Oil vs Propane?

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Oil vs Propane?

Postby gooch » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:42 am

Hello folks,

I recently purchased a new home here in Connecticut, and during the home inspection I was told that although the hot air oil-fired furnace and oil-fired hot water tank are good quality brands, they are both “at the end of their useful lives” and I should budget for their replacement very soon. Both have 1991 dates stamped on their plates.

This is my first experience with oil mechanicals; my prior home and condo before that were natural gas. Unfortunately, natural gas isn’t available at my new location.

I would rather proactively replace the units now, methodically and rationally, rather than wait until some bitter cold winter night and panic-buy in an emergency situation.

Here’s my dilemma: Oil, or propane? I understand that although propane is typically less expensive per gallon than oil, propane produces less BTU’s per gallon than oil. I also understand burner efficiency is a factor (propane generally higher efficiency?).

I have read multiple studies on the oil vs. propane debate, however, it seems like the authors of the studies always have a dog in the race. Is anyone aware of a disinterested (neutral) study or article on the oil vs. propane debate, which is not funded or presented by someone in the heating oil industry or propane industry?

Also, your own thoughts and experiences would be appreciated.

Thanks!
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Propane

Postby davebarnes » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:06 am

Burns cleaner. Equipment should last longer.
Shale gas production will help hold down propane costs.

I hope you do realize that “at the end of their useful lives” is a CYA statement from the inspector and not really related to reality.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby johnubc » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:14 am

I would probably stick with the oil.

Getting propane installed would require getting a large propane tank (can be buried) - you can purchase it and get propane on the free market or have a certain company provide it - but then you are locked in to getting propane from that single vendor. During a cold snap you can go through quite a bit of propane. The per gallon cost of oil vs propane is pretty much comparable (ie, natural gas is currently quite a bit cheaper). The new burners burn clean - not like the oil burners of yesteryear. 1 gallon of oil is roughly equivalent to 1.4 gallons of propane (BTU wise).
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby hicabob » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:19 am

It's only the last couple of years that propane has been slightly cheaper than oil - in California anyways.
I was paying about 3.50 a gallon a couple years ago. $1.90 last fillup.
Propane is considered a by-product of natural gas and petroleum processing so the US nat gas boom should help.
It's certainly a nicer fuel than oil.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby pshonore » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:29 am

If you go with Propane, be sure you own the tank. That will give you a choice of suppliers, otherwise you're stuck a single supplier who may or may not be competitive on price. However a tank may add several hundred $ to the price. I would go with oil myself with a high-efficiency burner like a Buderus. Oil fired hot water heaters are quite expensive and I don't think you can heat hot water with a hot ar system like you can with a oil fired boiler, so you may be stuck with propane or electric for that.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby gooch » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:03 am

I appreciate the input, folks. I just learned since my initial post that my current oil supplier has raised it's lock-in price by 30 cents this week :oops: due to the Syria situation.

Since propane is loosely coupled to the price of oil (partially supplied from the oil refining process), it's price too should rise, but not as dramatic as that of oil.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby wageoghe » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:24 am

It will be an expensive system, but you might consider a Carrier Greenspeed (or other inverter compressor based system such as Lennox XP25 or any of several of the Maytag iQ line) heat pump. The inverter compressor based sytsems are designed to be able to perform better in colder climates than traditional heat pumps. You should also (optionally) be able to pair any of these heat pumps with an alternate fuel heat source (such as propane or oil) to create a "hybrid" or "dual fuel" system. The heat pump would provide heat down to a certain (configurable) temp and then would switch over to the alternate system. The crossover point is typically determined based on fuel costs. So, the heat pump might be efficient enough (given electrical and propane (for example) costs) to heat down to 30 degrees, at which point it would switch over to the propane furnace). 30 degrees is just an example, I don't really know how low the temperature has to be before even an inverter based heat pump is not efficient. However, I think that it is efficient to an even lower temp than 30 degrees.

By using a fossil fuel furnace as a secondary heat source, you can potentially mitigate the difference in efficiency/cost between propane and oil. You don't have to be concerned as much about which is cheaper, because you will use less than if you were heating strictly based on one or the other.

Inverter technology is relatively new as a mainstream heat pump technology, but has been used for many years in so-called "mini split" systems. Carrier's Greenspeed has been on the market for a couple of years now, Lennox's is new. I'm not sure how long Maytag's iQ system has been around, but I assume it is new as well. Other manufacturers might offer inverter based systems, but I don't know for sure.

