Just bought a house in CT and am navigating options (my first house).
The house has an oil tank (which I find hard to wrap my head around,
I'm from CA and we didnt have oil tanks) which works fine, though it
has been patched and the inspector told me it could not be insured as
a result. So it got my mind to thinking about the options and I
realized I had no experience to even begin to have an opinion, so here
I am. Here are the facts:
-- Stamford, CT house built in 1925
-- gas lines run into basement but not used
-- oil tank and boiler (not sure of boiler age, I'm thinking not that
new but not too old)
-- radiators in each room
-- electric appliances (but would love gas one day)
-- no central a/c (would love that one day too)
I'd like to know what scenario would make the most sense if I want to
be economical in the long run. Here are my questions if anyone is
interested / can help:
-- If we put in central air, would it require gas or is electric
-- if C/A requres gas, does that mean the heat should be gas as well?
I prefer radiator heat, but is it lame to have a sep. system for
cooling and heating? (oil heat and gas a/c)
-- can you run radiators with gas (vs. oil)? seems inefficient
-- given that we dont like it too warm (60-65) and are happy to heat
only those rooms as we need them, is there an electric-based option
that saves money (short of portable space heaters)?
Lastly, anyone from the area able to comment about price of oil vs.
gas vs. electric?
I really appreciate any commentary -- I see other entries along these
lines but some are old and some are not from the Northeast. thanks!
On Mon, 19 May 2008 07:03:30 -0700 (PDT), Dairy Godmother
As per your previous thread, if you already have gas to the outside of
this home and you must replace the oil tank because it cannot be
insured, then now is a great time to make the switch to gas.
From what you've described here and elsewhere, you have a hot water
heating system, so to install central air requires that you run duct
work throughout your home. That's likely to be costly and potentially
messy work in an older home such as this. If you want air
conditioning, you might consider going with one or more ductless heat
pumps [or, alternatively, a multi-zone model], also known as
If you're not familiar with this technology, here are a couple
brochures to get you started:
They provide both air conditioning and economical heat even in CT
where electricity sells for $0.16 to $0.18 per kWh. How economical?
At today's prices, as little as one-half to one-third the cost of home
Bear in mind no one knows how much oil, gas or electricity will cost
five, ten or twenty years from now. As I said before, a lot has
changed in just the past two years alone. Your *ONLY* safe bet is to
insulate and air seal this home to the greatest extent possible so
that regardless of whichever fuel you use, you'll be using very
I have oil heat (sticking with it since we don't get gas here; I'd have to do
another tank), but in that scenario I'd probably go with the gas. For one
thing, I haven't seen any oil-fired inline water heaters. Unless someone here
can point me to one..
For a general overview on water heating options, click on the "Hot
Water Answers" link here:
And although the pricing data may not be relevant to you, this table
could still be of some interest:
I don't know of any myself. I'm familiar with direct-fired natural
gas and propane units such as this:
but none made for oil. Perhaps the market is deemed too small for a
low-volume product like this (and with home heating oil selling at
$4.25+ a gallon, it's likely to contract a whole lot further).
I don't know about that - there's a huge installed base of oil-fired furnaces
and boilers, especially here in the northeast US, many (like mine) in places
without gas service. Plus, gas and oil have a history of see-sawing as far as
prices. There's lots of people around to tell woes of converting one way or the
other based on then-current prices, only to be burned.
Since these are reputed to be so efficiant, the oil prices should have customers
No one in this discussion has mentioned the current price of oil ,
$3.60 / gallon/140,000 btus
vs gas which is now $1.30/therm/100,00 btus. The cost per therm of oil
right now is twice the cost per therm of gas in my area. One solution
is run the oil tank dry. Then check the prices of oil vs gas. If there
is still a great discrepancy and the boiler is in good shape, then
replace the oil burner with a conversion gas burner. It is a quick
job(I am told about 2 hours) if the gas pipe is nearby. BTW the cost
of this burner is around $850.
Looking at the latest DOE figures for Y2005, nationally, 7.7 million
out of a total of 111.1 million households use oil; that's less than 7
per cent. New England is the notable exception, where 6.2 million of
the 20.6 million homes in this region are heated with oil (30 per
In 2001, there were 8.7 million homes in the U.S. that were oil
heated, of which 6.6 million were located in the northeast. That
means one million U.S. homes converted to some other fuel in the span
of that four year period alone -- 400,000 in the New England area.
Given the rapid run up in fuel oil prices since 2005, I'd expect that
trend to accelerate further. The residential fuel oil market is
imploding as we speak.
Do you have to replace your boiler at this time? At 18 years, a good
quality boiler should still have plenty of life left in it.
