Oil to gas conversion

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by RJHNY1, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2021
    Location:
    New York
    Hi guys, first post here. I have questions about a potential oil to gas conversion.

    I have oil in my home right now. My oil tank has a slight leak that I would characterize as the bottom of the oil tank having a few soft spots. There's no continuous leak, but I've been advised to replace the oil tank sooner than later. Before I do that and spend thousands to replace the oil tank, my wife and I are exploring the possibility of converting to gas.

    My oil boiler is the Energy Kinetics System 2000. It is 9 years old. My hot water tank is also 9 years old and 40 gallons. I have myself, my wife, my 3 and 1 year old in the home. I can't rule out having another child, so eventually, there could be 5 people living in my house. Generally, my heat has worked fine, but I have a monoflow system and we've had a number of issues with heating in the bedrooms since air gets into the system and has to be bled to get it working. Also, I've noticed the hot water when we shower doesn't stay hot for too long. I usually take about a 5 to 7 minute shower and the hot water definitely gets no hotter than lukewarm toward the end of the shower.

    I already have gas in my home to the dryer, grill, and generator. The gas was brought in by the previous owners of the home. I live in Long Island, New York. I've been in this house 3.5 years and have no expectation of moving soon. My house is 2200 square feet, split level. There is the possibility my wife and I will expand the house in the next 5 years, which would probably add an additional 500 square feet.

    I've gotten quotes from about 7-8 plumbers, ranging between $8500 and $14,000. The job entails lining the chimney, replacing the boiler and hot water tank, running a gas pipe to the utility room where the boiler is, and removing the oil tank. Two plumbers wanted to do tankless. The remainder of them recommended doing the standard boiler and hot water tank, with some of them having a difference of opinion whether to do direct or indirect hot water tank.

    My questions are:

    1) Is it worth it to convert? I hear that gas is cleaner and cheaper and currently and oil has gone up a lot. Could oil come back down in the coming years as more people use electric cars such that it's better to keep oil?

    2) What is better? Indirect or direct? It seems there's a huge difference of opinion that goes 50/50. I know indirect is more efficient, but I was told that having direct means I have hot water in case if the power goes out. I do have a generator that powers the boiler, so I'm not sure if having direct water tank makes sense for me. But on the other hand, does the indirect system mean that my boiler is on during the summer for hot water?

    3) Most of the plumbers I met with recommended the Burnham boiler. One plumber under heavy consideration said he could install the ES2 or the Series 2 (price doesn't change in the quote), but he likes the Series 2 more because it's a simpler system and causes less problems. He said he has more service calls with the ES2. However, I can get a rebate with the ES2 b/c it's 85% efficiency whereas the Series 2 is 84% efficiency. The rebate is only for systems with 85% or greater efficiency.

    The other side of it is, my oil boiler is not that old. It's 9 years old and I was told by Energy Kinetics the life expectancy for the boiler is about 30 years. However, I was also told the water heater has a lifespan of 12 years and it's at 9 years now, so it could be approaching the end. Two companies told me they could convert the oil boiler to gas, but it wouldn't be as efficient. Also, their quotes to do that were extremely expensive to the point where it would be cheaper to get a new boiler.

    I'm no expert in oil/gas and heating and I'm learning a lot of new things with this stuff being a first time homeowner. I would appreciate any feedback or advice so I can make the best decision for my home. Thank you for reading this much and making it to this point.
     
  2. fitter30

    fitter30 Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Retired service tech
    Location:
    Peace valley missouri
    What is model of the boiler? Take few pics of boiler, pumps, water heater and piping around the boiler. What nozzle size does the burner have? Need to know the cost of a gallon oil delivered with tax 140,000 btu's and a therm of gas find the cost.
     
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  4. Sylvan

    Sylvan Still learning

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2004
    Occupation:
    plumbing - fire suppression - boiler inspector
    Location:
    New York
    For many decades I wrote pro and con of oil versus gas for the Riverdale press (Bronx Newspaper)

    With oil you have an option to get a service contract usually under $125 per YEAR with a gas boiler the utility Con Ed etc will say call a master plumber and most service contracts offered by plumbers are USELESS as they usually find a part not covered under a warranty and if your utility raises prices where do you go?