This would be a high end system that would probably be cost $$$. You might check with some local HVAC companies and see if they have an opinion about that kind of system in your area (Do they sell a lot of them (or at least some)? Are they well versed in the capabilities of such systems? Do they install enough of them to really know how to do it right?).

I live in the south and have a traditional heat pump system, so I can't really give much more detail than to suggest that this might be a viable alternative for you.

If you think you might be interested in at least researching such a system, these forums are a good place to start:

http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/hvac/

http://hvac-talk.com/vbb/forumdisplay.p ... ntial-HVAC

Here is a very long thread from gardenweb from a guy in CT who is replacing an older oil fired furnace. There is some discussion in the thread about going with a heat pump some discussion of cost-to-operate, considering electrical rates, propane rates, and oil rates. I searched for Greenspeed in the thread and read from there down, so I'm not sure what what was discussed higher up. By the end of the thread, it's not clear exactly what the guy was going to do (he does not have a post indicating that any system was installed).

http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/hv ... 91221.html

The pros on that forum, notably tigerdunes, mike_home, energy_rater_la, and ryanhughes all seem to give pretty good advice (from what I can tell). tigerdunes especially seems to take a lot of time to steer posters toward good systems. As you can see if you read the thread that I linked to above, tigerdunes broaches the subject of Greenspeed (and high eff heat pumps in general) and provides some numbers for cost per 100,000 BTU of usable heat for different heat choices based on fuel rates (Mar 17, 2013).

Anyway, you might find the discussion useful.

Good luck!
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby dbltrbl » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:54 am

If at all you are thinking of heat pumps, I would seriously consider geothermal in Connecticut area. It will cut down your bills by about 40%. make sure you get an experienced good contractor as there are few fly by night operators in the system. Upfront costs should be comparable to whole new propane system and higher than regular heat pumps.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby pennstater2005 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:14 pm

Have you checked into all electric? I don't really know the pros/cons versus oil/propane.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby gooch » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:21 pm

pennstater2005 wrote:Have you checked into all electric? I don't really know the pros/cons versus oil/propane.


Electric is cost-prohibitive. I've lived in worked in Connecticut all my life (50 years) and have known only one person whose home had electric heat. His heating cost in the winter months was several times mine. (His wife didn't want any combustibles in the house!)
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby pennstater2005 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:29 pm

gooch wrote:
pennstater2005 wrote:Have you checked into all electric? I don't really know the pros/cons versus oil/propane.


Electric is cost-prohibitive. I've lived in worked in Connecticut all my life (50 years) and have known only one person whose home had electric heat. His heating cost in the winter months was several times mine. (His wife didn't want any combustibles in the house!)


I have a neighbor who is all electric and his highest bill in winter months was around $400. Definitely high but includes everything. Heating oil prices can fluctuate wildly though and be cost prohibitive as well. Don't know anything about propane. Good luck to you.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Wed Aug 28, 2013 4:46 pm

Propane I've been told trades closer to oil and less to dry gas.
It's close to equally expensive if propane requires more volume to provide same BTU output as oil.
Electric - is the worse type of fuel to heat with, especially in the Northeast.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby core5 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:18 am

pennstater2005 wrote:Have you checked into all electric? I don't really know the pros/cons versus oil/propane.


You might be able to break even with propane heat by installing electric floor heating (water). It's not exactly cheap and neither is operating the cost, but my parents say the costs are slightly less than heating their air with propane. You do get the flexibility to use one or the other based on supplier cost.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby investingdad » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:34 pm

I'm in PA and my first apartment had electric heat. Maybe technology has improved but I found it to be simply awful, expensive and always cold.

My parents have oil heat, their house was built in the 70s and they recently replaced their furnace. Oil heat seems to make for a dusty house (or maybe it's just their house) and you have to manage keeping the tank full, locking in prices, etc. They could have paid to have natural gas run to their house but didn't. Poor choice, in my opinion. With the Natural Gas boom here in the Northeast, I think it's the right way to go.

We have natural gas. Last winter I kept my gas fireplace going pretty much from time we got home (530 pm) to time we went to bed (1030pm). Plus we had the house at about 72F (3400 ft2). House was built in 2010 and our largest gas bill was maybe $230 in the dead of winter.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby hicabob » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:43 pm

investingdad wrote:I'm in PA and my first apartment had electric heat. Maybe technology has improved but I found it to be simply awful, expensive and always cold.

