Just as a plane crash that kills four people halfway across the country
makes the news, but in your state today and most every day, that many people
are killed in auto accidents. and it is rarely mentioned. Gas explosions
are really rare, but oil leaks just don't make the news. They are not "crown
pleasers" like the more rare happenings.
A fellow I work with had the tubing from tank to heater broken and about 20
gallons spilled. Cause was trace to stupidity of one of his kids. Cost of
cleanup was about $8000. Never made the news.
Pete has posted some good information on this newsgroup and is a very
knowledgeable person. He also seems to have an un-natural fear of gas
though. I respect his opinions and ability, but on this subject he is over
reacting against gas.
First off, the incident was a result of criminal activity, not of a
problem with the tank/furnace. It does not get counted for the same
reason that recent gas explosion / arson / suicide in NYC does not get
Secondly there is not enough information in the above story. How was the
insurance company able to weasel out of covering damages resulting from
a criminal act committed against the homeowner? They would be covering
in the case of a burglary, arson, etc. Also why was there no additional
source of assistance like a crime victims compensation fund?
That is also not counted because it is not in any way a failure of and
oil tank or furnace. The fill pipes should have been removed and are
required to be removed or at the very least capped on both ends by most
Nope, since I always insure my equipment is properly maintained, I look
at the risks from that properly maintained equipment and with gas that
risk is greater.
Explain how big oil isn't a monopopy. They are all in lock step with
each other. Most people who use gas tend to use it for hot water,
cooking and clothes drying so you tend to use it year round.
is subject to outages and is far
Who all have to buy from the same source yielding little difference in
you have an on-site fuel supply that is not subject to outages
No outage here in 35 years.
A natural gas furnace is already "green" since it isn't a petroleum product.
Actually, the major oil companies are clearly not monopolies. A
monopoly requires one single supplier. In the case of the major oil
companies, you have at least five. OPEC, a key component of the
equation is an oligopoly. But clearly this whole argument against nat
gas heat is all based on emotion, rather than fact. The price of
heating oil varies. The price of nat gas varies. Over the past, in my
experience, they have been similar enough in their total cost that it's
not a major difference.
I've asked several times where Pete lives that he thinks nat gas
interruption is a big concern. It obviously isn't for 95% of us who
use it. I've had nat gas service for 25+ years, that has never gone
out once. I live in central NJ, 50 miles from NYC. But I've sure had
electricity go out. And it;s the nature of the two systems that's key.
An underground piped system is immune from much of what can halt
electric service. A thrunderstorm, snow storm, car hitting a pole,
all are common electric system weak points, that gas generally is
immune from. Again, when you put this in perspective, the gas outtage
thing is another red herring.
If oil is so much better, why do only 4% of new homes use oil heat?
Yeah, it;s like arguing the size of an ant to the size of a mosquito.
Look at how many people actually die from a fall. It's orders of
magnitude larger. Should we get rid of bathtubs and tile floors too?
That isn;t true, as gas furnaces generate CO2, which is the hottest
environmental issue of the moment. But, oil generates not only that,
but also NO, sulfur emissions, etc.
There is definitely some regional bias involved. Historically, the US east coast
has used fuel oil for heat, so there tends to be a "this is how we've always
done it, so it must be right" mentality going on.
20+ years ago, oil was substantially more expensive than natural gas. The east
coast didn't have the supply infrastructure to distribute natural gas, so few
could take advantage of that differential.
With all the EPA restrictions on new power plants, utilities built gas fired
plants which sucked up most of the surplus gas and drove natural gas prices up
closer to fuel oil.
ConnocoPhillips has an interesting article with graphics that shows price
differences over the past 5 years:
This graph is VERY VERY telling.
It says that in all but two of the last 6 heating seasons, it has been
CHEAPER to heat with Natural gas and in the two exception years, they
were very very close to equal cost.
So the choice in heating systems is LARGELY dictated by where you live,
NOT what costs more. Northeast states consume 70% of heating oil.
