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)

Switch From Oil To Propane?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by velvetfoot, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    I had an energy audit yesterday. The guy said that I should consider switching from oil (boiler) to propane, since propane is cheaper and there also is a $1500 rebate from the state. While we burn wood, it's probably good for 50% or so of our heating costs. The oil burner seems more finicky than the gas units I've had in the past - yearly checkups and he said it was burning dirty (high CO), so I have to call the oil guy, again - all of which costs money. Plus, there'd be an extra flue in the basement :) .

    Anyway, is there a general rule of thumb on switching, like if the price diff. is X then payback period would be Y? I'm going to start poking around to see if I can find anything. I think he said there's a unit, Triangle?, that's small enough to hang on a wall and provides instant hot water too.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    48,116
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Ironic that propane is cheaper than oil there. It is made from oil and natural gas, so I don't know how stable the price will be in the future. Out here it is a premium fuel. Have you thought about a mini-split heat pump? What does electricity cost in your area?
  3. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    It's cold in the winter here.
    Electricity is high.
    We have a boiler.
  4. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    Searching on hearth.com , I found this calculator: http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls

    It doesn't seem like it would pay to switch to propane.
    Maybe a high efficiency oil boiler.
    Coal, or whole-house pellets or wood won't make it for me.
  5. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,099
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    I don't know where you buy propane BG but oil costs about 4$ per gallon and propane about 2$ per gallon. On a per btu basis I don't know.

    The boiler was probably a takagi boiler. It is a wall mounted condensing boiler so way into the 90s for efficiency. They have computer boards, blower motors, and electronic ignition but can be vented through the wall and take nearly no space. Propane requires much less maintenance than oil.
  6. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    This is the spreadsheet I was talking about.
    For my area, 3.64 for oil and 3.26 for propane, per NYSERDA website.

    Attached Files:

  7. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Messages:
    2,026
    Loc:
    The island of Rhum Boogie
    I think it comes down to how much you use. The cut-off for me was about 500 gallons. Over that point the extra maint. cost of oil was offset by the lower cost per btu. Propane has the advantage of modulating the boiler to keep you in condensing mode(which doen't really make sense for oil, 1/2 the condensate) but your return temps need to be pretty low (130-140) to promote condensing and you won't get that when your house is in recovery, making hot water or its cold outside.

    I stuck with oil, bought a 2nd tank and upgraded to a 89+ eff boiler. I got the 2nd tank to try and stretch that "OOF" moment right before January. I'd love to have a 1000 gallon in-ground tank but I don't think I could get away with it in my town. Another advantage of propane.
  8. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    I didn't know oil boilers came that efficient. May I ask what brand/model it is?
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    48,116
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Boy, I sure wish propane cost only $2/gallon. Last fill up for us was over $4/gal. Not sure the local price of heating oil, I'll have to ask.

    Looks like I'm not the only one either:

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_does_propane_cost_in_Washington_state
  10. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Messages:
    2,026
    Loc:
    The island of Rhum Boogie
    Sorry, its top secret. If you got one that would make me less special...

    Buderus makes a 89%+ boiler (forget the model, I think its BE). I've got a Viessmann Vitola 200 w/Riello burner that is putting out about +/- 90 eff with a stack temp of 274F (very low). After almost 2 years there's no evidence of condensation in the boiler so I'm not going to mess with it. If the stack temp is too low they recommend you drill the heat exchanger to raise the temp but you lose efficiency so I just relined the flue.
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    Someone here at work also likes the Vitola 200. It's been around for a while, which is good. It can run a pretty low boiler temp, like with an outdoor reset?
  12. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    Messages:
    724
    Loc:
    media, pa
    oil here in pa is about $3.99 plus you have to sign up with them which i think tags on another $100 or so/year if you want to lock at that price. I forget the details as i havent bought oil in 4 years :) Got that info from my neighbor. Every time I hear the oil truck rolling through the neighborhood I point out to my wife that he is collecting $1000 each time he fills a tank... It is very scary how much people send on heating. Sending most of that money out of the country never to return...