My parents have oil heat, their house was built in the 70s and they recently replaced their furnace. Oil heat seems to make for a dusty house (or maybe it's just their house) and you have to manage keeping the tank full, locking in prices, etc. They could have paid to have natural gas run to their house but didn't. Poor choice, in my opinion. With the Natural Gas boom here in the Northeast, I think it's the right way to go.

We have natural gas. Last winter I kept my gas fireplace going pretty much from time we got home (530 pm) to time we went to bed (1030pm). Plus we had the house at about 72F (3400 ft2). House was built in 2010 and our largest gas bill was maybe $230 in the dead of winter.



Natural Gas is indeed the energy bargain of the century in the US right now, although as another person mentioned - electric heat pumps with in-ground radiators are very interesting and theoretically super-efficient albeit expensive to install.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:32 pm

hicabob wrote:
investingdad wrote:I'm in PA and my first apartment had electric heat. Maybe technology has improved but I found it to be simply awful, expensive and always cold.

My parents have oil heat, their house was built in the 70s and they recently replaced their furnace. Oil heat seems to make for a dusty house (or maybe it's just their house) and you have to manage keeping the tank full, locking in prices, etc. They could have paid to have natural gas run to their house but didn't. Poor choice, in my opinion. With the Natural Gas boom here in the Northeast, I think it's the right way to go.


Oil worked fine with hot water (ie rads). It probably doesn't work as well with hot air?

We have natural gas. Last winter I kept my gas fireplace going pretty much from time we got home (530 pm) to time we went to bed (1030pm). Plus we had the house at about 72F (3400 ft2). House was built in 2010 and our largest gas bill was maybe $230 in the dead of winter.



Natural Gas is indeed the energy bargain of the century in the US right now, although as another person mentioned - electric heat pumps with in-ground radiators are very interesting and theoretically super-efficient albeit expensive to install.


Against a 90% efficient gas furnace, in those parts of the USA where coal is the predominant fuel source for electricity (Midwest and South, mainly), an Air Source Heat Pump is also not necessarily less polluting. Much of the USA (about 50% of total electricity generated although that has fallen of late) comes from coal, a very dirty fuel. Even with natural gas (combined Cycle Gas Turbines ie CCGT) it's not a clear win for an ASHP.

That's assuming a Coefficient of Performance of 2.5 (1 kwhr electricity moves 2.5 kwhr of hot/ cold).
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:34 pm

gooch wrote:
pennstater2005 wrote:Have you checked into all electric? I don't really know the pros/cons versus oil/propane.


Electric is cost-prohibitive. I've lived in worked in Connecticut all my life (50 years) and have known only one person whose home had electric heat. His heating cost in the winter months was several times mine. (His wife didn't want any combustibles in the house!)


I think in Connecticut electricity rates are c. 20 cents/ kwhr? Among the highest in the USA (retail average is about 10.5 cents). So you have double whammy-- big heating need and very high electricity prices.

The only place I know of in that part of the world with a lot of electric heat is Quebec-- their huge resources of hydropower meant they subsidized electric heating, and the gas pipeline network is not extensive.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:46 pm

gooch wrote:Hello folks,

I recently purchased a new home here in Connecticut, and during the home inspection I was told that although the hot air oil-fired furnace and oil-fired hot water tank are good quality brands, they are both “at the end of their useful lives” and I should budget for their replacement very soon. Both have 1991 dates stamped on their plates.

This is my first experience with oil mechanicals; my prior home and condo before that were natural gas. Unfortunately, natural gas isn’t available at my new location.

I would rather proactively replace the units now, methodically and rationally, rather than wait until some bitter cold winter night and panic-buy in an emergency situation.

Here’s my dilemma: Oil, or propane? I understand that although propane is typically less expensive per gallon than oil, propane produces less BTU’s per gallon than oil. I also understand burner efficiency is a factor (propane generally higher efficiency?).

I have read multiple studies on the oil vs. propane debate, however, it seems like the authors of the studies always have a dog in the race. Is anyone aware of a disinterested (neutral) study or article on the oil vs. propane debate, which is not funded or presented by someone in the heating oil industry or propane industry?

Also, your own thoughts and experiences would be appreciated.

Thanks!


