Gas...or Oil?

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Old 01-06-09, 09:50 AM
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Gas...or Oil?

I just bought a house and it has forced air oil heat. The furnace is atleast 20 years old. I am planning on replacing it soon and wonder if I should stick with oil or switch to gas. There is a gas water heater a few feet from it so supplying the gas is not a problem. What are the pros and cons and what would be reccomended? Thanks,
 
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Old 01-06-09, 10:48 AM
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No real pro's or cons to either. They are both fossil fuel furnaces. The biggest factor is cost. What is the price of oil per gallon? What is the price of gas per CCF? If you can find those, it is really easy to figure out which might be more beneficial.
 
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Old 01-06-09, 11:15 AM
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I used to be a repairman and gas fitter for a utility, so pardon my biases.


Looking at comparative prices short term isn't of much help, since switching fuels tends to be a long term choice.

In my decades with the utility, we converted tens of thousands of customers from oil to gas. I don't recall a single individual who ever switched from oil to gas, although some commercial or industrial customer could switch between the two easily depending on price.

A second advantage of gas is that most utilities manage their gas supply with care and professionalism for the long term. Long term supplies and contracts tend to avoid the wild swings in price of the heating oil market.

Natural gas prices have tended to be significantly below those of oil for decades. Personally, I would expect that to continue. Oil is primarily a transportation fuel these days, and when push comes to shove people and businesses have proven their willingness to pay a very high price to meet their desires for transportation.

Natural gas has tended to be a left over commodity fuel, with most buyers being sophisticated and shrewd in keeping prices low. A lot of suppliers have to sell into that market whatever the price available.

The ringer in that has been our increasing dependence on natural gas for generating electricity, which sucks up enormous amounts of gas that would better be left as a surplus keeping prices low, in my opinion. Generating electricity with natural gas probably is keeping prices relatively high, and they could go higher because of that, eroding some of natural gas's traditional price advantage.

Still, I thin the advantage long term is going to remain with natural gas.
 
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Old 01-06-09, 12:49 PM
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And if you want to further save money, depending on your lifestyle and who all is in your household -say if everyone works the day shift and is gone -if your electric company has a program that alows you to be on a "time- of- use" electric meter, as I have switched to, you can lower your electric bill by up to half!! (my current off peak rate is about 4.7 KWh), and becomes about 17 on-peak, and is at about 9.5 straight normal plan). And THEN, at night or on weekends (get THIS one; Believe it or not! It is off-peak all weekend!! Hooray!) So -do all your laundry at nights and weekends and cook up meals at that time. Turn off water heater during day and turn on at night, etc. Turn heat down during day so house gets cooler and refrigerator does not come on as often. Then, sit with electric spaceheater at your feet with rest of house turned down to 55! It works. My total utility bill now is working on being about 33% less a month! Out of 510 KWh's on my new meter, 460 is off-peak!!! And this summer when I lazily sit in the house on weekends and it is in the 90's and I want A/C going, I will be at off-peak rates!
 
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Old 01-06-09, 01:17 PM
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I have to disagree about the stability of natural gas prices. My NG prices are not held anywhere near relatively stable. My prices will jump as much as 60% in less than 4 months.

Oil is more expensive than NG in a /unit basis, but oil also contains more BTUs per /unit than NG.

Both are risks and short term pricing is all you have to go by.
 
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Old 01-06-09, 01:59 PM
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You make some good points, badtlc, except for the last one about short term prices being the only thing you have to go on.

There are immense amounts of information out there about energy uses, prices, production and consumption. A lot more than any of us are going to be able to evaluate.

But I think people can do better than throwing up their hands and choosing the price on a particular day to base their fuel choice on for decades to come.


I made the point that miilions of people who have a choice (including builders) choose natural gas over oil. Scarecely anyone with a choice converts from oil to natural gas, except commercial or industrial customers.

Even many commercial and industrial customers with fuel switching capabilities find that ability is often theoretical when they've actually tried to switch from natural gas to oil --- without careful maintenance, that ability is often not there when they want it after years of using gas.
 
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Old 01-06-09, 04:04 PM
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Oil or Gas

Well, I'm on the opposite side of the street from SeattlePioneer. I've been a service tech for 20 years with an oil company. We also service & install gas fired heating equiipment. On the subject of price, I guess it varies area by area. Around here oil might be less expensive for a few years then gas for a few, back & forth.

I like the independence of oil. If I get upset at my supplier for one reason or another, there are a half dozen or more others glad to have my business where with gas you have no choice of supplier. I also know it's rare but the thought of a gas explosion scares me. With oil yes you might have a tank leak but with today's double wall tanks leaks are almost unheard of.
Gas does have the advantage of less involved maintenance.

It boils down to your preferences.
 
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Old 01-06-09, 04:36 PM
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You can do the math. 1 ccf (or 100 cubic feet) of natural gas is about 1 therm is about 100,000 btu's. Utility companies bill per 100CCF. (Right now mine is $1.17.) A gallon of fuel oil is about 140,000 btu's. Based on current figures in your area, you could do the math.

But that is just for the fuel. You need to figure projected upkeep on each type of furnace or boiler system, also. Oil I think is going to be more costly to maintain cleanly and safely. There is a lots to know about oil-fired systems, and there are fewer and fewer repair people(in parts of the country where NG has taken over) who are really 'up on' oil.

Almost everything with the newer high efficiency gas furnaces are quite DIY-able, IMO. And when burners are clean, the fire burns blue and clean, and has less problems of sooting/carboning up the way oil can with malfunctions of all sorts.

There are those who may argue with my assessment. But in my experience I see that to be the case.

Gas has easy bolt-on, screw-on parts that can simply be diagnosed and replaced. Oil has components where there is a primary control (which in itself can be electriaclly complex, high voltage secondary (dangerously real high voltage...like 10,000!), adjustments of electrodes, pump, screen, filter, holding tanks that can get bottom sludge and pinholes, priming when when dry, couplers that can break, nozzles to change, cad cells, atmospheric dampers, chimneys, etc. Yearly professional maintenance is probably a safe must.

.................................

Grady had posted while I was still typing. He is an oil man, and he has other ideas. And perhaps where he is from, oil is still pretty common. Around here it is like getting outdated. people have dinosauer oil-fired units. And I have heard of some pretty high oil prices in regards to NG around here. Like pushing $4 a gallon at one time when oil prices where high. Even after considering the conversion factor in btu's.
 
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Old 01-07-09, 05:43 AM
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I also prefer NG. Then again, i'm only paying about $0.90/CCF right now. It got up to $1.51 last year (ugh). I really do like the simplicity of gas furnaces. Not to mention, you can get NG furnaces up to 97% AFUE. Anyone know the highest AFUE you can get with an oil furnace? I seem to only find 80-85%.

Just to be fair to oil, some pros:

1) Oil furnaces typically put out warmer air.
2) You don't rely on sole source provider for fuel.
3) You use a tank on site. You don't have to worry about a NG line getting damaged or shutdown to your house in the middle of a blizzard.
 
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Old 01-07-09, 04:15 PM
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Well the oil company made up my mind for me. I had some oil delivered today for the first time and they said my tank has been patched and they won't deliver oil again. When I had the house inspected,they said it was repaired but it doesn't leak and is fine. I do like not having to monitor my fuel and running out. Now I will deffinately switch to gas. I am not putting a furnace and tank.
 
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