1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Oil or Electric Water Heater?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Haston, Nov 30, 2006.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Haston

    Haston Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Messages:
    53
    We have an oil burner that we run year round, for heat/water in winter and water only during the summer. Our water heater has been acting up and we got some parts replaced under waranty. Now the heating system is throwing a few expensive curve balls (a switch and valve both need to be replaced to keep heat from creeping up into the closest-to-the-furnace baseboards on the second floor and then again creeping down (albeit, less pronouncly) into the radiant pipes on the first floor. This creeping of heat occurs when there is no call for heat. Changing these items is expensive (we've already spent about $1K on new thermostats and other repairs this fall)-- but it strikes me that the only reason to undertake these newest repairs is to keep the heat from "coming on" during the summer. Aren't we better served just changing our water heater to electric and shutting down the furnace for half the year? Our electric bill is generally about $150/mo. in the winter and $250 in the summer. Oil is $2.50 gallon-- and , boy, does that loud oil burner make the first floor warm in the summertime. Anyway, anyone have some thoughts on this quandry. Many thanks. H.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. kevinmoelk

    kevinmoelk New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    730
    Loc:
    Wapato WA, in the Yakima Valley of Central WA
    I too have an oil burner for heat. It is expensive, but effective. I looked into a heat pump system earlier this year and the sales guy wants $8K for a system. I thought that was way too steep for me at the moment. Granted, I haven't shopped around but... My plan is to supplement my heating with a wood stove, which is in the works.

    As far as the water heater is concerned, I use electric. I bought a whirlpool, a $400 piece of junk (see my post entitled "whirlpool rant" in the ash can). If I was buying again I'd get one of these:

    http://www.consumerspower.org/products/wtrhtr/marathon.php

    However, electricity is cheap here in WA thanks to hydro power.

    Long term, any fuel based commodity is only going up in price whether it be gas, electric or oil. Could it be a possibility for you to add solar panels and net meter? Wood is great because no one can stop you from harvesting free wood (at least in most areas) and it's a renewable resource. I suspect as energy gets more and more expensive you'll see a fundamental shift in housing design to incorporate much greater insulation, passive solar designs, solar panels on tops of houses, wind turbines, etc.

    Hope this helps.

    -Kevin
  3. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Messages:
    824
    Do you have a tankless boiler system?

    It sounds like you have thermosiphoning happening, if that be the case the best solution is a heat trap. Have a plumber change the piping configuration coming off the boiler for your heating system so there's an upside down "U" shape as close as possible to the boiler. I included pictures, one allows thermosiphoning which is what sounds like you have going on, as the water heats in the boiler it naturally rises, taking with it energy and it loops and feeds through your system causing more idling of your boiler. You don't need valves or switches to prevent it. The other, has the piping in a heat trap configuration which, as the hot water rises it gets trapped in the upper elbow, it can't naturally flow down preventing thermosiphoning and heat movement through your heating system. The only time heat will move through it is when the pump turns on.

    Attached Files:

  4. smirnov3

    smirnov3 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2006
    Messages:
    431
    Loc:
    Eastern Ma
    I have an oil based hater heater. the nice thing about them is that the main part that will fail over time is the heating element, which is cheap. My parents have an direct fired water heater, and the flame eventually corrodes the bottom of the tank (about 6 months after the warantee is up, usually), flooding the basement.
  5. Haston

    Haston Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Messages:
    53
    Thanks for the input, all. We supplement out oil heat with a Regency wood insert that heats roughly 1/2 the house. I appreciate the diagnosis of the current heating problem-- Rhonemas, you are dead on with our current layout (thanks!)-- but my inquiry to the board is more along the lines of whether it is more efficient (read "cheaper", if you wish) to go with an electric water heater so 1) I don;t have to undertake the aforementioned valve repairs and 2) it turns out to be more cost effective to shut the oil burner down each April and rely on electric rather than oil to heat our water. Again, many thanks. H.
  6. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    1,003
    Loc:
    Orient Point, NY
    So THAT'S why that loop is there on my boiler. Noticed it, never know why the hell they did it that way. Thought someone wasn't paying attention during the install... guess they were. Thanks for the info.

