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Re: New Gas System or Replace Oil Tank?

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Posted by dana on August 15, 2008 at 17:34:21:

In Reply to: Re: New Gas System or Replace Oil Tank? posted by HeatPro on August 14, 2008 at 07:47:36:

: While a previous-century steam system was nice in a previous-century house, the economics of running an antique are formidable. Don't be looking for $3 a gallon oil in this millennium. There are 24 billion barrels left in a nation that uses 6 billion a year.
: So it is time to upgrade to a more efficient system than one that throws away 40% of the fuel.

: Have a new gas hot water system installed in the house so you can have individual room control, (we don't really have to import natural gas) or suffer from a heat pump system as many neighbors are doing so the bills aren't high.

: See this:
: http://www.heatpro.us/designtree/documents/tanklesssys.htm

: Of course, if money is never a problem, then just put in a new tank and oil boiler.

Oh, there will surely be $3 oil again ($100bbl isn't sustainable, since even some fairly exotic alternative are cheaper), but being a commodity controlled by a cartel, with the major suppliers subject to pinch-points, the prescription is the same: Far better to move over to gas, if it's available.

Cheapest cash layout would be to swap in a retrofit gas burner onto the existing boiler, but those burners flying off the shelves right now- there could be an availability issue.

And converting to hydronics vs. steam with a modulating burner (with separately controlled zones) will be vastly more efficient. While 80% may be the combustion efficiency of the oil burner in that antique, a system-efficiency better than 70% (or even 60%)is unlikely. Gas is is expensive too, but dramatically cheaper than oil right now. It'll be hard to beat the modulating water heater approach HeatPro recommends on system cost, but it'll likely cut your fuel cost by something like 75% (compared to your oil burner)this season(!). It would save probably half compared to just a retrofit gas burner. If you plan to keep the place (or even if you don't), the payback would be pretty good. (NOBODY wants to deal with an antique heating system these days, and it factors into house-purchase price now more than ever.)

But there are other options to consider...

Since you live in MA, if you're willing to spend a little to get a bit of return, you might check into the micro-cognenerator/hydronic boiler offering by Climate Energy (not avaiable everywhere.) The boiler they've coupled it with is way overkill for most 2500' houses (minimum modulated output is 70MBH- about what my design-day heat load is) but if you're paying more than 15cents/kwh (I'm paying 17+) the payback from the cogen may make it worthwhile. (I'm still waiting for their proposal on my house.) See www.climate-energy.com

Full disclosure: I work with a satisfied customer of theirs. His was installed this year- the condensing boiler cut his gas use in half compared to his well-maintained antique hydronic boiler. We'll see how well the cogen-pays as we get into the heating season (the installation had been delayed for MA state certification reasons.)

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