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By ana (Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 10:57:56 AM EST) ask husi, oil vs gas heat, planets! (all tags)
Oil vs. Gas heat.

So we're in the position of having an oil-fired boiler that runs the hot-water heating in our house. It's getting old, and less efficient, and it may be about time to replace it. I think. We already have gas in the house, running the water heater, the stove (both cooktop and oven) and the dryer.

For those of you not in the northeastern US, a home oil heat setup consists of a furnace, fed by oil from a tank elsewhere in the basement. It's essentially diesel fuel, but there's some kind of a dye in it. It's taxed differently (like, not at all, I think) so it's illegal to use it in a vehicle, and they need to be able to identify untaxed oil. Anyway, I think our oil tank holds 200 gallons, so at recent prices it's a bit of a stretch to pay to have it filled.

Anyway, one presumes there are differences between oil and gas heat. The prices both fluctuate wildly, so I'm not too concerned about that unless there's a systematic, long-term, advantage to one or the other. If one is more efficient, or substantially cleaner than the other, or requires less equipment maintenence or makes less corrosive exhaust, I'd be interested in hearing about it. Alas, my google-fu has failed me, finding only some very anecdotal, non-technical, homeowner experience kinds of things. And a bunch of advertising.

Oh, and I'm also trying to get a guy who made an estimate for replacing the shingles on our roof to return my calls so we can get started on this.

And then there's the hood over the stove, which presumably will bring an electrician into the house, and we'll have to get the electrics up to code.

Also in today's (well, tomorrow's) news: The first direct images of extra-solar planets. Where "first" means, essentially, the first ones most scientists will actually believe.

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Ask Husi, etc. | 36 comments (36 topical, 4 hidden)
Bah by duxup (4.00 / 1) #1 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:02:38 AM EST
Until they get cool pics I say stick with artist's renderings of the planet with some poorly done photo shopping of Spock's head pasted in front.

Only anecdotal.. by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:15:54 AM EST
Gas, if you believe that texan guy (Pickins) pushing for natural gas vehicles, has a great domestic supply. Thus should be cheaper in the long run.

I can't remember if the 98% (or 95, or something close to 100%) efficient furnaces of various friends living in colder climes are gas or oil. Those friends(family) are huge greenies, so assume it's good.

I figure, if the exhaust pipe is regular PVC pipe from lowes, going out slightly inclined horizontal, it can't be too bad..  It's PVC because the gasses aren't hot -- that's how it's 98% efficient -- sucks all the heat out, so the gas isn't warm enough to melt the pipe.

Plus by miker2 (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 12:17:09 PM EST
Most gas companies allow you to pay the same rate year round vs having to hand over $1000+ each time you get your oil tank filled.  This was the main reason my dad's girlfriend converted to gas, easier to plan and budget around a set price.

[ Parent ]
It's not hype by jayhawk88 (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 01:47:14 PM EST
There are all kinds of natural gas wells in the midwest that were allowed to just sit dormant for the better part of the 80's and 90's because it wasn't economical to run them. Lately they've been firing them up again, and even drilling new wells.

[ Parent ]
With gas, you might be able by Herring (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:23:36 AM EST
to get something like this. It's micro-CHP essentially so you get free electricity when you heat your water.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

I have that. by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:34:20 AM EST
Well, actually, I don't. What I do have is a largish communal boiler serving c. 200 properties, which bills us via a smart meter. It is a CHP system, but all we get out of that is slightly lower bills, I guess. I've been too lazy to find out what they charge, as it's a prepayment system, and doesn't seem to go down that fast. Also, I get lots of the waste heat as it's in the basement next door to me.

[ Parent ]
I can tell when I walk into an oil heated house by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #4 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:26:07 AM EST
and that's not a good thing.

I prefer gas.

A lot of the gas we burn in the Midwest by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:38:48 AM EST
N.B I grew up with gas heat, and I've never lived where oil was an option.

Now that I've actually read your post... by greyrat (4.00 / 1) #8 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 12:08:54 PM EST
(I'm such a guy)
RE price of consumables: I stand by what I said above. Gas = Death of a thousand cuts. Oil = Elephant stepping on your chest.

Re Effeciency (and cost of equipment): It'll be a wash. The hardware is comparable in price for both boiler and forced air burners, and the level of efficiency is a matter of how much you're willing to pay. I'd suggest that there might be some extra cost in exhausting a gas burner -- not knowing what your current flue is like, and obviously there'll be a cost to laying out the supply for a new gas burner. OTOH, there may be hidden costs -- possibly major -- in replacing your oil tank if if doesn't meet current standards.