    -- Mike
  7. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    507
    You can get a sense of the difference in efficiency using the Fuel Cost calculator. I plugged in 2.50 for oil and 0.10 for electric, and even with the higher efficiency electric is a loser. If you knew how much hot water you used, you could probably back out the actual cost difference. But you'd ahve to be somewhere on the oil is cheaper side to matter, which seems unlikely.

    Steve
  8. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Electric Hot water heater is the cheapes option for instalation purposes. Did you know there are oil fired hot water tanks. They have the adjantages of being flam fired like a gas units the heat water far more rapidly and recover much faster than any electric tank heater. This sounds like the best solution but if your home is calling for heat in the winter
    When the demand is called in for hot water the fire box is already up to temp. Some say hot water is almost free in winter. But a real pain to here the burner go on in mid summer,
    There is also another way to increase your current boiler effeciency installing a motorized damper and replace the barometric one. Part of the enengy generated by the boiler goes up the chimney There are times the boiler will cycle just to keep fire box temps and heat the flue After the ignition cycle ends still heat is escaping up the chimney This in turns cools the fire box and initiates a shorter time for ignition again. the motorized damper opem seconds before ingition and closes seconds after the ignition cycle has finished .
    A closed Damper prevents heat loss up you chimney the fire box stays hoter longer the the boiler cycles less End result saved fuel usage

    Oil fired Hot water tanks are expensive starting close to 1k. Not the cheapy Home Crapo Wirrlpool electrict
  9. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Messages:
    824
    What does it cost for you in electricity per kw? I'd take a bill and divide the total by the kw's used to come up with something close to the price/kw. There's a lot of hidden fees (customer fees, distribution, transistion, transmission, energy efficiency, and renewable fees on top of the service fee) so I'd use your bill total & total kw's used to come up with the price/kw instead of what they're saying they charge you.

    I worked out the numbers for my area, where I live every dollar spent in oil I have to pay $2.66 to do the same using electricity. That being the case, I'm better off even buying a whole new boiler for $5,000 it'll pay for itself on the 4th year than to switch over to an electric water tank.
  10. MaineWoods

    MaineWoods New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2006
    Messages:
    11
    I've heard this question debated a few times on a local home improvement radio show. The hosts usually boil it down to the question: What is your hot water usage?

    If you live in a 1-2 person household with minimal hot water usage consider electric more closely.

    3 people or more (teenagers in the house that take long showers and use multiple bath towels for each shower?) stay with oil.


    An oil fired boiler in a house has been sized to heat the house its in for the coldest temps it will see for a given winter. It operates most efficiently when its running hot (winter). In the summer when the only demand is hot water the boiler will be oversized for this purpose and will most likely short cycle unless there is a large demand for hot water (multiple person household)


    An electric hot water heater is expensive to operate IF there is a large demand for hot water. But if the demand is minimal (1-2 people who take short showers (warm not hot), wash cloths in cold water etc then an electric water heater can be very economical. Consider the minimal standby losses of a foam insulated tank with long periods of time between hot water usage compared to a boiler starting up and short cycling (its most inefficient cycle) to maintain its water temp.

    My personal situation:

    40 gallon (12 yr)electric hot water heater. (foam insulated. Probably they all are now I'm not sure)
    One person Household--Short showers--Cold water wash--Hang my cloths out to dry in the Spring,Summer and Fall.
    My electric bill runs between 50-80 dollars a month depending on the season. This is in a State with expensive electricity.

    How could I possibly justify switching to Oil? If I had a family my opinion would probably be different.

    Something I may be considering in the future:

    http://www.nyletherm.com/waterheating.htm

    I have a finished basement that gets humid in the summertime. I think one of these would work well in my situation. The big problem I have with this is the last time I checked they were around $800 :bug: !! Too rich for my blood. If the price comes down or State incentives become available (In Maine? Yeah Sure) I would take a closer look at it.

    One thing I would like to add:

    My brother built a duplex a couple years ago and decided on electric hot water heater. I went over to Home Depot with him(Yes, Home Depot :) ) and he bought two 12 year GE water heaters. When checking out the sales clerk asked if he wanted the extended warrenty. He turned it down at first but the clerk said there was a LIFETIME warrenty available on the 12 yr tanks but not the shorter duration tanks. He did get the extended warrenty (if I remember correctly it was about $150 extra per tank but they will die sometime right?). Made the post a little long but I couldnt pass up the chance to mention HOME DEPOT :coolsmile:
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page