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# Electric vs Oil heat?

## Electric vs Oil heat?

#1
06-16-13, 05:00 AM
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Electric vs Oil heat?

We're thinking of buying a house that is just about perfect. Secluded, nice size garage, roomy Problem is that it has electric heat. In the past I have heard elec heat was expensive to run go with oil heat. That was when oil was cheap. With heating oil nearing \$4/gal I'm not so sure electric heat is so bad. I think it could be changed to oil but cost may become a factor. I think I will post this in the oil heat section too.

#2
06-16-13, 06:55 AM
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What is your cost of electricity, per kWh, including all the various add-ons? Is there a lower rate if the electric for heating is metered separately? I take it that natural gas is not available and is not expected to be available in the near future?

Best to do your own math. 3414 btu = 1 kWh. Electric resistance heat, if that is what you have, is 100% efficient. Oil might be 80%.

#3
06-16-13, 09:29 AM
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Do the math ...

1 gallon of oil = ~140,000 btu
depending on furnace efficiency, you end up with less than that in sensible heat,
e.g. if conversion efficiency is 80%, 112,000 btu / gal, typical

electric energy: 1 kwh = 3412 btu , 100% conversion efficiency

to compare the cost of a typical oil furnace(%80) to resistance electric heat:
112,000/3412 =~ 33 kwh is equivalent to 1gal of oil.

if oil is \$4 /gal , 4/33 = ~ .12 ; i.e. 12 cents/kwh breaks even with \$4/gal oil

Where I live (Massachusetts) , I pay ~15 cents / kwh, so I'd break even at ~ 33 * .15 = ~ \$5/gal
(I have a heat pump, not resistance heat, so my break even is about half that ~\$2.50/gal)

If you use the numbers for \$/kwh and \$/gal in your area, you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect for heating costs.

If I were you, I'd stick with the existing electric heat and see how it works out...
Electric heat is cleaner, safer, more comfortable, more reliable and more convenient - even if it costs more, it'd be worth it to me just to avoid the stink of oil and the fuel tank in the basement - but that's a personal quirk.

#4
06-16-13, 09:41 AM
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Thanks dsomerv. I will have to check electric rates in the area of the house we are looking at.

#5
06-16-13, 09:52 AM
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As a rule I don't particularly like electric heat. It has two shortcomings.....speed of recovery and cost to operate.

It does have one major plus that I do like...... each room has it's own thermostat allowing you to cater the heat in each room based on need.

#6
06-16-13, 10:12 AM
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More - the heating value of fuel oil is about 140,000 Btu/gal. So now, you have all the info you should need to compare annual costs of electric vs. oil. The only other issue is the number of Btu/yr you would use. Maybe you could ask the current owner to give you copies the past few years of oil deliveries.

#7
06-16-13, 10:27 AM
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PJmax ,

I don't understand the recovery time shortcoming point ...
for example, I have 20kw of aux heat, which ~ 60,000 btu/hr and it responds just fine to any urgent demand in my simple dwelling.
If I recall correctly, a typical oil furnace for a modest house is ~60,000 btu/hr these days.

The operating cost can indeed hurt depending on where you live : MA = ouch; CA = double ouch; WA = hooray ; so that's why it's worth the effort to do a quick calculation..

#8
06-16-13, 11:21 AM
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#9
06-16-13, 02:30 PM
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Does this house have individual baseboard heaters in every room or perhaps wall-mounted fan-forced heaters in every room? Or does it have ductwork and a central electric furnace? If the former then converting to oil will be quite expensive as you will have to add the ductwork. Same if you were to switch to natural gas or propane.

#10
06-16-13, 03:01 PM
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House has individual baseboard heaters in rooms. It is only one floor. I was thinking it might be easy to switch to hot water heat. Still pricey though.

#11
06-16-13, 03:42 PM
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I was thinking it might be easy to switch to hot water heat.
With a single story house and if you have access from a basement to install piping to baseboards, it should be very possible. But then, with an oil-fired hot-water boiler, you would need a chimney or other vent, plus an oil tank.

Personally, I would either buy the house you seem to like and keep the electric heat, at least for the present, or keep shopping for another house that preferably has gas heat or, a far-second choice, oil-fired heating.

Presently, North America is awash in a glut of new-found natural gas, mainly from fracking and oil-shale deposits, which has caused gas prices to hold steady or to decline. Some of those same gas deposits can produce crude oil, which might eventually reduce or control the price of heating oil. But there are some obstacles: such crude oil is best transported by pipeline from the Midwest and central Canada to domestic refineries (by rail is twice or three times more expensive). There is very limited oil-pipeline and refining capacity in the Northeast. And, unlike natural gas, whose market tends to be national, oil is a worldwide commodity - with corresponding prices. Presently, in the Midwest and elsewhere, operation of coal-fired electric generating stations is being curtailed in favor of more economical gas firing. Think about it: natural gas is cheaper than coal, on a Btu basis. A few years ago, that would have been unthinkable.

Your best hope is for natural gas to become available in your locale. Surely, that is being talked about by your politicians and in your local news? Aside from residential heating costs, how is energy-dependent industry in the Northeast going to compete without access to natural gas?

