converting my house heating from oil to natural gas
November 2, 2011 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Converting my home from fuel oil to natural gas heating - how to do it? My 1890s house is heated with radiators and run on fuel oil - which has been steadily getting more and more expensive. I have natural gas already running to the house for appliances and water heating.

I found a few older questions on this, but they were pretty dated, and the economics on heating oil versus natural gas has changed. I've heard switching from oil to gas isn't that expensive if gas is alrready running to the house (which it is for heating and gas).
Has anyone done this before, and can relate their expieriences? What kind of contractor did you get to do the work, how did you find them, and how much did it cost?
posted by waylaid to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You probably need a new, gas-fired boiler to replace your oil-fired boiler. 'Not that expensive' will still run into several thousand dollars. It will be a while before you see a return on your investment.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 PM on November 2, 2011

when i bought my 1901 craftsman, it was heated by oil, with the oil tank located in the basement (portland has a huge inventory of homes built around the turn of the century that use/d oil heating, with oil tanks often located either in the basement, sit next to the house or buried underground next to the house). the heat in my house was ventilated through central heating ducts rather than radiators, and regulated by thermometer. i wanted to convert to gas so i had to get a gas line run into my house, have a gas furnace installed in my basement, and the oil tank decommissioned. i don't remember the exact cost for this (i want to say something like around $7K or so but at the very least, several thousand) but i did call around local HVAC companies that were recommended to me to get estimates (which varied by a several hundred dollars and will also depend on the model of furnace you choose) and the whole process was taken care of by the company i eventually went with, which is a family-owned company that has been serving portland for decades and has a great reputation.
posted by violetk at 4:29 PM on November 2, 2011

oh, i forgot to add that homeowners who convert from oil to gas can opt to have the oil tank removed or leave the decommissioned tank in situ. as mine sat in my full size basement, there wasn't really a reason for me to spend more money to have it removed.
posted by violetk at 4:33 PM on November 2, 2011

*thermostat i mean, not thermometer!
posted by violetk at 4:37 PM on November 2, 2011

I did the same switch last year (Portland, OR), though my oil furnace used forced-air ducts. The furnace and installation was about $4000 - I can't apportion it exactly as I also had an air-con system installed at the same time. I used an HVAC contractor who was recommended to me by another contractor who I'd used a few times before. I didn't have gas before, but it didn't save any money as the GasCo installed the service for free.

It took about a week and was relatively painless. Regs may mean that you need ductwork to vent gases and draw fresh air in to the system.
posted by nicktf at 4:38 PM on November 2, 2011

Make sure you find out about state and local environmental regulations regarding the removal of the oil tank, especially if it's buried. In some states, (NJ for example), a buried oil tank may significantly complicate the process of selling a house.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 4:39 PM on November 2, 2011

If you are going to just switch your fuel type to NG from oil and still use the radiators, your improvement in efficiency won't be that much, IMO. The pulsed NG heaters I have used are in the 90-92% efficiency range and my oil burner is 88% or so.

If you are going to install ducts for forced warm air, then you aren't looking at a cheap fix... I'd bet 10k, minimum.

If your house uses oil to heat water, then in the summer, it is much less efficient, but the overall savings from completely eliminating oil use might only be a few hundred bux per year. (Oil fired hot water is efficient in the winter, when it's parasitic to normal space heating demand, but in the summer, it's a high mass boiler heating nothing but a tiny container of water and the efficiencies I calculate/monitor are in the 50% range.

This is a complicated retrofit. Since you have NG, you may want to consider demand type hot water if you don't already have it.

Adding more zones, using programmable thermostats, keeping dormant temps very, very low, and being obsessive about energy use will probably save you a bunch, if you don't do these things already. We use bed warmers (like heated sheets) and turn the house off during the night.... typically the tstat is set to 50-55. I am in rural Vermont. (... also in an 1890's house that is so big, you can see it from Sarah Palin's porch. Ok, I lied.)

FWIW, I do this analysis every time the price of oil goes up and it has never made economic sense.
posted by FauxScot at 4:44 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

We had this done to our rental property a year back. Here's what we did/had done:
1. hired a plumbing/HVAC contractor
2. Had him select a NG boiler
3. Brought in a specialist to remove asbestos insulation on the pipes which were improperly abated.
4. Had a chimney specialist install a flue liner
5. Had the plumber remove remaining oil, dismantle the tank and remove and dispose of both.
6. Had the plumber install the new NG boiler, level the radiators and tune the system.
7. Had the plumber remove the oil electric hot water tank and put in a gas one.
Total cost was $11K.

In terms of efficiency gain, the old oil boiler was a converted coal burner. Its efficiency was laughable.
posted by plinth at 5:04 PM on November 2, 2011

Where do you live? Some states have energy credits. Some gas companies have loans for replacement furnaces.

Now's the time to join Angie's List. You'll need a new furnace; get several quotes, and spend some time with the reps - I looked into a new furnace, and got some good advice and was able to keep my existing furnace. Sadly no natural gas line in my area, or I'd have replaced it. You may want to consider getting a wall-mounted gas hot water heater - they're said to be very efficient, and it seems easier to have several gas projects done at once. When you add up the costs, there's a savings most years because you don't have to have the annual cleaning on a gas furnace that you have on an oil furnace.

I miss my NG furnace and radiators in my old house - baseboard heat means I'm restricted in where furniture can go.
posted by theora55 at 5:33 PM on November 2, 2011

I don't know much about this, except that I have recently moved into a rental house that has baseboard, hot-water, radiant heat. The boiler in the basement is about 25 years old and at some point in the past it was converted from oil to natural gas. I only know this because I was here when the HVAC guy came to do the winter service and was asking basic questions about it.

So you might not have to buy a new boiler, but I have no idea what it costs/takes to convert one.
posted by iurodivii at 5:49 PM on November 2, 2011

I just did this last month, replaced a 75% efficient oil fired boiler that provided heat (hot water baseboards) with an NG 95% boiler and an on-demand water heater. The local gas company had deals on the boiler, and there is a federal tax credit. The full job cost $9100 soup to nuts. This included all the hardware, remove the boiler, remove the oil tank, install everything and cap the chimney (didn't need it anymore, the burners vent through the rim joist.)
I had some minor gripes, but they did a good job.
Will I save enough to pay this off within 10 years? Who can say what the price of oil vs. gas will be in the future, but I'm not betting on fuel costs dropping.
posted by Marky at 6:06 PM on November 2, 2011

Response by poster: Tank is large (about 250 gallons) and above ground. Man, this is a lot more expensive than i thought!
posted by waylaid at 9:27 PM on November 2, 2011

Best answer: Your local gas company will have tons of info. Rebates on high efficiency boilers, and the rebate will vary depending on efficiency. OR they will offer discounted boilers. They will also have a list of approved, but not prerequisite installers. Call a few of them for quotes. My quotes ranged from $3,00o to $19,000. Of course the 19k guy would only do the job if he could "do it right" which to him meant rezoning the house, a 93% efficiency boiler, new hot water heater, outside temp sensor etc. Do it NOW. It will take 3 or 4 weeks to arrange everything, and it is starting to get cold... FWIW my in-place installation ( ripping out the oil burner and dropping in the new gas one) cost about $1800.00 for the plumber including parts, plus about $900.00 for the boiler, 200 for the electrician, and $250 for removing the oil tank,
Remove the oil tank. Costs about $350.00 and your homeowners insurance may require it. Any leftover oil may be donated. Ask around, but usually that is handled by an oil company contracted by the non-profit.
posted by Gungho at 6:52 AM on November 3, 2011

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