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?
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.
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
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
http://www.geappliances.com/video_launcher.htm?emcid 44&empidI23&packageid 00
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).
oil recovery is much better than electric, another option may be
heres a comparison chart of water heating costs, but with oil up in
price so much its likely out of date
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
On Wed, 14 May 2008 05:37:38 -0700 (PDT), " firstname.lastname@example.org"
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
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.
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.
much electric is generated by natural gas and oil, they all tend to be
lck stepped together, although currently oil is running ahead cost
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
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.
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?
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
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)
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.
On Wed, 14 May 2008 06:43:24 -0700 (PDT), email@example.com 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.
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