As per other posters you need to find out about successful installs of Air Source Heat Pumps in your area-- talk to people who have them. The usual problem with ASHP is down at low temperatures (say 10 degrees F?) they switch to electric bar backup (which has a Coefficient of Performance of 1.0 ie just electric heat). An ASHP should get you COP 2.5-3.0 say (it depends on the gap between the input heat and the desired heat - COP falls as that increases. COP btw means 1kwhr electricity generates how much kwhr of heat or cold (3466 BTU in a kwhr)).

Do you have hot water rads? Not so unusual in New England I do not think?

The trick there is that HPs (GSHP and ASHP) work most efficiently with water around 45 degrees C output (sorry I think in Centigrade), whereas hot water systems in old houses typically run c. 70 degrees.

In a modern well insulated house this does not matter. You just run the HP for more hours, keep the house at constant warmth. But in an old house, you need the 'boost' of a high temperature water system to get the house warm (and when you go out, you are not going to leave the thermostat at a constant 21C ie 72F, because you are basically just heating the outside world).

Someone above me has mentioned an ASHP optimized for the colder climates, I don't know anything about that technology.

Geothermal (Ground Source) HPs are a very good technology and can handle bigger temperature differences well. But they are significantly more expensive-- it's a big project. A relative installed one in their farmhouse in Ontario (so -20C in winter, say c. -10F; +30C in summer ie high 80s-low 90s in a bad week) and figures payback has been in about 10 years (retail electricity price about 12 cents). They also have a big wood fireplace (with glass doors to make it efficient) and they kept electric baseboard heaters (but never use them). Because they have acreage they didn't need the expensive vertical bore, but went with a ground loop solution (trench about 4' deep).
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Rainier » Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:16 pm

Did I miss something? The op wants propane or oil, no mention of electric heat pumps. If you don't have central air in CT then you likely don't have duct work, just radiators.

I live in ct and am lucky to have nat gas in my town. The vast majority have oil and it costs about twice as much. But, propane is not natural gas. Tough call. I'd probably just keep the current furnace and get a service plan.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby rfburns » Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:50 pm

gooch wrote:however, it seems like the authors of the studies always have a dog in the race.

I'm no author and have no dogs in the race. I would switch to propane and buy the largest tank I could afford. That gives the ability to buy during the times of year when prices are lowest and storing so as not to be at the mercy of spot prices if you run out.
Why? Because propane is a much cleaner burning fuel. Oil furnaces require more maintenance and oil spot prices seem harder to predict.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Rainier » Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:04 am

rfburns wrote:
gooch wrote:however, it seems like the authors of the studies always have a dog in the race.

I'm no author and have no dogs in the race. I would switch to propane and buy the largest tank I could afford. That gives the ability to buy during the times of year when prices are lowest and storing so as not to be at the mercy of spot prices if you run out.
Why? Because propane is a much cleaner burning fuel. Oil furnaces require more maintenance and oil spot prices seem harder to predict.


How big a tank can you get for a residence? It's not easy to dig big holes in CT. At the most, what are you going to store, maybe 2.5 months worth?
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:18 am

Rainier wrote:Did I miss something? The op wants propane or oil, no mention of electric heat pumps. If you don't have central air in CT then you likely don't have duct work, just radiators.

I live in ct and am lucky to have nat gas in my town. The vast majority have oil and it costs about twice as much. But, propane is not natural gas. Tough call. I'd probably just keep the current furnace and get a service plan.


If you do not have access to natural gas then it is always worth considering all the main alternatives: ASHP, GSHP, wood, oil, propane.

It does appear that propane prices have a tendency to track heating oil prices, perhaps because they compete with each other as a source of fuel (arguing against that, people can't switch on a tank by tank basis).

Note OP said that he would have to replace furnace anyways (24 years old).

The jump in efficiency could be from c. 60% to c. 85-90%, or a c. 1/3rd reduction in heating oil consumption-- significant at current prices.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby investingdad » Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:50 am

Just a chemistry note, both 'natural gas' and propane are, well...gases formed in Nature and 'natural'.

What we consider Natural Gas is mostly methane, but I suspect there's also ethane, propane, and some other light and saturated hydrocarbons present. Not much, though, or it wouldn't burn as clean as it does.

Methane is what we're producing so much of right now and exists in abundance in the Northeast under the Marecellus shale regions and others.