    With oil, you can shop around for the best price with service

    Natural gas is rated 900 -1,200 BTU per CU FT oil is rated 130,000- 140,000 BTU per gallon

    If you have a gas leak it can explode if you have an oil leak you're responsible for a toxic cleanup

    My company does a lot of oil to gas conversions and we tell people payback may take decades if at all

    Oil has to be paid for before you use it Gas is paid as you use it

    Oil requires more maintenance, filters, nozzles etc

    As a boiler certified inspector, I tell people if your oil tank is leaking use as much up as possible then order a new tank prior to heating season

    If you decide to go with gas you may need a new chimney as oil is a wet fuel and gas is dry so NYC does not allow the use of both fuels normally except for duel fuel boilers

    Also to convert to gas you will need a load letter to confirm your meter is large enough to carry the load of a new burner/boiler
     
  5. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

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    The boiler is Energy Kinetics System 2000. I'll take a few pics and post them tomorrow. How do I know what nozzle size the burner has?
     
  6. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

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    Location:
    New York
    Thank you for your feedback. Riverdale! My grandma lived there before she passed away and my Uncle still lives there with his family.

    FYI, I'm on Long Island, so I'm not in the city. Not sure if that changes things from your post.
     
  7. Sylvan

    Sylvan Still learning

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    Occupation:
    plumbing - fire suppression - boiler inspector
    Location:
    New York
    LI is very relaxed when it comes to code enforcement.

    My buddy lives in Plainview and he did most of the plumbing /electrical work in his home and he worked for Verizon and as long as he did the work in his own home and called for an inspection they allowed it

    NYC never allowed a homeowner to do this

    LI Prices are a lot cheaper than NYC I would suggest getting a larger hot water tank a 50-gallon rapid recovery gas


    National Grid has incentives such as a free boiler etc with conversion it may be worth looking into

    NYC Unions sued for unfair utility competition but As fair as LI is concerned I still believe the Utility can offer great incentives
     
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  8. Sylvan

    Sylvan Still learning

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    Occupation:
    plumbing - fire suppression - boiler inspector
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    New York
  9. SShaw

    SShaw Member

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    Nov 17, 2019
    Location:
    Virginia
    I converted from oil to gas in one house and from oil to geothermal in another house.

    I don't miss the oil. The oil was messy and smelly. The furnaces were noisy.

    Around here natural gas cost less than half the price of oil, per 1 million BTU output. A 96% gas furnace would be about $11 and an 86% oil furnace would be about $24. The gas furnace is only about $1.50 more per million BTU than a geothermal unit with 400% efficiency.

    So, if I was spending $2,000 per year on oil, I'd save more than $1,000 per year by switching to gas.
     
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  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
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    New England
    Depending on your electrical costs, and your building's needs, you might be able to go with heat pumps and get your cooling upgraded (or added) done at the same time. THe newest heat pumps can provide heat down much lower than those of old.

    First thing you need to do is figure out your actual heat load. Dana has posted the procedure to calculate that based on your oil useage and the degree day data for that energy usage.

    If I were going to put in a new boiler, I'd use an indirect rather than a standalone unit. Recovery is generally faster, and with modern boilers, the efficiency can be in the high 90-percentage range. The tanks are better insulated, and the standby losses are lower since there isn't a flue going up the middle that can allow convective heat loss. Plus, the boiler tends to have a higher BTU rating than a standalone WH will, and it can all be used to keep that water hot...don't oversize the boiler for this.
     
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  11. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

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    Apr 4, 2021
    Location:
    New York
    How do you make these calculations? They seem so complicated. I'm spending $2000-$2500 per year in oil. This past winter, I paid $2.23 a gallon for oil since I'm part of a large group rate.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
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  12. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

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    Last edited: Apr 5, 2021
  13. fitter30

    fitter30 Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Retired service tech
    Location:
    Peace valley missouri
    That $ 2.75 with taxes? Call your natural gas company get a cost from them.
     
  14. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

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    Apr 4, 2021
    Location:
    New York
    The idea is to replace the hot water tank with at least a 50 gallon tank. The previous owners installed their hot water tank just for the two of them since their son (only child) was going off to college at the time. So they didn't need a large tank.

    Plainview is where I live too. Who is your friend in Plainview? Maybe I know him or heard of him. Feel free to PM me.
     
