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Oil Furnace is Dying: Natural Gas Insert or Natural Gas Furnace First?

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by vakory, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. vakory

    vakory New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2013
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Richmond, VA
    Good morning, Everyone. It appears our 20 year old oil furnace may be dying. We haven't been in our house long and, fortunately, it came with a home warranty which may cover the repair (I'm waiting on a callback) but I've had to have the furnace looked at already once this week before it stopped running again. Rather than continuing to throw good money after bad (and that I had planned on converting to a natural gas furnace eventually anyway), I'm leaning towards either installing an insert or replacing the oil furnace with a NG one.

    Our house is just over 3,000 square feet total. We have a pellet insert in the basement that covers about 600 square feet of living space in the rec room. The other side of the basement is a shop and laundry room. I can open the doors and get good warmth from the insert there.

    The main level is about 1,600 square feet where the current builder-grade ventless NG logs are. Then we have a converted attic where our master bedroom is just above.

    We have R-12 insulation on the main level and in the attic's crawlspace above our bedroom. The windows are fairly new vinyl replacements.

    I've been kicking around the idea of installing a fireplacextrodinair 616 or 34 DVL insert in the living room on the main floor. We have ceiling fans in the living room, all the bedrooms and the kitchen (not in the dining room) which may help with circulation. However, since our oil furnace seems to be on the fritz, I'm now leaning towards replacing it with a NG furnace.

    Based on my research, it may be less expensive to go with the insert, however, it may be more expensive month-to-month to run if using it as our primary heat source.

    I'm debating about going with the insert first or the furnace first.

    Thanks much, in advance, for any insight y'all might provide! :)

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  2. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Messages:
    4,876
    Loc:
    Schenectady, NY
    I'm going to vote for the furnace. When I dropped oil and went with NG it was a wonderful thing. It's possible that the cost of pellets might rise or you could run out at some time and not have heat down there. Take care of the whole structure first and then work on the space heating.

    Matt
    raybonz likes this.
  3. vakory

    vakory New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Richmond, VA
    Thanks much, Matt. I appreciate your input! Yes, I'll probably go with the furnace first as I've been leaning that way but wanted to ask you good people for your thoughts.

    Have a nice Easter!
  4. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    371
    Loc:
    Mid-Hudson Valley, NY
    I would think that the insert would be more expensive to heat with in the long run. I THINK a new gas furnace will be much more efficient than the insert.

    I am in the process of trying to get our local gas utility to come to our neighborhood. I too would like a gas stove. If all goes well I will be switching out the oil boiler for a gas one even though our boiler is only about 7 years old and has the Energy Star sticker on it.
  5. vakory

    vakory New Member

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    Loc:
    Richmond, VA
    Thanks much for your input, Jaugust. I appreciate it! Yeah, I also think it would be cost-prohibitive to solely rely on two inserts for my primary heat source. They'd probably just work too hard to keep up which would kill the cost factor anyway.

    My boiler is 20 years old and I'm now having to bleed it almost every day since I refuse to have any more work done on it and it's so close to the end of the heating season anyway. Not a big deal for me to do that. Summer's probably a good time to have a new furnace put in anyway (better than putting in A/C at that time, I would think). We'll see!
  6. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I was able to just switch the burner on my boiler. My boiler was only a few years old at the time.
  7. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    Mid-Hudson Valley, NY
    I was wondering about that. I have read that the boiler loses efficiency when switching out the burner and will eventually cost more in the long run.
    I have a Dunkirk Empire II and I recall reading either on their website or in the paperwork I have that it is not recommended to switch out the oil burner for gas. A much cheaper solution by far.
  8. vakory

    vakory New Member

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    Loc:
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    Actually, I have been wondering about the viability of switching out the burner as well and replacing it with a natural gas burner. My concern is that the overall furnace is 20 years old and what else may be next to break? Granted, replacing the burner is probably the least expensive option. Additionally, should one be concerned after using an oil burner then converting it to natural gas with possible flammability issues created after pumping oil into the chamber for so many years then pumping NG into it?
  9. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I don't know why it would lose efficiency just by switching over. Exhaust gasses run through the heat exchanger and the heat is transferred to the water in the boiler. I don't know how that would be different if the fire inside the boiler was fueled by gas or oil. Maybe I'm wrong though.

    My boiler was a WM Gold. I think it was rated at 85% efficient with a Riello? burner in it. The gas burner was rated the same efficiency. The boiler was only something like 2 years old. I would have hated to have to put in a whole new system after only 2 years. Maybe they are comparing an 85% eff boiler with one of the new 95% condensing boilers for the long term part? I bet that would make switching to the conversion burner more expensive over the long run. Eventually that 10% would make a difference. For the short term though, I think it is hard to beat the lower cost of the fuel on the same eff. The conversion burner was much easier on the pocket too. One thing I do remember from when I was researching this is that once you reach a certain efficiency you have to use power assisted venting. And I think there was something about the need to be very careful on which side of the house you put the intake on in relation to the exhaust. It's probably not much of an inconvenience, but at the time I remember it being something that I didn't want to deal with.

    Matt
  10. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    20 years is a little old, but if it is in good shape, maybe it would be worth it? You should be able to to get somebody to inspect the water jackets in there. The boiler itself doesn't have any moving parts. The pump and oil burner bolt on the outside of it. Your boiler wouldn't have the use that one in the North has.

    Hopefully all of the oil injected into the burn chamber was burnt. There shouldn't be anything flammable in there. When I opened mine up the kaowool blanket was still white. There was soot from the oil on the heat exhcanger, but it brushed out.

    As I said in the above post, I'm not a HVAC tech, and didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn for a night. It's all conjecture on my part.

    Matt
  11. vakory

    vakory New Member

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    Loc:
    Richmond, VA
    Thanks much for your replies, Matt! The conversion looks like a viable option. Looks like I could pick up a Wayne NG burner online for about $500 to $550. I've also contacted my NG company to inquire about extending the NG run down to the cellar.
  12. FanMan

    FanMan Feeling the Heat

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    Why? Heat is heat. I got tired of babying my 25+ year old oil furnace so I installed a 30KBTU DV freestanding propane fireplace in the living room and 7500BTU DV wall mount heaters on each of the two back bedrooms (1800sf single story house). I left the oil furnace installed just in case (with a half tank of oil), but other than a 5 minute test run at the beginning of the season, I never turned it on all winter, my propane bill was considerably less than the previous year's oil bill and the electric bill was less (the propane appliances use no electricity). The furnace comes out this year.

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