It burns hot and clean, producing only CO2 and water.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby pshonore » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:11 pm

There's "dry" gas (mostly methane) and "wet" gas which is methane mixed in with NGLs (natural gas liquids such as butane, propane and ethane). There's a whole industry that extracts the NGLs mostly via fractionation (not to be confused with "fracking') Wet gas is usually worth more dry gas because of the added value from the NGLs which are the basic chemical feedstock for a lot of industrial uses. The big player in the Marcellus is Markwest Energy Partners (one of those dreaded MLPs) http://www.markwest.com/about-us
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:29 pm

investingdad wrote:Just a chemistry note, both 'natural gas' and propane are, well...gases formed in Nature and 'natural'.

What we consider Natural Gas is mostly methane, but I suspect there's also ethane, propane, and some other light and saturated hydrocarbons present. Not much, though, or it wouldn't burn as clean as it does.

Methane is what we're producing so much of right now and exists in abundance in the Northeast under the Marecellus shale regions and others.

It burns hot and clean, producing only CO2 and water.


In the sense that all substances are natural. Or did you mean 'naturally occuring'?

In which case yes, but as per PS Honore, propane is stripped out of natural gas streams, so in that sense it is manufactured (or rather refined). Which is of course true of home heating oil (out of a barrel of crude).
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby investingdad » Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:06 pm

Naturally occuring. It always stuck me as a litte odd that we talk of 'Natural Gas' and 'Propane', which almost infers that propane does not occur naturaly.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:16 pm

investingdad wrote:Naturally occuring. It always stuck me as a litte odd that we talk of 'Natural Gas' and 'Propane', which almost infers that propane does not occur naturaly.


Well you use 'gas' to mean what you stick in your car's tank. That's 'petrol' over here ;-).

Always causes me a pause when I am writing 'gas' and if it is clear which I mean ;-).

I once had to explain to befuddled German tourists that 'subway' here means a passage under the road and the term they wanted was 'The Underground' or 'Tube' for U Bahn, that 'Subway' was a North Americanism ;-). They were quite lost.

I think 'natural gas' because it could be burned more or less straight out of the ground (see explanation above dry vs. wet gas, I am also aware of 'sour gas' ie lots of sulphur in it).
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby frugaltype » Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:00 pm

dbltrbl wrote:If at all you are thinking of heat pumps, I would seriously consider geothermal in Connecticut area.


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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby investingdad » Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:03 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
investingdad wrote:Naturally occuring. It always stuck me as a litte odd that we talk of 'Natural Gas' and 'Propane', which almost infers that propane does not occur naturaly.


Well you use 'gas' to mean what you stick in your car's tank. That's 'petrol' over here ;-).

Always causes me a pause when I am writing 'gas' and if it is clear which I mean ;-).

I once had to explain to befuddled German tourists that 'subway' here means a passage under the road and the term they wanted was 'The Underground' or 'Tube' for U Bahn, that 'Subway' was a North Americanism ;-). They were quite lost.

I think 'natural gas' because it could be burned more or less straight out of the ground (see explanation above dry vs. wet gas, I am also aware of 'sour gas' ie lots of sulphur in it).


The 'gas' thing bothers me too because it causes confusion in my two kids (8 and 6) when I'm trying to explain to them basic science behind states of matter and when they hear 'gas' I know they think of 'gasoline' to put in cars.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby frugaltype » Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:06 pm

Valuethinker wrote:I once had to explain to befuddled German tourists that 'subway' here means a passage under the road and the term they wanted was 'The Underground' or 'Tube' for U Bahn, that 'Subway' was a North Americanism ;-). They were quite lost.


I made several loops through an underground passage in England, looking for the subway a sign had pointed to...

Then there was the time I asked someone where a restroom was, and they thought I was about to keel over.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby frugaltype » Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:09 pm

OP, how far are you from natural gas?

It runs in my area but not on all lengths of all streets. It is not tremendously expensive to extend it a block or two, especially if neighbors want to connect as well and will split the cost.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby gooch » Sun Sep 01, 2013 2:45 pm

frugaltype wrote:OP, how far are you from natural gas?

It runs in my area but not on all lengths of all streets. It is not tremendously expensive to extend it a block or two, especially if neighbors want to connect as well and will split the cost.


Not too far, actually; it runs down the main road at the end of my street ... less then .25 mile away. I had NG in the same town at my old house 'cross town.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:38 pm

OK you should really investigate gas.