  15. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    Orlando, Florida
    Over $2k for gas? Gas water heaters are nice but I think the gas dryer is the killer here. I live in Florida and my whole family lives on LI so I know it gets expensive there. I would look into getting an electric dryer. Ask your neighbors how there electric bill is when they are not using air conditioning. It'll give you a ballpark on its cost. East Meadow where my sister lives, gas was installed part way down the street and for some reason the gas company will not expand it to their home. Usually, it required a few homes to sign up before the cost to add a gas line that was paid for by the gas company, then each home had to add so many gas appliances. It's probably why you have a gas dryer.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
  16. SShaw

    SShaw Member

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    Nov 17, 2019
    Location:
    Virginia
    I have a spreadsheet from Penn State University that lets you enter the price for different fuels and the equipment efficiency, then it compares costs. I don't know if they still publish it. It's pretty simple stuff though. There are probably similar things available online.
     
  17. RJHNY1

    RJHNY1 New Member

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    Apr 4, 2021
    Location:
    New York
    My mistake! I meant oil. I edited my post. That's what posting after a long day does to me. I have another Uncle who lives in East Meadow so small world!

    My gas costs are very small right now. I pay more for gas in the summer when I grill. Gas is usually like $22-23 a month. It's like $18 no matter what and the extra $4-5 is the gas I actually use.
     
  18. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Location:
    01609
    A modulating condensing gas boiler by all rights should be cheaper to install than a mid-efficiency cast iron gas burner, since it can be vented with cheap plastic pipe, and you can seal up the chimney. With a condensing boiler you can also right-size it for the heat load of the house without concern for low return water temps. A cast iron (like Burnham series 2) will often has to be bigger than optimal for efficiency in order to avoid return water that is too cool, creating destructive condensation inside the boiler. AFUE assumes a 1.7x oversize factor for the heat load at the 99% outside design temp (=+15F on L.I.- it's only colder than that 1% of the hours in a year), but the smallest cast iron boilers are usually bigger than that for normal size homes that have insulation in the walls, glass in the windows, doors that shut. The oversizing takes a toll on efficiency due to excessive standby losses and at 3x+ oversizing (too typical for houses smaller than 3000 square feet) that efficiency hit is substantial- 85% AFUE becomes 75% "as used" AFUE, unless heat purging economizer controls (like the one that comes standard with the ES2, but not the Series 2) are used.

    A retrofit gas burner should be able to drop in to an EK 2000, which even when down-fired is more than enough boiler for your house. Since it came with a pretty good heat-purging economizer it doesn't lose too much efficiency even at 4x oversizing.

    If you have some mid-winter fill-up dates and amounts it's pretty easy to home in on the actual 99% heat load using this methodology, which uses the boiler as a measuring instrument. It sounds like you're using about 1000 gallons/year in an area that runs about 4000HDD (base 65F), or about 1/4 gallon per HDD. At 138,000 BTU/gallon that's (/4=) 34,500 BTU/HDD gross, and at 86% efficiency it's (x 0.86=) 27,600 BTU/HDD net. In a 24 hour day that becomes (/24=) 1150 BTU per degree-hour (pretty high, unless it's a really big or uninsulated house). At a heating degree base temp of 65F and a 99% outside design temp of +15F you have (65F-15F=) 50F heating degrees, so the design load would be 1150 BTU/degree hour x 50F degrees= 57,500 BTU/hr.

    But that's a completely rough number based on your "...$2000-$2500 per year..." and "...$2.23 a gallon..." assertions, and WAG based on NYC's annual HDD averages. It's important to run the real fuel use against real local heating degree-day data from a nearby weather station, since there's probably more than 20% of error in the guesses.

    For the best compromise between comfort & efficiency ASHRAE recommends no more than 1.4x oversize factor for non-modulating equipment. It's counterintuitive to most, but the smallest boiler that still covers the load during cold snaps is the most comfortable, since it's duty cycle become much higher during colder weather delivering far more even heating. With modulating boilers the minimum firing rate is usually more important than the maximum, and some amount of oversizing is OK. Not so with fixed burn rate boilers- keep it to no more than 1.4x if you can.

    Oil heating is never coming back. It has much dirtier local emissions that will be hard to control if regulated more tightly, and is higher maintenance than gas. Within the lifecycle of a boiler gas might be going away too, depending on how aggressive NY get on commitments to net-zero greenhouse emissions. If you have the space for ducts (or already have ducts used for central air), a right-sized modulating air source heat pump solution might be better overall. So run the fuel use heat load calc.

