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Gas insert to offset oil, would it help

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by jbrown2197, Jun 23, 2008.

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  1. jbrown2197

    jbrown2197 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2008
    Messages:
    3
    Loc:
    Auburn, ME
    I believe I have access to natural gas, but never having used gas I'm not sure what the cost would be to use it. I have an old (about 30 yrs) oil boiler that circulates heat via an air handler (forced hot air). I know it's not the most efficient system, but I don't have the money to replace it right now.
    I am concerned about the price of oil, so I'm looking for a reasonable alternative to help offset my oil consumption. I thought about pellet inserts but the price tag on them is up around mid 4,000 dollars. Gas inserts seem to be cheaper. I have a few questions though.
    1. A pellet insert requires a 3 inch stainless steel vent pipe inserted in my chimney, does a gas insert require this as well?
    2. How well would a gas insert heat a 1300 square foot home? Any idea what the gas consumption would be, or monthly expense if it were run say 5-6 hours a day?
    3. Is a gas insert meant to be run for 5 or 6 hours daily, and what is the maintenance like, if any?

    Thanks

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  2. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2008
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    1,099
    Loc:
    Burbs of B'more, MD, Hon!
    I think it's all kind of a crapshoot right now. NG is currently a lot cheaper than oil, but I've heard it is going up. It used to be the utilities would hook you up for little more than the cost of the materials to do the job, but I think those days are long gone. Get a quote and see. The pellet situation is not looking good, and propane is all over the place. Nobody really knows and my Ouija board and Magic 8 ball are not being very helpful these days.

    If you can get gas installed for less than about $1k, you might be better off with a modern condensing gas furnace. They are so efficient, they vent through PVC and don't need a chimney. If you already have the ductwork, you should be able to get one installed for well under $4k. Even if gas continues to rise, you should still make out in the long run.

    Just about any insert is going to require a new chimney, or at least a liner in the old one. Gas inserts are cheaper, but their efficiencys top out in the 70% range. The condensing furnace is about 90% for comparison.

    I can't be sure about heating the whole house with an insert, but a heat loss calculation will tell you. It won't be able to spread the heat around like a ducted furnace would, but it will make a dent in the oil bill. The maintenance on a gas appliance is practically nil as there is nothing that really need so be cleaned. You will probably want to get a professional inspection every year or so to be safe, but I wouldn't expect this to cost more than about $50-100 a visit. Continuous operation shouldn't be a problem in any case.

    Right now, NG costs about $1.50 a therm (100,000 BTU) or so. Oil is running around $4 for the same amount of heat, in rough numbers. Figure out what it is going to cost to get it into the house and decide from there. Once you have gas, you may find yourself wanting to replace your water heater and stove, but that's down the road, if prices hold.

    Hope this is helpful!

    Chris
  3. jbrown2197

    jbrown2197 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2008
    Messages:
    3
    Loc:
    Auburn, ME
    Thanks for the info. It looks like NU would run a line to my house for roughly 800-1000 dollars. Or if I convert to a nat gas heating system the hookup is free. They don't, however, deal in equipment and suggested finding someone local.
    So I guess the question is what is a good system, or which companies seem to be worth investing in? When I search on line I see lots of ads for Trane, and Carrier how do they stack up?
    I guess I'm looking for a boiler system.
  4. SNAPMAN61

    SNAPMAN61 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2008
    Messages:
    47
    Loc:
    LITCHFIELD,ME.
    An answer to your question 2. I own a Waterford propane insert (30,000 btu). My house is 1800 square feet not counting the basement. The insert was installed in our basement hearth and has done a great job heating the house until the temps get into the teens and single numbers. At that point it still is a great heat source but needs a little help to maintain 65+ degrees on the living floor. We used around 500 gallons of propane last year running the stove 4-6 hours a day. I hope this info helps.......
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    12,100
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    Western Mass.
    I think you would save over oil in the long and short run - this assumes you get an efficient insert- and, yes, you do have to install it with TWO pipes going up the chimney in most cases, but the cost is less than pellet for the pipes because they are aluminum (usually) as opposed to stainless.

    A lot of the savings is in the idea of "space heat" as opposed to central heat. This can represent a substantial savings! At the same time, any inserts may not be worth running 24/7, but rather for attended use and extra warmth. It will allow the regular thermostat to be turned way down.
  6. RedRanger

    RedRanger New Member

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    British Columbia
    The insert will help and will save you a few bucks. Ours is propane and is used primarily as a booster to the wood insert located 2 levels below it. Wheras the oil-fired boiler is 1 zone only and comes on only during the early morning if the wood has burned up, and then the bolier heats the entire house.

    You have to do a little thinking here. Why run the boiler if the bottom 2 levels are warm and toasty? In that sceriaro it is better to turn on the propane insert for an hour to heat up the next 2 floors that actually need the heat. Personally I like having the 3 sources of heat for this 4 level house. If we were to burn nothing but oil the cost per season likely would exceed 4k, wheras we have cut that by 60%. Wood CSD 6 cords $1000,propane last year was $400, and oil was a meagre $350. Hope this gives you some insight.
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    If you are going to be running a forced air furnace you need to include the 15% duct loss so a 90% efficient furnace loses an additional 15% to the ducts on the way to those far rooms. This can be eliminated if your runs are all within the heated areas of the house and not in attics or crawlspaces.

    The inserts that I have seen by hearthstone for example are well into the 80s for fuel efficiency and they do not suffer from duct loss in delivering this heat to the room.

    The difference is that an insert will easily heat the room and will do an OK job at heating the house. A furnace will heat the whole home evenly and use more fuel to do it. Many folks in my area use one or two gas inserts as primary home heaters since they are essentially maintenance free, work in power outages, and are thermostatic.

    Cost for an insert making 30000-40000 btus is in the 2500 -3500 range.
  8. jbrown2197

    jbrown2197 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2008
    Messages:
    3
    Loc:
    Auburn, ME
    I think I've decided to put my money into replacing my old oil boiler with a new gas system. I'm interested in the Trane products, from what I've been finding online they seem to be one of the more reliable brands. Does anyone have any advice on a gas boiler or furnace? I have central air in my house now, so I'm thinking of getting a furnace so I can continue using that system.
    How has the price of natural gas been over the past few years? Relatively stable? I hear it is regulated by the government so is less susceptible to price swings. Just wondering how much truth there is to that.
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