Let's put this in UK context

http://www.nottenergy.com/energy_cost_comparison

(multiply by 1.6 to get equivalent USD rates). Gas oil ie home heating fuel will be very close to US prices (it doesn't pay any more tax here, unlike gasoline).

On a cents per kwhr basis (3466 BTU in a kwhr) we see that Gas Oil is 7.95p (about 13 cents)/ kwhr and natural gas is about 4.78p (say 8 cents). That's assuming you have a 90% efficient furnace in both cases (you won't with a furnace that old).

At which point, knowing that US retail natural gas prices are about *half* of UK ones, say, you are paying per unit energy something like 3 times as much for oil as for NG (I am sure the real calculation is even more advantageous to gas). Although gas prices may rise, all indications suggest they will stay at historically low levels for at least another 5 years, if not longer. Whereas political disruptions and factors like the growth of cars in China and India suggest oil prices will stay high for the forseeable future.

So if NG can be connected at any reasonable cost, then your payback will be fast- likely less than 10 years (remembering you have to replace the furnace anyways). And I am pretty sure it *will* increase the resale value of the house, because people buying in your area will *know* what oil heating costs and will factor that into how much they can pay for your house. It is not something you overlook in a New England winter, I don't think.

There are also environmental and national security benefits for an American to burn natural gas over heating oil, but I'll leave that discussion for another Forum (;-)).
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby texasdiver » Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:00 pm

If it were me and there was nothing wrong with the current units then I'd stick with them and look for some sort of alternative heating source to diversify and give you emergency heat. Something like a gas fireplace insert or something that you might want to have in the house anyway.

The existing units could go another 20 years. Unless they were highly inefficient and it was cost-effective to upgrade to a more modern unit I'd just leave them and makes sure you at least had some other way to heat the house in an emergency. Replacing a furnace isn't that big of a deal and I wouldn't toss out a perfectly functional unit just to avoid the possibility of going a day or two without heat in the event of an inconvenient breakdown.

If you can get another 10 years out of the existing units then the energy situation may be completely different in 10 years.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Carl53 » Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:11 pm

It appears that there are 3 major gas companies in Connecticut. They are all in conjunction with the state govt offering $600 rebates on new high efficient gas furnaces (more on boilers) and one lists a $200 rebate of on high efficiency hot water heaters. On one of their websites it was implied that they would go a hundred feet extension or so without charge. In my case in Ohio more than a decade ago, the local company ran about 100 feet of line extension under a road with no charge. You very may be able to gain support from one or more neighbors to consider hooking up to gas which might convince the utility to proceed without charge in anticipation of more business.

I found an excellent fuel cost comparison calculator on the following webpage provided by yankee gas.

http://c03.apogee.net/contentplayer/?ut ... c&id=18867

If I plug in my house data, 2100 sqft single story, 68F and pick the highest efficiency and a price of 82 cents/CCF that I averaged including taxes and fees last Oct-Apr, it estimates my bill at $1082. My actual bill for that 7 months was $509 including hot water for typically 2 adults. I guess my house is tighter than they allow. One caveat regarding the calculator is they do not allow you to adjust the outside temperature. It may be that my Ohio winter was much milder than a typical Connecticut winter.
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Re: Oil vs Propane?

Postby Valuethinker » Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:44 pm

texasdiver wrote:If it were me and there was nothing wrong with the current units then I'd stick with them and look for some sort of alternative heating source to diversify and give you emergency heat. Something like a gas fireplace insert or something that you might want to have in the house anyway.

The existing units could go another 20 years. Unless they were highly inefficient and it was cost-effective to upgrade to a more modern unit I'd just leave them and makes sure you at least had some other way to heat the house in an emergency. Replacing a furnace isn't that big of a deal and I wouldn't toss out a perfectly functional unit just to avoid the possibility of going a day or two without heat in the event of an inconvenient breakdown.

If you can get another 10 years out of the existing units then the energy situation may be completely different in 10 years.


OP does not have access to gas. So first issue is if he/ she can get it. If so, it's almost certainly worth switching.

Remember, this is a *Connecticut* winter. I would imagine it's fairly easy to spend $2000 in winter on oil heat in Connecticut?

So a 20-30% uptick from a more efficient furnace (that number can be checked, there are calculators) by switching to a more efficient oil furnace ccan give sub 10 year payback. That's just sticking with oil.

Switching to gas, the saving could be, I should think, c. $1000 pa? That's a very good return on a few thousand dollars.

Heat pumps are worth investigating.
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