oil fired boiler, need advice on whether to keep or switch


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Old 09-18-11, 10:55 PM
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oil fired boiler, need advice on whether to keep or switch

I had a chimney sweep down to sweep the flue for my oil fired boiler, he wouldn't sweep it, said it was too far gone and I need to get a steel liner installed--quoted $2000 with a rain cap

As I understand it once the liner is used for an oil fired appliance it can only be used for oil--meaning if I were to switch to gas/propane later I'd have to re-line the chimney or get direct vent.

That got me thinking about my current setup--

My oil tank is apparently original to the house (60 years--is that possible??), it has one rubber plug in the bottom of the tank already. The oil provider I use did perform their ultrasound test and was willing to sell me their tank insurance, but it just covers tank replacement--not clean up.

My boiler is a Burnham V7, it has a sticker on it that is dated March 2004, so I guess it's about 7 years old. I believe it's rated in the low 80's for AFUE. I've read online (grain of salt) that these are average at best units, with lots of complaints of early failure (5-10 years). That said, it seems to be working fine now, so I have no real complaints about it. Since it provides our domestic hot water thru a loop it remains at 190* 24/7 all year long, I'd say it fires at least once every 3~4 hours, so I'd know quickly if something were wrong.

If Natural Gas were available I'd have already budgeted to convert, but unfortunately it's $20,000 worth of piping away (about 400')--BTW, if anyone has any tips on how to get the gas company (National Grid) to extend their lines w/o charging an individual owner, let me know!

I have a 2nd company coming to eval. my flue, but if they also say that I need a liner right away then I know I'm faced with about $2000 in repairs with the possibility of needing either an oil tank or a boiler repair/replacement in the next 5-10 years. The question then becomes, do I convert to propane now, which will cost more in the short run, but potentially less in the long run? Or stick it out with oil? I'm inclined to switch to propane if the boiler fails, which would mean this new liner would end up being scrap since I could not re-use it.

I have no idea what propane prices are around here. It's certainly less popular than heating oil so that may influence the number of potential providers and costs. Some quick math tells me that if propane has 35% less energy per gallon than oil does, but my current boiler is 83% efficient vs. a 95% propane, then propane would need to be 10-15% cheaper per gallon than oil to break even in terms of BTU costs. Of course I'm also guessing that I've got significant BTU's wasted by my current boiler setup which remains at 190* 24/7 to provide domestic hot water. Having the boiler be switched off during non-heating months, and having a typical 40G tank hot water will probably help us save quite bit a of fuel.

So I guess I'm looking for ballpark numbers on what replacing an oil fired boiler (w/ tankless hot water coil), with a propane fired boiler and propane fired hot water tank would cost--both would need to be direct vent of course so that I could abandon using the chimney.

Lastly, is it straight forward to convert a propane fired heating system to natural gas if/when it becomes available? If not, that would be a sticking point to converting.
 
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Old 09-18-11, 11:03 PM
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sorry about the "tldr" size of my post! :-D
 
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Old 09-19-11, 08:38 PM
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Let me preface my comments by saying I much prefer oil to LP.

In my area LP & oil prices per gallon are pretty close but if you own your LP tank you can shop for the best price just like you do for oil & usually get a far better price.

Some liners are gas specific such as those made of aluminum. Some stainless ones can be used for gas, oil, or even wood & coal while others cannot because of the grade of stainless.

Most boilers are convertible from LP to natural gas but a few are (or at least were) made for one gas only & not convertible.
 
 

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