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Propane boiler? I didn't know you could do that . . .

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by snowleopard, Sep 23, 2011.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1,494
    Had a plumber in yesterday, and mentioned I was looking for a temporary fix because I was going to get my boiler redone, and would replace the pump at that point. He offered to give me a bid on the boiler job, and I agreed. Looked at my setup (burnt-out oil boiler in the garage, with thirty feet of glycol hose running to the house in a utilidor, and no mixing valve in the house for the upstairs HWBB and the downstairs in-floor radiant).

    We discussed options, and he asked why have a boiler in the garage rather than the house. I told him that one advantage was that last winter when my boiler blew and sprayed glycol, it was all over the garage instead of the house, that I knew someone whose house burned down from the same boiler when the chimney corroded. So fire safety and the residual heat in the garage were both plusses.

    He suggested I consider placing it inside, and said I could get away with about 2/3 the boiler if I weren't heating that long run through the utilidor. Oh?

    Then he asked if I'd ever considered a propane boiler, and I said "A what?" and we talked a bit, and I'm considering it. He told me that I could probably save significantly on fuel, and suggested I do my homework.

    I don't know anyone who heats their house with a propane boiler. I knew some folks who did it with heaters, and it cost them a fortune--I've just never considered it a viable option, and I have always politely ignored the presence of the "it's a gas" forum on this site. Here I am, knocking on your back door . . .

    Can someone steer me towards a Propane Boilers for Simpletons primer? Or give me a run-down on the pros and cons of a propane boiler? (Pro: cheaper. Con: you can blow your house up.) Does it introduce more moisture into the air? Do you have OAKs for combustion air? How much power does it use? How does it function in a power outage? What questions should I be asking that I am too ignorant to even know to ask? Etcerayadda.

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  2. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    934
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    hello,

    I've been helping my friend, who is a heating contractor, do some propane installs. They've been around for years. He uses Weil Mclean and Baxi Luna although there are many others. Their high efficiency comes from being able to modulate their input (rather than just on/ off) and operate in condensing mode. They are side wall vented and extract so much heat from the fuel they use plastic vent pipe. Look up HVAC forums (The Wall) for info.

    Ehouse
  3. jimbom

    jimbom Combustion Analyzer

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,022
    Loc:
    Missouri Ozarks
    My grandparents had a propane boiler from the sixties until the nineties when we converted it to natural gas. Those puppies have been around for decades. I wanted one, but could not find one small enough for our heating load. So we use a 10 kW hot water heater as a boiler. Been working well for twenty years.
  4. North of 60

    North of 60 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    2,449
    Loc:
    Yukon Canada
    A few things to consider Snowleopard. Fuel cost. LP per gallon, Oil per gallon. Oil has almost twice the BTUs per gallon. But, now you must take efficiencies into consideration. Input over output to weigh the difference. Now Remember....Depending on your climate... Your propane will require to have a tank blanket in the extreme cold. That draws KWs. The colder it is the more draw.
    If no blanket= no heat in your home. Propane will not boil off on its own enough in the cold temps. Viessmann oil boilers have a great efficiency track record.
    More homework. %-P
    Cheers
  5. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    Messages:
    4,250
    Loc:
    Northern MN
    Although this is true, it is irrelevant for most of the US. We have a rental home with a propane boiler, 500 gal LP tank outside fully exposed to the weather. Winter low commonly to -35F, still reliable propane for the boiler. There was a problem a number of years ago when temps hit -45F and lower.
  6. North of 60

    North of 60 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    2,449
    Loc:
    Yukon Canada

    Yes, the 1st words in your quote , Depending on your climate..... It doesnt say where he/she lives. If its Interior Alaska or something its a real b--ch loosing your heat when it gets that cold. AND that is when you need it.
  7. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,092
    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley, MA
    I looked into a propane boiler a few years ago, but joined the pellet-pigs instead, my gas co. in ME was going to "give" me a "submarine" tank, they were recommending a buried tank to keep the yard free and the gas evaporating in the extreme cold, but that wouldn't be "free"
  8. Mike T

    Mike T Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Messages:
    60
    Loc:
    VT
    I have had a propane boiler in one form or another for about 20 years. For me, having a tank buried outside that was less temperature sensitive than oil was a key reason to go with propane back then.

    I originally had a small high efficiency boiler that was heat and DHW in one small unit. When I added on to the house, I replaced it with a Burnham propane boiler and a BioMass wood boiler as the original small boiler could not produce enough BTUs to heat the home. Some of the reasons I stayed with propane with the new unit was the exhaust did not take up a chimney flue (so I could use it for the wood boiler) and I wanted a fuel/boiler that required absolutely no effort to maintain on my wife's part as I could have been gone for months at a time. She also mandated that she didn't want a "big dumb tank" in the basement and I didn't want to deal with oil in an outside tank.

    As the gent from Canada mentioned, look at price and efficiency in choosing. My boiler has a very thin walled exhaust pipe that is touching the wooden exterior walls. It doesn't get hot enough to do anything.
  9. R Mannino

    R Mannino Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Messages:
    75
    Loc:
    Long Island, N.Y.
    Veissmann Vitodens can burn propane and can easily switch to natural gas if it becomes available.
    Are they costly, yes but you get what you pay for.

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