Choices there are heating oil or electricity with minor contributions
from other sources. But only 1/3 of residences there have oil heat. The
rest of the country, its either gas (natural gas via pipleine, or
propane in tanks on your property) or electricity.
Safety is not the issue, cost is not the issue, its what your neighbors
use and what choices you have for heating fuel. To argue with someone
in Pennsylvania or New York that natural gas is the fuel of choice is
fool hardy. To argue with someone in Kansas that fuel oil is the fuel
of choice is similarly fool hardy. Outside the northeast, the
infrastructure to support fuel oil for heat is lacking. In the
northeast, natural gas distribution is spotty at best.
So this discussion needs to STOP. Each person who is faced with a
decision on a furnace will rely on personal experience, the advice of
one or more HVAC contractors, the advice of friends and neighbors..
What we say here is heavily influenced by where we live and what we are
used to. There is no single RIGHT answer that applies to everyone.
Agree, maybe I should have said "monopolistic behavior". But they are
all joined at the waist. My buddy works in an energy commodity business
and says behind the scenes they are all in lock step with each other
just as we see at the gas stations where "something may possibly happen
somewhere" and they all raise their prices.
In the case of the major oil
Exactly, there are pros and cons and it is typicallu a wash.
Completely false. This argument against nat. gas is based on facts about
it's safety, reliability, cleanliness and the service life of the
equipment. I have ignored price per BTU since that is constantly in
Price is the only argument made in favor of nat. gas that has even short
term validity. All other arguments in favor of nat. gas have been based
on either myths, or comparisons of brand new gas equipment to 50yr old
And I've mentioned several times that I'm referring to the northeast.
It's CT in particular where I lived for 36 years before moving a couple
Indeed I did as well and when it did I simply started my generator and
went back about my normal business without more that a few minutes
You are ignoring the fact that it is possible and economical to provide
backup for the electricity, something that is not possible with the gas.
Additionally time to repair a damaged electric line is significantly
less than time to repair a damaged gas line in most cases. You also
don't have to spend additional time purging a repaired electric line
before returning it to service as you do with a repaired gas line.
Tell that to the folks who lived within 10 miles of me that had to spend
several days in a shelter due to a gas outage.
1) Consumer ignorance - Believing nat. gas somehow avoids buying foreign
energy. They apparently are not aware of the LNG super tankers
delivering foreign LNG just like oil tankers delivering foreign oil.
Both nat. gas and oil are produced in the US and both are also imported
from foreign sources.
2) Marketing - Some deceptive as in the case of the short lived "safe"
in one gas suppliers advertising. Deceptive price comparisons that do
not account for service charges during periods of no use. Deceptive
claims of reliability of oil fired equipment. Deceptive claims about the
cleanliness of oil burners. Deceptive comparisons of "upgrade" costs to
low end gas equipment with service lives in single digit years.
I'll also note that that market share is rather slanted to southern
1) There are minimal heating requirements which means consumers can get
low end gas systems to last longer.
2) Gas companies cover larger service areas in large part due to lower
installation costs vs. the northern states with more rock to cut and
3) Gas companies market more since they generate more profits from
service charges during the long hot months where they have to supply
4) The southern states have been having a huge housing boom as a whole
due to lower construction costs and most tract housing gets gas systems
not because they are better in any way, but simply because the cheapest
low service life units available are in gas which means more profits for
the developers and replacement costs for the consumer a short time down
Do we have viable alternatives to bathtubs and tile floors? When there
is a viable alternative to a potentially dangerous item it is worthwhile
to consider them.
In the case of bathtubs and tile floors however there are patches
available such as non slip mats that can overcome their safety issues.
Equivalent safety patches are not available for nat. gas though CO and
explosive gas detectors do help.
Again safety is only one part of the argument against nat. gas.
Yeah. Decades of living with natural gas and never one service interuption.
unreliable. Houses are just blowing up all over the place that have natural gas
too. I guess everyone is keeping that a big secret from the home insurance
companies. Service life? My furnace has a lifetime warranty on the heat
exchanger. How many oil furnaces have that? The blower of course will die
but I believe oil furnaces have a blower too.
