Converting Fitzgibbons Oil Eighty from Heating Oil to Natural Gas

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Old 04-20-20, 04:32 PM
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Converting Fitzgibbons Oil Eighty from Heating Oil to Natural Gas

Hello there,

I recently purchased a house built in 1926 which is heated by a Fitzgibbons Oil Eighty oil-fired boiler. At some point, the original burner was replaced with a Beckett AFG MP1192 oil burner (3 GPH), and the unit vents to an adjacent chimney stack. The draft control regulator was modernized as well. The water temp in the hydronic system is set for around 170 F. The previous owner would burn about 260 gallons of heating oil a month to keep the house warm during the winter months.

I am in the process of having natural gas service installed to the house, and will be doing away with the heating oil system altogether. However, perhaps for sentimental/historic reasons, I would like to try and preserve the old Fitzgibbons and integrate it into the heating system. Before settling down I worked on steam ships and shipboard incinerators, so it would be a fun project not too out of my depth.

The existing burner is bolted to a custom skid, and is inserted into the firebox at the base of the unit. It appears that physical removal and installation of a new burner wouldn't be too technically involved, hence why they had updated it previously. My experience with natural gas burners is limited, hence why I pose the following questions to you top minds:

1) Plain and simple, is a conversion of this sort feasible or just plain ridiculous?
2) What infrastructure would need to be updated as well? I already anticipate needing to run a chimney liner/B-vent down the length of the stack. What considerations for drafting and backdraft need to be taken with natural gas burners?
3) How would one calculate the appropriate size of a natural gas burner in terms of BTU output? What are the dangers/problems of oversizing/undersizing a natural gas burner?

Thanks much for your advice and opinions on this project. Let me know if there is any other information I can provide. I apologize for the rotated photos, they seem to have altered when uploaded.

Attached Photos:
1832: Top View of Beckett Oil Burner Inserted Into Firebox
1829: Rear View of Oil Burner Installation
1831: (Blurry) View of Fitzgibbons Boiler, with Front Panel and Insulation Removed.
 
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Last edited by KeddyLad; 04-20-20 at 04:33 PM. Reason: Commentary
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Old 04-20-20, 06:31 PM
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Plain & simple? Don't waste your time or money.
 
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Old 04-20-20, 08:04 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Wow.... that's an oldie.
Put the sentiments aside and replace it with a new natural gas fired boiler.
 
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Old 04-21-20, 12:59 AM
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Thanks for putting things in perspective, much appreciated. Iíll keep you in the loop about the fate of the old boiler.
 
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Old 04-22-20, 04:23 AM
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Let me add a couple thoughts. If the cost to heat your home is the main reason that you are thinking of switching from fuel oil to natural gas, the switch will only save you the difference between the cost of the fuels. The amount of heat needed to heat your home will remain the same. The only real difference is that natural gas burns cleaner than fuel oil, and usually requires less maintenance. You did not say if you are burning #1 or #2 oil. I am assuming that you have a basement tank or underground tank and that you burn #2 oil.

To compare costs for each fuel you will need to determine the cost for a given amount of BTU's. For example, it takes 7.14 gallons of #2 fuel oil to produce 1,000,000 BTU's of heat and about 1000 cu ft of natural gas to produce that same 1,000,000 BTU's. Find out how much you will pay for each fuel and you can see the cost to heat using the different fuels. This is a rough estimate but a good place to start.

If you are looking to save money on your overall heating costs, then you need to "tighten up" your house envelope to reduce the heating requirements. Usually the first item to address is the windows and the next is adding more insulation where possible.

Since I am retired and have been for about 13 years I can not tell you about the newer type boilers and their over cost savings to heat your home but to get a good comparison of the cost savings with a new boiler you will also have to factor in the cost of the new system. As for how long a hot water boiler will last, I have seen them last for 100 years or more, so that saying that your boiler needs to be replaced because of it's age is a selling tool or gimmick. Your savings will only be the cost difference of the fuel you use and the difference in the efficiency of the new boiler when compared to the old unit.

Good luck with your quest and stay safe
 
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Old 04-22-20, 05:42 AM
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Steamboy's comments were on target but I'd like to add that most heating equipment was (and still is) grossly oversized. Add that to tightening the envelope & it's not uncommon to find existing equipment to be twice or more of what's needed to heat the house. As to the future cost of oil vs gas, I wish I had that crystal ball. Keep us posted on your progress.
 
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