires 200 amps just for the heater. So figure 2
brand new breaker boxes one for everything else and one just for
heating water.:( With new meter can and service drop:( cost probably 2
or 3 thousand.
Electrical point of use CANT support more than ONE fixture at a time...
I have a friend like you. He has oil for home heat and recently
upgraded to a brand new oil furnace. he added propane for cooking. oil
heat has one major advantage, you can get a couple huge tanks and buy
at off seasons lower price and your fuel supply is secure for the year.
with low conneticut winter temps a electric heat pump isnt a good idea,
when its really cold you will be electrical resistance heat... thats
unless you go to a ground source heat pump, payback will be a long
I would investigate a NEW oil furnace go propane for cooking. the oil
hot water supply has great recovery a electric hot water heater will
never match. propane hot water tank is a option.
Have you completely insulated your home and had it tested for air
if your current furnace vents to a chimney its like having a window
a high efficenvcy oil furnace is likely your best option..
I'm going to throw some in here. A customer recently had a tankless gas WH
installed in her house. (We didn't do it) The installed cost of the unit
was about $3,500 USD. Now, I have no clue what the life expectancy of that
tankless is but I think you can buy AND run a lot of tank types for the same
money for the time period.
Another thought is to remind you that you have to have a minimum flow (3/4
GPM?) to activate that burner.
I would be surprised if you saved any money converting from oil to
propane, unless your existing oil-fired boiler is an older, less
efficient model and due for replacement. Do you happen to know its
efficiency rating by chance?
I use propane for my dryer, range, fireplaces and BBQ by way of a
quick-disconnect hook-up. It would have been simple (and in many ways
preferable) to run my boiler on propane as well, except that the cost
of propane here in Nova Scotia is almost double that of oil on a BTU
basis. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but if I had the panel
capacity, I would be inclined to install a small electric boiler as
backup to the heat pump and be done with it; my heat load is so modest
now the extra premium is hardly worth worrying about and I could
eliminate the need for one more fuel storage tank.
On Sat, 13 May 2006 23:40:34 GMT, "FrankO"
You don't have a furnace, you have a boiler. Not to be picky, but when you
are talking to the pros and suppliers you want to be correct.
Cooking with propane is good. Maybe eventhe hbot water, but for heating, it
will be expensive. Propane is an oil derivative and usually more expensive
Many utilities will subsidize at times, but you still pay in the end. Do
some careful cost comparisons for the heat content of the 1200 gallons of
oil at whatever efficiency your boiler is now. Most are in the 75% to 80%
range. If you had it cleaned, the service tech may have left a slip on the
heater with that information on it.
First- Have a survey done and see how much you can reduce that
consumption by tightening up your house. [that doesn't sound too bad-
but there are bound to be improvements you can make that will have a
quicker payback than new heating equipment] Windows, insulation,
storm doors, passive solar. It's a good year to do this as there are
federal rebates for a lot of energy related improvements. [check your
I haven't looked at electric heaters- but the feasability of them
depends entirely on who you are buying electricity from. Also-- If
I were paying that much to upgrade my electric service, I'd go to a
300 amp service.
I haven't switched, but 8yrs or so ago I began to supplement my oil &
hot air furnace with a propane ventless stove. [my water, dryer, and
range are LP, too] This year the oil cost more than the propane per
gallon-- but the propane is usually a bit more. I use about
4-500 gallons of each. If propane got too high my oil furnace is
sized big enough to take care of the whole house. If oil gets too
high, I could probably make the space heater work harder-- or add
another. In 6-7 yrs, though, they have stayed pretty close.
Also, at the beginning of the winter, electricity was looking real
good- but Niagara Mohawk was taken over by National Grid. The
'price per KWh' reported on the bill has gone down each month-- but
the 'delivery costs' and assorted fees has gone up more than enough to
make up for it. So now, electricity with a *real cost* of about
11cents last fall is now 16.
I had a company *give* me a domestic water heater provided I bought
from them for 2 yrs. When they let me run out of propane twice, I
called another supplier & found out I was paying *way* too much from
the old supplier. [that was several years ago & though the original
guys came and got their tank, they still haven't asked for their
I hear ads running all the time from the oil heat companies, claiming
that it has been the most cost effective over the last decade compared
to gas. That may have changed now that oil has spiked up, but gas has
gone way up too. A web search should be able to turn up some
historical cost data for both. I'd also ask neighbors what their
experience has been.
My gut feel is there is not enough operating cost advantage or
certainty in this to switch from one to the other. If you have an old
inefficient boiler, then replacing it might make sense, but you have to
do the math to see the payback.
As for the on demand electric hot water heater, forget it. Someone
earlier said that they are frequently undersized because manufacturers
don't make it clear how large of a unit they need. And someone else
pointed out why. To support a decent flow rate or multiple
simultaneous uses would require the entire electric service capacity of
most homes. Figure out how much it cost to upgrade and you can forget
it for general use. They can make sense for special apps.
If you like gas to cook, one possiblity would be to go with it for
that. And you might want to consider gas for hot water. Not sure of
the efficiencies of using a boiler for hot water vs a std gas water
heater, but the water heater might win, especially in months when the
boiler would not otherwise be used. Or you could also go with an on
demand gas water heater.
You cannot justify the cost of upgrading your service just for a
point-of-use water heater. You need to find other reasons. When I
upgraded to 200A many years ago it was for a heat pump with natural gas
suppliment. In this tread someone mentioned a geothermal unit. You
might be a candidate since you have some land. The capital cost is high
but operating is cheap. You probably should still consider a backup
heat source though.
I had a look at my electric bill. It says generation charges at .03835
per KWH. With the rest of the charges which are a combination of fixed
and variable brings the rate to about .07.
I have no idea of the size of your house, but a $650 electric HW heater
does not strike me as being large enough unless you are paying wholesale.
I like propane for spot uses, but it costs more than both electricity
and NG to heat a house. My preference is oil.
If you go electric, and have variable rates, then you're better off
with a storage tank than an on-demand heater, because you gain more
in off-peak energy costs than you loose to cooling in the tank.
Esp. if the tank is inside the heated building envelope.
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