#12
06-16-13, 03:44 PM
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Switching to oil heat is a terrible idea in this day and age.

Hot water heat is pricey to install as well.

The best option for a home with baseboard heaters is to add a mini-split heatpump system with 2-3 heads.

A heatpump system can cut your heating costs by 1/3 or more compared to straight electric.

#13
06-16-13, 03:49 PM
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PJmax ,
I don't understand the recovery time shortcoming point ...
for example, I have 20kw of aux heat, which ~ 60,000 btu/hr and it responds just fine to any urgent demand in my simple dwelling.
@ desomerv

I took the OP to mean individual baseboard heaters in every room......which he did.... versus a fan forced furnace. I mentioned a thermostat in every room which would not indicate an electric furnace.

#14
06-16-13, 04:17 PM
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The best option for a home with baseboard heaters is to add a mini-split heatpump system
I'm unsure who you are responding to here. I suggested staying with the electric heat or finding another house to buy that has natural gas heat. I think those would be the better options, for a house he doesn't yet even own, than going to a heat-pump system.

If he were to install a heat-pump, he would still have to install forced-air ductwork, multiple mini-splits, or hot-water baseboards - none of which he presently has. He has electric resistance baseboards.

Last edited by gilmorrie; 06-16-13 at 06:24 PM.
#15
06-16-13, 08:47 PM
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I was responding to the op.

The fact the oil is being considered pretty much indicates that gas isn't available in the area. (at least to me)

Installing a mini-split system is a good option for almost anyone with baseboard heaters.

A single outdoor heatpump unit can be connected to 3+ indoor heads. In recent years, mini-split heatpumps have improved to the point that they can provide plenty of heat down to 0F or lower - they have variable capacity compressors which can compensate for low outdoor temps.

#16
06-17-13, 03:34 AM
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Correct, no NG in the area. I assume I can get LP but that can be expensive also

#17
06-17-13, 04:45 AM
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Hi Tim,
I did a quick read through the thread and the one suggestion I did not see (sorry if I missed it) is to improve the insulation. Selecting any heating system should only be done AFTER the home has been upgraded to well insulated. Then, the cost of heat loss can be compared with different fuels and systems. In many cases, electric works out to be just fine once the house needs very little to heat it.

Insist upon prior utility bills back 3 years and post. Give us the size of the home and how it is build and insulated. Don't fall in love with it until you look at everything. I've seen the energy efficiency of homes improved to the point where heating costs are under \$500 per year. At that point, changing systems just doesn't make sense.

Bud

#18
06-17-13, 04:47 AM
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Going from forced air natural gas to in the cottege country with oil hot water boiler... I'm more for oil boiler or minimum oil forced air (prefer boiler).
If power outages is an issue during the heating season, it is so much easier to maintain heat when the only thing that requres power is the fans and burner head.
I can confirm that I am able to run my boiler on my smaller genny (6000W) and my parent's are able to run their oil furnace on their genny without issues.

We're paying ~\$4.32 a US gallon (\$1.14 per leter) for heating oil (delivered) and I still wouldn't go electric. Our place is pretty large however (3 floors, ~2900sqft).

#19
06-26-13, 10:29 PM
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I think you have to consider this points as there are many choices available for electric heat like Low Wattage, Importance of Portability,Designs with flat panel, and the device fully equipped with digital controls including all its maintenance costs.

#20
06-26-13, 10:40 PM
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well, from the looks of it, this seems like a job for an accountant (which I'm not).

I think everything will be clear-cut if things were put in paper taken over a say 2-5 year projection.

Ownership does change the picture for doing upgrades in a house.

As for me, I'm more into electric. Just plug and go. Pretty neat. Of course, it can go sky high in terms of bills I mean.

But what's power without control. Just a piece of a mind of a young mother.

#21
06-27-13, 04:28 AM
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well, from the looks of it, this seems like a job for an accountant (which I'm not).

I think everything will be clear-cut if things were put in paper taken over a say 2-5 year projection.

Ownership does change the picture for doing upgrades in a house.

As for me, I'm more into electric. Just plug and go. Pretty neat. Of course, it can go sky high in terms of bills I mean.

But what's power without control. Just a piece of a mind of a young mother.
Welcome to the forum.
Simple setup isn't always the best long term.
Electric heat is quick and cheap to install/setup (hens why a lot of mass-produced neighborhood homes come electric heat). It also allows some controls room to room which can save a bit in areas where heating is only a minor comfort issue.

Long term... (keep in mind, I'm looking at this from a perspective where heating is a requirement), electric (baseboards specifically), is very expensive to run. Emergency power to run electric heating would also be way out there.

For the OP, what they have to work with (budget and house design) will probably be a big deciding factor.
Full on HVAC (aka forced air) can get expensive to install and is much more difficult to retrofit properly into an existing home. It does however allow for central air to be installed very easily once the ducts are in.
Hot water boiler with slantfin baseboards (electric, oil or propane) will be easier to retrofit into an existing house (pipes are a lot smaller then ducts). Heating can be controlled in zones if the home has the layout to utilize this (multi-floors, etc). Down side, central air is a pain to add or install (no ducts to use).