You mean your argument. A FUD one at that.
That's nonsense. Where do you come up with this crap, now you are claiming "50
old oil equipment" comparisons. Compare an average highest efficiency gas
with an average highest effiency oil furnace. Which is more efficient and wastes
the least amount of energy so that it can heat your house instead?
How many gas interruptions did your neighorhood have in Connecticut?
Good for you.
Are you nuts? You have never heard of automatic standby generators connected to
gas line? If your electric service is crappy enough to warrant it, that's the
to go. No fuel to have to worry about storing and engines last a long time with
nat. gas, maintenance is very low too.
Purging a gas line takes seconds or minutes.
When was that? Where was that? What was the cause?
A lifetime warrantee on one component is not necessarily a good thing if
you keep replacing the components around it.
That mid range Weil-McLain WTGO4 boiler I just had installed in my
mother's place has a comparable warrantee:
"Limited Lifetime Warranty
Covers cast iron sections. "
Efficiency isn't everything. If the 8% more efficient gas furnace saves
me $200 in fuel during a heavy heating season, but subjects me to a gas
outage that I have no way to provide backup for which cause $1,000 in
damage due to frozen pipes (neglecting the fact that I know to drain the
pipes, most people don't).
My immediate neighborhood did not have gas service, guess the gas
company didn't want to spend months of blasting to install lines.
The neighborhoods within 10 miles of me that did have gas service had at
least a couple outages per year that I heard of and since I was not
there to personally count them probably several more per year that got
little press. Multiply that times 36 years and compare to the same 36
years of flawless oil service.
Yep. Better to be prepared than screwed. Almost like a boy scout, except
I was never a scout.
You misread that statement. I said it is possible and practical to
provide backup for electric service. It is not possible or practical to
provide backup for gas service.
Providing backup for gas service in a residential setting would require
a redundant backup furnace or boiler fired by an alternate fuel like oil
Wood fired boilers are becoming popular in the northeast, but as primary
sources, not backup for the most part. Some commercial sized burners are
available in dual fuel (oil / gas) though and can switch between fuels
at any time.
For lines inside a home, not for the distribution lines in a
Somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago. In CT, I believe in the Avon /
Simsbury area. I think it was a gas line rupture, not a dig up or
anything. Should be somewhere in the Hartford Courant archives if you
want to look.
Well the warranty gives some sort of an indication of how long things are
last. And if one thing is going to last a damned long time, I'd want it to be
exchanger, which is what separates my house air from my combustion exhaust.
And what is the efficiency of that unit again?
There you go with the claims of all those gas outages again. With so many
makes me wonder how all of those explosions can any gas to blow up.
Well if that was true, I wouldn't want gas service in that neighborhood either,
wonder how long it took them to switch. To anything.
True. Fortunately that is not really necessary.
I would hazard to guess that the "popular" percentage is still quite a bit lower
which is the percentage that you said is "not significant" for oil generation in
Wouldn't know. Never needed to be purged since it was up and running. Maybe
out some day if maintenance is needed on the pipeline, like water pipes.
Well if that ever happens to me, I'll expect I'll heat my house with electric
heat for a
few days. Or maybe just keep the wood stove working overtime. But it's good to
they could just move right back into their house, no long lived $$$
environmental clean up
What does efficiency have to do with the lifetime heat exchanger
warranty you were crowing about?
Etc. No shortage of gas outage reports.
That's my point. If you are in a pretty urban area gas is probably
fairly reliable. Out in suburban pushing rural areas and particularly
long established area vs. new developments gas service can be fairly
I suppose not really necessary if you enjoy spending a few nights in a
shelter with a hundred other people and don't mind repairing frozen
Correct, wood boilers are probably in the low single digits at this
point. Due in large part to their applicability to large heavily wooded
lots where you can log your own fuel.
Right. Some of the articles noted above give an idea of how long it
takes to get the lines purged and get everyone's pilots lit again.
Why would you have a long cleanup if you ran out of oil, the equivalent
of a gas outage? The closest equivalent to an oil leak that would
require cleanup would be a gas explosion.