RE the rest: Gas is clearly cleaner and generally better for the environment -- think of spilling both and what the consequences are.

Maintenance of equipment is probably a wash, like efficiency. However, to your second point, oil is clearly more corrosive/bad (sulfur content for one thing) and the exhaust from oil is environmentally friendly.

[ Parent ]
There's something wrong with my keyboard... by greyrat (4.00 / 1) #9 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 12:11:29 PM EST
"Maintenance of equipment is probably a wash, like efficiency. However, to your second point, oil is clearly more corrosive/bad (sulfur content for one thing) and the exhaust from oil is environmentally less friendly."

[ Parent ]
Gas plus by marvin (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 11:49:16 AM EST
If you already have it, might as well continue. They are both fossil fuels with depletion problems. Depending on your electricity costs and available space on your property, you might want to look at an air source heat pump combined with a small high efficiency gas furnace. The heat pump provides your heating down to around -10C, and in the summer, can run in reverse to give you AC.

Geothermal is also very cool, will probably work well for heating and cooling in your climate, and can also be used to preheat your hot water at a very low cost. The installation costs will be >$20k, and you require enough land to drill a borehole or two (not recommended if you live over a subway line).

How well insulated is your house? That is another good place for long term savings. With better insulation, you might be able to get away with a slightly lower capacity furnace.

If you're thinking really long term, you might want a coal furnace :)

I mostly heat with wood by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #11 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 01:34:58 PM EST
It's the cheapest heat in Canuckistan, assuming you already have a safe chimney in the house, somewhere to store the wood, and don't mind some work and mess. Marvin's dead right about insulation, how old is your house?

2 variations by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 02:14:18 PM EST
My grandmother has a fuel oil setup, which is untaxed. diesel

My parents have a kerosene setup.

I'd go with kerosene, it's cleaner, and they may refil 2 times in winter while my grandmother has to refill maybe 4 times.


Natty Gas is clean and efficient. by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #16 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 03:34:31 PM EST
Plus, it won't smell up your house.  Here in the midwest, everybody who can gets rid of fuel oil rigs.  They suck.


"I love my brain. It's the only organ I can afford to lose." --frijolito
a couple of months ago by StackyMcRacky (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 05:24:05 PM EST
there was a HUGE thread about this on the Motley Fool.  I don't remember the details, but all agreed that if you have the gas lines there, gas heat was much better than oil.

clock makes fun of our little furnace up in the attic.  i remind him that we can't live well on the window a/c units his kind use up north.

MY kind? by clock (2.00 / 0) #22 Fri Nov 14, 2008 at 03:09:34 AM EST
you mean like MY son?!?!  he's my kind, lady!

mutter...mutter...southern redneck college goin' freak-o...mutter...mutter...really hot with a super ass...mutter...mutter...drool...

what was i saying?

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Clean by riceowlguy (2.00 / 0) #23 Fri Nov 14, 2008 at 03:31:46 AM EST
I don't know exactly what you meant when you asked about the cleanliness of fuel oil vs. gas, but I'm assuming you mean the environmental cleanliness (if only because I have an opinion on that topic...).

Natural gas is essentially methane, or CH4 - four hydrogens to one carbon.  I read an article which held that the history of human use of energy was one of "decarbonization" - from wood to coal to oil to gas, each successively preferred fuel has had a higher hydrogen-to-carbon ratio.  I don't know the exact chemical composition of fuel oil, but I assume it's not as good as methane.  Perhaps eventually we'll have pure H2 coming in through the natural gas lines instead of CH4.

Now, if you REALLY wanted to be more environmentally friendly, you could get a wood stove - sure, wood smoke is dirty, but burning wood is a carbon-neutral activity - if you don't burn it, that carbon is just going to be released when the wood naturally rots anyway.  And if you can get a wood gasification thing going, you're basically back to burning methane, hooray.

Long story short, gas furnace.

A good natural gas boiler by Phil the Canuck (2.00 / 0) #25 Fri Nov 14, 2008 at 05:52:05 AM EST
Will normally last you 30-40 years without the need for major repairs.  It would seem to be a good fit if you're migrating away from an oil boiler.

Ask Husi, etc. | 36 comments (36 topical, 4 hidden)