Propane vs. oil boilers

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Old 03-26-12, 06:31 AM
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Propane vs. oil boilers

I was at a local home show this weekend and after talking to a couple retailers (fuel and home heating guys), I starting to consider switching to a propane boiler from oil, when the time and funds become available for a boiler replacement.

Between the two types of fuel, what are the pros and cons of each and what would you suggest if you where to replace a boiler in an area where natural gas is not available at the door, but oil and propane is?

With minimal research, I think the propane would be less maintenance as it's cleaner burning (from what I can tell). Everyone I talked to at the show boosted higher efficiency with the propane, but I know these numbers are under optimal conditions.
 
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Old 03-26-12, 08:15 AM
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Hi Mike,
This debate has been, and will be, going on, for years.

As far a maintenance costs go. If you get a standard old style gas boiler there will be minimal costs. A mod-con propane boiler will cost the same, or likely more for maintenance than an oil burner.

Oil has about 138,500 but's per gallon
Propane has about 91,300

At 80% eff. and $3.69 for a gallon of oil,
propane has to cost 2.42 to be equal.
At 95% for propane it has cost less than $2.87 a gallon to cost less than 3.69 oil.

The consensus here, the last time this came up was oil costs less.
Depends on where you live, the yearly volume and who owns the tank, as to how much you can get propane for.


Oh by the way.
For a usage of 150 to 200 gallons of propane a year for my Hearthstone Stove, im paying about $4.50 a gallon.


Peter
 
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Old 03-26-12, 08:34 AM
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Thanks for the info Peter.
I haven't really looked into this too much as it's not on the forefront of my mind (winter is pretty much over, so on to summer troubles).

When talking to a Propane supplier at the show (remembering where the advise was coming from), he mentioned that I should check with my insurance company regarding the savings of going from oil to propane. Knowing that a leaking tank can condemn a house, I double that going to propane could save me anything on insurance (leaking propane can explode, leaking oil contaminates the soil).
If I remember correctly (didn't get it in writing and heard a lot of numbers that day), it was below $1 a liter for propane, which beats the price of oil at $1.14 a liter delivered. (We get screwed on the price of fuel here in Canada for some reason.)

It appears delivery of propane or oil is a non-issue, but the cost of converting my system, could tip the scale back to oil. I haven't looked at chimny requirements or the price of the rest of the equipment. I do know my tank will due for replacement in a year or two (I believe 10 years is the replacement mark).

Again, thanks for the info. This will give me something to read up on.
 
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Old 03-26-12, 01:28 PM
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Hi Mike,
Be careful.
If i'm doing my math right, propane would need to be under $0.75 a liter to be a better value than oil.

Is you oil tank in the ground?

If it is in the cellar, it should last far longer than 10 years.
I know of many oil tanks 50+ years old that don't leak.

Peter
 
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Old 03-27-12, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by PeterNH
Hi Mike,
Be careful.
If i'm doing my math right, propane would need to be under $0.75 a liter to be a better value than oil.

Is you oil tank in the ground?

If it is in the cellar, it should last far longer than 10 years.
I know of many oil tanks 50+ years old that don't leak.

Peter
I haven't verified your math, but your numbers pretty much confirmed my off the top of my head figures. I had talked it over with a co-worker and he came to the same conclusion (but neither of us are heating experts, he's electrical and I'm system and process control).

As for my tank, it's stored in the basement, which is constructed with poured concrete.
 
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Old 03-27-12, 05:22 PM
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There was a discussion here not too long ago about oil vs. propane. I believe the outcome is that propane is always going to be more expensive than oil. The price of propane moves in correlation with the price of oil. So if oil goes down 5%, propane pretty much does the same thing. I'm sure you can dig up some graphs on the net showing this. It is not like natural gas where it moves independently.
 
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Old 03-28-12, 04:35 PM
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If you're replacing your boiler anyway, and expect that natural gas will become available in the future, propane would be a good idea. Replacing a boiler solely for the purpose of changing fuels is usually a stretch to justify. In any case, don't trust what fuel suppliers tell you - you need to run your own numbers. Ask them for a written copy of their cost analysis, and post it here.
 
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Old 03-28-12, 06:39 PM
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The efficiency of the boiler plays a big part in the formula which is shadowed by people who use 95% o higher for a propane boiler. They will very seldom operate in the 95% range in most systems. I believe 90% would be a better number, Overall boiler repairs not including the annual maintenance, you can determine the gas mod/con will be about twice the oil boiler costs would be just to having more parts to go bad at much higher parts cost.
Two of the parts alone have a combined price of almost $1000.00. Add in oversizing and short cycling affect chances these parts may have to be replaced more than once apiece.
 
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Old 04-25-12, 08:00 AM
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Thanks for the feed back.
I highly doubt we'll see natural gas feeds in this area for a long time. I'm in a small farming/cottege town which is far enough from the main line that it wouldn't be cost effective to run it here.
I am more or less kicking the idea of replacing as I know the boiler is from 1997, and has little to no maintenance for at least the last 5years.
As soon as the weather settles down enough that I can shut the system down for the summer, I will be tearing the boiler appart and giving having anything that can be replaced, replaced, and everything else cleaned.
The oil vs propane thought was just something to consider as I suspect I'm going to be looking at replacing the boiler sooner then later.
Hopefully a complete clean out and rebuild will help buy back some of the efficentcies as my current fuel consumption is extremely painful at a tank every 5-6 weeks.
 
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Old 04-25-12, 08:57 PM
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We do need to replace oil tanks every 10 years up here.
Should it be a buried outdoor tank, kiss you butt goodbye in Ontario.
TSSA has to be onsite for the removal and inspection at 135 per hour.

Propane is not the cleanest of fuels, but has the advantage of being able to operate in the condensing range, and mod cons are rather cost effective these days.

From previous chats with our insurance company while looking for properties, they told us with out hesitation that they would NOT insure a home with oil heat.
Oil's days are numbered around here.
 
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Old 04-26-12, 04:51 AM
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TOHeating;

Is it safe to assume you are from the GTA?
I am in Ontario (French River area) where most are wood or oil heat (with some one electric). My oil tank is indoors (basement) so I do get to dodge that bullet you mention with buried. I believe I am on year 8 or 9 for this tank, so....
As for insurance on oil.... It was a non-issue, even with one of the big banks insurance groups. They where more conserned with the size of the house and the cost of rebuilding.
 
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Old 04-26-12, 03:24 PM
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Yes GTA.

Insurance companies are really misnamed, they should be renamed risk management authorities.
They don't like to take the risk, yet I thought we paid them to take the risk for us when we paid our premiums... Yet if it is something that they find has cost them money in the past, they put out a disclaimer and the next thing you know your basement isn't covered for water damage....
Go fiqure.
I would burn propane over oil, but I would invest in Geothermal technology before I went to either of the previous two. A well designed and installed geo system will save money and will reduce a bunch of greenhouse gases.
 
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