    Also, additional load for a 500' addition is often NEGATIVE in older homes, if it's replacing a section of air-leaky barely insulated wall with leaky windows with tight code-min or better new construction. At design condition when it's +15F outside, 70F inside a square foot of 2x4/R11 16" on center type stud wall loses about 5.5 BTU/hr per square foot, a clear glass storm window over a single pane loses about 28 BTU/hr per square foot. But a 2x6/R20 wall only loses about 3.2 BTU/hr per square foot at design condition, and a code-min U0.30 window about 17 BTU/hr per square foot (and a code min R49 ceiling's losses are tiny). Bottom line- it's HIGHLY unlikely that you would ever need to up size a boiler to serve that addition (they're all still too big), but it may may a half-ton difference on a heat pump solution if the numbers are right on the edge between equipment model sizing.

    [note: edited to correct some minor arithmetic.]
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
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  19. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    Take Dana’s suggestions as he is one of the best and lives in the NE. Oil is the primary heating source in the NE so there are a lot of HVAC companies and techs work with nothing but oil and they are comfortable with it. Therefore, you may get more information on oil heat from bids because it’s there bread and butter, but like gasoline powered cars, alternate power such as electric or hydrogen will be replacing petroleum.
    What natural gas had over oil heat is its price on the market. The cost is more stable with gas where oil can sky rocket on one month. World events almost immediately impacts oil cost. When the freighter got stuck in the Suez Canal, gas price per gallon went up immediately. When the freighter got freed, the next day the cost of gasoline dropped 12 cent a gallon here in Central Florida.
     
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  20. fitter30

    fitter30 Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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  21. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Location:
    01609
    Local natural gas & electricity markets are regulated and not as volatile as oil, but there is political & regulatory pressure to repair & replace leaking natural gas distribution lines, and AGAINST adding gas transmission line capacity, which is putting upward pressure on retail natural gas pricing. In my neighborhood where the natural gas distribution grid is being upgraded (they're digging up my street as I type), the full-on delivered price has gone from an already high ~$1.25/therm to ~$1.70/therm in just two years, almost all of it coming from the distribution & delivery portion the bill which is substantially more expensive than the fuel itself.

    In NY there is massive pressure against expanding gas-grid capacity, to the point where in neighboring Westchester County they can't add new gas customers without increasing efficiency among the existing gas customers. I'm not sure how close Long Island is to those sorts of constraints, but it's worth taking a look. The electric grid isn't in the same sort of bind (yet), since the distribution grids and transmission grids & substations are already designed to manage the peak cooling load. With offshore wind projects slated to be commissioned off the eastern end of L.I. in the middle this decade even some of the summertime local grid congestion on the island will be mitigated, with plenty of capacity for the peak wintertime loads.

    Long Island has some of the most expensive electricity in the lower 48, even higher than my local high-priced (~25 cents/kwh, all-in), and like my area any increase in natural gas prices will soon push the economics to favor air source heat pumps rated at HSPF 10 or higher efficiency. At current pricing rooftop solar is cheaper on a lifecycle basis than grid power, even without factoring in federal tax subsidies. Even Tesla Solar's "Subscription Solar" (basically a very low money down low-strings rental, more expensive than long term leases, but much cheaper to get out of) works out to about 16 cents/kwh in my neighborhood if the roof pitches can accommodate it, and when net metered at retail. That low money down few strings attached program from Tesla isn't available in NY, but it's not hard to find solar contractors on L.I. if purchasing or leasing is being considered.

    With NY and federal incentives applied it should be cheaper to heat with a decent heat pump than condensing gas at L.I. utility pricing. I haven't followed the state of net metering in NY, nor am I completely current on utility pricing on L.I., but cost trends on utilities are generally up, and the cost trends on solar are down.

    For napkin-math analysis, assume an HSPF of 10 (=10,000 BTU per kwh), which is 100 kwh per million BTU(MMBTU). At 25 cents/kwh (roughly L.I. pricing last time I looked, but it's been awhile) that's $25/MMBTU, at 15 cents (should be able to beat that with rooftop solar PV on L.I.) it's $15/MMBTU.

    For comparison, At 85% efficiency oil works out to 8.5 gallons/MMBTU which at $2.33/gallon= ~$19/MMBTU.
     
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