I've talked about ductless heat pumps throughout this thread. You
might consider one as a secondary heat source, especially if the a/c
benefits enhance the overall picture (the Fujitsu 12RLQ has a SEER
rating of 21, btw).
There are other options such as electric or propane but I can't see
either being more cost effective and even if they were somewhat
cheaper per BTU, it would hardly justify the cost of swapping out what
you have now if your current heating system is relatively efficient
and in good working order.
My recommendation, if your primary objective is to reduce your home
heating costs is to keep what you have now and add one or more
ductless heat pumps as a secondary heat source. As noted, the
operating costs are considerably less than that of oil and you gain
the benefits of a/c.
Well, I have pretty much decided already to sit on my oil fired Burnham and
tankless coil system for awhile (windows have been replaced and some insulation
work has been done, too!).
But the question that bugs me is - if the boiler gives out and I have to make a
decision regarding a primary heat source tomorrow (no, let's say, January 18
2009 ;-), what would be the best way to go.
I don't think anyone can accurately predict what will happen in the
energy marketplace, one, five or ten years from now but I can tell you
that I'm in meetings this week with a senior representative from a
major New England utility and he's painting a rather bleak picture and
from what he's been telling us, his fears appear to be well founded.
I don't say this lightly, but if you haven't already taken steps to
make your home more energy efficient and to reduce your personal
energy needs to the greatest extent possible, I strongly advise you to
do so now.
Well, OK, of course. Which makes me glad (if I weren't glad enough already)
that I've tightened up the house with new Marvin windows and added insulation
where it was found to be lacking.
But what I'm trying to get at is - should I be ready to make a conversion from
oil should my boiler go, or is propane (I'd have to have a propane tank) and
electric going to follow oil anyway?
FWIW, the previous owners of my home used some 5,700 litres (1,505
gallons) of heating oil a year for space heating and domestic hot
water purposes and with various thermal upgrades plus the addition of
a ductless heat pump, I was able to get that down to 700 litres last
year. Now, with a small electric water heater pre-feeding my boiler's
indirect tank, that number should drop to perhaps something in the
range of 250 litres (66 gallons). When you get your consumption down
to this level the price of fuel oil could double or triple overnight
and your out-of-pocket expenses are still minimal. Had I done nothing
at all, today, I'd be paying over $7,000.00 a year to heat my home; as
it stands now, I pay less than $700.00 and our winters are
significantly colder than those of Buffalo, NY.
If money were no object and you wanted to stick with a central heating
system, then a ground source heat pump would likely be your best bet.
However, at the end of the day, one or two ultra high-efficiency
Fujitsu 12RLQ ductless heat pumps could reduce your home heating costs
by almost as much but, in this case, your upfront costs would be
substantially lower and the money you save could be used to pay for
additional upgrades to your home's thermal envelope. To me, this is a
more sensible way to go.
BTW, crude oil is currently trading at $134.75 a barrel and the Nymex
heating oil futures price is $3.96 a gallon. Retail is normally
another $0.60 to $0.75 above that so, as of now, residential fuel oil
would be priced at $4.60 to $4.70 a gallon. You should expect to pay
**at least** $5.00 by this fall and perhaps $6.00 if things continue
at their current pace. So for a homeowner who uses an average of
1,000 gallons a year, budget $5,000.00 to $6,000.00 just to be safe
(the cost to fill a 275 gallon tank that's roughly 1/4 full could be
I'm trying hard not to be alarmist, but when I say I'm being told the
situation in New England this coming winter will be bleak I mean this
in the truest sense of the word.
I'll look into the heat pump - I take it it greatly raises the efficiency of
circulation. For my primary, should it go, maybe I should go for the downsized
indirect tank system but stick with oil as other fuel options aren't great
either. And emphasize conservation. As in the end the only real way to address
One thought I had when backing out of the System 2000 (other than getting a
stong feeling I should rethink everything, and that I had time to do so) was
that the $$$ could better be put into a few more things, like replacing certain
My house isn't particularly well situated for solar (north side of a hill, with
the major roof surfaces facing east and west), but maybe there's something I
could do there too.
Crude oil hit $135.09 yesterday and is trading this morning slightly
lower ($132.27). However, heating oil futures are now $3.991 a gallon
so, again, based on normal margins, we should expect to pay between
$4.60 to $4.75 a gallon retail. Due to a growing world-wide demand
for distillates, that will most likely pass the $5.00 mark within the
next few weeks. [Looking at this week's numbers, U.S. distillate
inventories, which includes both heating oil and diesel came in
800,000 barrels below analyst expectations.]
So, again, homeowners who heat with oil will be in for a shock when
their tanks are topped up this fall. Best get consumption down now or
you will pay dearly in the months ahead.
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