Do a search for rail car derailments that spill petroleum products
including fuel oil and you find a big collection too, spanning the last
5 years as these stories do.
Dp a search for oil pipeline breaks/leaks and you can find several of
This is LIFE, SH?T happens from time to time, and there are NO
guarantees for ANYTHING.
Heating water with oil is not problem free. Equipment must be
maintained and inspected. Leaks must be dealt with, leaks that can
contaminate the land to the point that the property may not ever be
sold, except to the town, and at a BIG loss. Spot shortages can develop
due to several factors, and yes, diesel fuel is a backup.
Unreliable gas service, in my opinion is MUCH more likely to exist in
OLD neighborhoods where the piping has been underground for a long time,
access to the piping is difficult and expensive due to roads and
buildings built over the distribution lines after the piping was installed.
In a new development, by definition, everything is new. Only ongoing
construction in the area is a risk, but even then the construction crews
KNOW where the gas lines are buried. Spotty or unreliable gas service
I suggest that the majority of gas service interruptions are caused by
work crews who dig where they are not supposed to, and water lines that
are too close to the frost line.
Rail derailments and pipeline ruptures do not happen in my basement or
threaten to kill me. Not a good comparison.
I never said it was problem free, indeed I indicated that both oil and
gas burners require annual service. Oil is safer and more reliable than
gas. However low the incident probability is overall the probability is
lower for oil than gas.
That certainly is a factor. Remember that apartment building in I think
NJ that was cut in half by a pipeline explosion under it perhaps 8 years
For now. Give it some years and it will become unreliable. Oil service
does not have that built in degradation.
Many are, others are the delayed result of improper pipeline
installation or damage to the pipeline during installation. I hear of
one pipeline rupture on a high pressure pipeline that was traced to a
slight nick on the pipe from a backhoe tooth. It did just fine for a
number of years before finally failing in the middle of winter.
But again, none of those problems affect oil service. A crew digging
down the street or a water main break down the street will not affect
the oil supply in your basement.
Yeah, it's just happening all over. Gosh why haven't the insurance companies
figured out that natural gas heated houses burn down so much more? Why aren't
they as enlightened as you?
I live in a suburban/rural area and I have gas. "Not reliable" to you is never
having an outage in *DECADES* to me.
Huh? Shelter with a hundred other people? Sorry dude, never happened. No
Uh huh. So your point?
Yeah, since pipes need replacing like every year I guess, and they always do
that maintenance in the middle of the winter, that's a real concern!
No an explosion or fire of any type would be a disaster.
figured out that natural gas heated houses burn down so much more? Why aren't
they as enlightened as you?
Because the total number is low enough not to bother them. That does not
in any way invalidate the relative difference in safety between oil and
Different areas have different reliability. If your gas lines were
installed fairly recently or your gas company is particularly good about
replacing older lines you're lucky. Not everyone has such luck.
Never happened to you perhaps. I most certainly did happen to people
The point was noting the relative impracticality of providing backup for
unreliable gas service.
The outages aren't often related to maintenance, they are typically
unscheduled emergency events. You do bring up the additional point that
even scheduled maintenance can cause gas outages though you at least get
a few days warning.
Right, but that has no bearing on the multi day gas outage I referenced.
The houses were temporarily uninhabitable because the gas service failed
and there was no backup for it. No idea how much damage from frozen
pipes also resulted, probably a good amount since not many people know
how to drain the pipes before leaving.
85% according to the web site
But keep in mind, this thing heats water that get circulated to
radiators in each room, and or to radiant flooring. This is a boiler,
not the same as a gas fired forced air heater. Wall thickness in the
heat exchanger is much higher as a result of immersion in water, and
this also lowers efficiency. But 85% is nothing to sneeze at, pretty
Someone with radiant heat will always stick with radiant heat. Switching
to forced air is very expensive. The installation disrupts the house
enormously while the vents are installed and radiators removed. In 90+%
of cases, a faulty boiler will be replaced with a similar product.
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