    I am also surprised, I have noticed that sometimes I can even smell the exhaust from the oil burners in my neighbors houses (and i am on a half acre). One neighbor had his oil burner get fouled.... His house sent smoke out the chimney like a battleship in an old world war 2 movie... scary! More smoke than I have ever sent up with my wood burner!
  13. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,099
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    You and that one guy on wikianswers are the only two then. I filled up my three 5 gallon BBQ tanks near the end of summer for 1.89 per gallon and then the sandwich board sign on the way to work reads 2.39 now. Do they gouge you an extra couple of dollars, double the price, to get it delivered? I thought the price might be lower since you're buying in bulk.
  14. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Messages:
    3,095
    Loc:
    NH
    wow...propane here is $3.50+ /gal....of course we have no NG anywhere, so there really isn't much of an energy competiton going on. You get to choose between expensive, or expensive.
  15. karl

    karl Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2007
    Messages:
    1,057
    Loc:
    Huntington, West Virginia
    That shows natural gas being cheaper than wood. We're all idiots for burning wood. lol
  16. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    No, not all of us. Only the ones who can actually get natural gas.
  17. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,320
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    Notice that they used 55% for wood heat efficiency... can anyone say smoke dragon.

    I have NG and Ive done the math. 75% stove vs. 83% boiler and at today's prices - break even is around $200-225 an honest hardwood cord. If you are scrounging or getting your wood cheap its still worth it.

    Then again many of us on here will burn wood anyway even if its not the cheapest. :)
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    48,116
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    No, there are lots of us. The Seattle area gets gouged badly by Suburban Propane. I had been getting better prices up in the Skagit region, but that is still about $2.50/gallon. The last time I refilled was last summer, so I just called the local True Value. Price is down to $3.49/gallon. Much better, but you are still almost 50% less. Next time I'm coming down to your area for refills. 3 10 gallon cylinders will be almost a $50 savings. Any favorite spot?
  19. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,099
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    Yes, I have a favorite spot. He only takes cash and is a little ecentric but what the heck, always beats the competition without me asking. I have turned on a few coworkers to this guy too.It is one of those RV parts places that seems to use propane to lure in RV customers. I would be glad to call for a price when you're ready and then you can decide if the trip makes financial sense.
  20. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2009
    Messages:
    5,228
    Loc:
    Croton-on-Hudson, suburbs of NYC
    Where I live propane has flakes of gold in it, or at least it priced like it is. I have paid well over $5 per gallon. I want to switch to cheap oil!
  21. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Messages:
    2,026
    Loc:
    The island of Rhum Boogie
    I think it came out in 1980. Been around a long time. It doesn't have a minimum return temp. Looks like a mini garn without the insulation on it.

  22. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    Thanks. My Burnham boiler is only 7 years old or so, but it might pay to at least look at switching, I guess.
  23. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Messages:
    2,026
    Loc:
    The island of Rhum Boogie
    Depends on how much you burn. V8 with a Beckett Burner? Probably not worth it because you can get 80+% pretty easy. My boiler fell off a truck so if service is an issue I'm up the creek. But Germans make the best stuff, and I know controls pretty good so if I couldn't get parts for whatever reason I know at least I'll have heat.

    A good choice is an outdoor reset (I saved about 100 gallons my first year with one) depending on your hot water requirements. They really help in the shoulder seasons, especially considering most boilers are 3x oversized.
  24. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    6,646
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    Right you are - it is a Burnham V8 with a Beckett burner. I did get an outdoor reset, but I understand the return water temperature can't be too low. I wound up rigging a relay with the Tekmar reset (to save money) so I can use the dom. hot water priority.
  25. metalsped

    metalsped Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2011
    Messages:
    218
    Loc:
    Quabbin Woods
    Well my oil furnace cracked a few weeks ago, and I was forced to do this exact swap. I am doing an upgrade to a 96+% Efficiency propane boiler, with buried 500g propane tank in the yard. As I am getting a joint deal with my father (who consumes a good deal of propane)... I was quoted $2.14/gal. Makes it much more tolerable.

    The 0%, 7 near note offered through Mass Save helps too :)

Share This Page