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Home Heating Oil: the bell tolls for thee...

Post in 'The Green Room' started by woodgeek, Jun 6, 2013.

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  1. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Some interesting data re new houses built in the US:
    http://www.census.gov/construction/chars/completed.html

    I thought the heating system info was particularly interesting:
    http://www.census.gov/construction/chars/pdf/heatingfuel.pdf

    <1% of new houses built in the US in 2012 have heating oil as their primary fuel source.
    Even in the Northeast, the percentage is ~5% of new houses, versus >30% pre-2002.
    In fact, according to the census the number of new oil-heated houses built in 2012 is ~2000 or so in the whole US, and all of those are in the Northeast.

    We can also look at Air Source Heat Pumps:
    http://www.census.gov/construction/chars/pdf/heatsystem.pdf
    Nationwide, ASHPs get 38% of 'share' as the primary heaters in new residential construction. Of course, most of those are in the South....
    In the 'Northeast', ASHPs were installed in 4000, or ~8% of new houses.

    Conclusion: even in the Northeast, there are 2x as many ASHPs being installed in new houses as oil heaters. in the US overall, it is 90x! (183,000 versus 2,000 houses)

    Other random fact: nationwide, less than 2% of new houses built use hydronic or steam distribution, and in the Northeast, the share is <10%.

    For a guy who grew up in MA where every single house I ever saw was oil-fired hydronic baseboards, who then bought the same thing in PA, this is slightly mind-blowing.

    But since I am now ripping out the old baseboard in my retrofit ASHP-heated 1960s house, I guess I won't worry about hurting the resale value 15 years from now. :cool:
    Joful likes this.

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  2. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I am surprised at the hydronic aspect of that - IMO it is the most comfortable & efficient means of heating a home, hands down. I'm thinking there may be a combo of factors driving that - a warming climate, increased desire for some A/C in the other times of the year, increasing efficiencies/decreasing heat losses in building technologies, and improving heat pumping technologies. So on further thought, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised.

    There are a ton of mini-splits being sold & installed up here - new & retrofit.
  3. Circus

    Circus Member

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    Not surprising. Fuel oil cost $28 per million btu while gas is about $8.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    In one way it is surprising because natural gas is only piped in to denser population areas.
    Joful likes this.
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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  6. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    The article is distinguishing current, high sulfur grades of diesel, heating oil, versus ultralow sulfur diesel (ULSD). Looks like the old stuff will be banned outright in 2018 (already banned in NY) and I guess stragglers will still be able to run their burners on ULSD?
  7. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    I am just wondering what will happen when the shale gas bubble bursts and people won't know how to heat their homes. Let's just hope now build homes are so energy efficient that general usage will drop over time.
  8. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    I doubt many people on this forum would be overly affected by this, I have enough wood growing on my property to heat my home for twenty years, and I'm on the less prepared end of the users here...
    Fuel costs rise and fall, and new houses and retrofits will generally choose the lowest at the time, but over time market fluctuations spread the source of home heating over many fuels.

    TE
  9. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Personally, I think that the shale gas 'business' pays depending on, no surprise, the price of gas. Can they make a profit at $4/MMBTU ($0.40/therm), the wholesale price last year? I'm no expert, but it seems hard/unlikely. When the wholesale prices are more like the historical average 2-3X higher than that? I'm no expert, but seem plausible. Are they still 'learning', so their operating cost will continue to fall, sure.

    IOW, the biggest boosters that say we will have $4/MMBTU wholesale gas for the next 50 years....probably BS. But, is there enough shale gas to keep the price moderate in the US (and other countries that develop it) for a generation or more.....almost certainly.

    And remember that residential gas never sold close to $0.40/therm delivered. Even if wholesale prices doubled from here going forward, I suspect the residential customers wouldn't even notice, due to the smaller % increase in retail price, and the frackers would have plenty of profit to keep drilling.
  10. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Im surprised ANYONE is installing new oil burning equipment these days. The economics of oil heat left the barn years ago.
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Where I live, propane is more expensive than oil, and there are no natural gas mains. I've been thinking about mini split heat pumps, but I'm not sure how that would work where I live. So, there's not much choice.
  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Same here. We are fortunate, with a lot of hydropower and milder climate the mini-splits are a great fit.
  13. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    It's also interesting that hydronic heat was is almost completly oil heat. I see very little new construction as forced hot air here in the NE. I think it's due to the fact that I have only seen a small handfull of homes with centeral A/C (window shakers are king up here). I'd say the share of FHA vs FHW heat is close to 50/50 here in the far northeast. Propane is taking over all of the oil in commercial buildings, but the VAST majority of people have oil burners in residential, and about 40% of those have pellet stoves, and less than 20% burn wood all winter. Most who have wood stoves or boilers ~40% burn occatioanlly. Pellets are taking the market for retrofit, and ASHPs are closing in in the retro market as well.

    TS
  14. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Its interesting that they even leave the word steam in there. I guess new installs are not absolutely zero, there is one steam heat tech on the heatinghelp boards who is such an enthusiast he actually designed and installed from scratch a brand new steam system in his custom house...

    Living in old houses I actually like the charm of whistling steam radiators in a big old Victorian, but we have long since decided that if we ever manage to do our big addition here, high velocity air goes in for AC and most likely heat as well, and bye-bye iron radiators and exposed steam pipes in the living room.
  15. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Why high velocity air? Retrofit? Is that still used?
  16. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Indeed, I was always skeptical of hi velocity....sounds like higher operating cost and noise.

    Our neighbors with the copy of our house spent a bundle in 2006 to put in hi velocity AC in their oil-heated house. A couple years later they wished they had put in a ASHP, but the hi velocity ducts can't be used with HPs, it seems. Who installed the AC system? Their friendly oil company. :mad:
  17. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Why high velocity? A 200 year old house with wall cavities that are less than 3in deep and almost no closets to hide ductwork in either ;)

    Maybe there is some way to put in conventional ducting using 2 air exchangers with one in the crawlspace attic feeding the upstairs ... I havent researched that far as this is a project we wont be able to afford even planning out for 3-5 years..
  18. Dave A.

    Dave A. Minister of Fire

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    I don't think that's (absolutely) correct. Before I went wood stove insert, I was researching heat pumps and considering high velocity systems. The main difference was the higher cost of the air handler for high velocity. But the same heat pump could be used.

    http://spacepak.com/small-duct-high-velocity-questions-answers.asp
    Does SpacePak work with Heat Pumps?

    Yes… all SpacePak DX fan coils are manufactured so that they can operate hand-in-hand with a Heat Pump outdoor unit.

    (There may have been more to it than that with your neighbors situation.)
  19. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the info....I might pass it 'over the fence'
  20. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    jharkin,

    I know we think similar about the future availability of fossil fuels. I am curious, what are your plans when NG and oil are getting scarce? Do you think you can rely on woodheat exclusively? I still have not quite figured out what we will do when the time comes.
  21. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I suspect that day is actually further away than I feared a few years ago. We seem to be getting by better than expected at $100 oil / $4 gasoline and supply is still growing if very very slowly... Of course that means even worse news for the climate but that is another subject. I'm no expert on fracking but it feels like gas will hold out for a while even if that bubble bursts.

    The explosive growth in renewables the optimists hope for may yet materialize also giving us breathing room to convert... I had my doubts there too but it seems in the last couple years I see a new rooftop PV install on my drive to work every month or so. Our local dunkins is now on solar power, they just built a big solar farm on 495 north and a permit was approved to build a solar farm in town.

    My thinking is eventually convert from the gas/steam to force air, and use heat pumps instead of straight AC units, with high efficiency gas furnace backup. That way I could have a choice of 3 fuels based on prevailing prices (knowing that when oil and gas both get very expensive everyone and their uncle will be looking to cut wood).
  22. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Indeed. Over the last 20 years, total energy use for space heating homes in the US has dropped by ~25%:
    http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=10271

    This is despite there being more homes total (population increase and smaller households) AND new homes getting significantly larger (~30%).

    Building codes work I guess.
  23. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Answer: Mini-splits
  24. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Probably right but a tough proposition in places like Vermont. Electricity rates will also have to go up with NG being responsible for a quarter of our power production.
    Frozen Canuck likes this.
  25. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I was just out to Bratt and heard your nuke plant was being phased out too. That won't help your electricity rates any.

    Matt
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