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Old 12-05-2011, 04:15 PM   #1
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


Friends with an old farmhouse have an ancient oil boiler (that feeds baseboard hydronic units in a 2 zone setup) living in their old dirt floor basement. They are in need of a replacement and are wondering if it would make sense to convert to LP from an operating expense (fuel and maintenance) standpoint. They know they would need to install a bigger LP tank (they have a smaller one for some stoves now) but that is a known quantity.

I don't want to revisit the whole modcon vs cast iron and condensing vs non condensing discussion... although I learned a lot there! The question is merely: in terms of operating costs as defined above for similary sized oil and LP boilers of similar thermal efficiency, is their a major advantage to one fuel over the other?

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Old 12-05-2011, 04:58 PM   #2
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


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The question is merely: in terms of operating costs as defined above for similary sized oil and LP boilers of similar thermal efficiency, is their a major advantage to one fuel over the other?
Ayuh,.... It depends entirely on the local fuel suppliers, 'n their business practices...

Every state, 'n county also have different tax rates on different fuels...

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Old 12-05-2011, 05:35 PM   #3
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


I have always been on the gas and elec utilities (city boy) so have no experience with the LP or oil delivery guys. So I guess we can research the cost per gallon (or pound for LP?) for our area (Maryland, Montgomery and Frederick counties). I guess the operating differences must not be all that great then if they are within the wiggle room of local pricing/taxining regimes. Is there an easy reference to compare therms or whatever per unit volume or weight of each type of fuel?

Last edited by raylo32; 12-05-2011 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 12-05-2011, 05:39 PM   #4
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


A couple of things to consider:

Oil has 140,000 btu's per gallon.
Propane 95,000 btu's per gallon.

As you said though, you can cook with propane. If you just want one fuel source then it's the way to go.

You can bury an LP tank. Don't even consider that with oil.

All boilers/furnaces need maintenance but it's usually cleaner with gas vs oil.

FYI - around here LP is about $1.30 a gallon cheaper than oil, depending on your contract. Western MA.

Personally, I just went from oil to propane (and the modcon) and don't regret it one bit.
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Old 12-05-2011, 05:44 PM   #5
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


In this day and age you cannot count on either fuel coming down in the future.
The really big differance in the two is that durning the year oil will tend to soot even if its only a little and this soot will insulate the fire from the sections so that at the end of the year your effiency is totally differant than at the start of the year and that is if you had a quality cleaning to start with.
You don't get that build up with propane or natural gas.
Now if the conversation is about cost of operation then I will say there is little that can be more benificial than sizing it exactly right.This might cost a little to do right but you end up with the benifit for 20 or more years.
Next would be having a outdoor reset installed when the boiler is installed.
An indirect water heater and a Spirotherm air elimination air scoop would also be included in any install I would normally do.
Being able to isolate the zones,the boiler,the circulator pumps,the water heater and any other items in the system with ball valves will pay for itself on the first trouble call.
Good luck
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Old 12-05-2011, 05:50 PM   #6
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


Thanks, I thought oil had a higher energy density but didn't have the #s handy. I didn't want to raise the modcon issue, since it generated such controversy last time! But that is what I am going to recommend to them. I don't think (at least couldn't find) a modcon oiler so that may make the fuel choice moot. Then it will depend on their timeframe to stay there and the cost deltas. Also may be some install issues to consider like old chimney vent may need work even to go with another mid-efficiency oiler. So maybe just as well to get a condensing boiler and run a cat IV vent. I know there is a lot of boiler expertise here so more to come if/when we have more questions.
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Old 12-05-2011, 06:02 PM   #7
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


Thanks for the tips, REP. Spirotherm looks like good gear. My friends are getting quotes from oil company this week or next and then maybe from gas guys. I'll pass this along to them for info.


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Originally Posted by REP View Post
In this day and age you cannot count on either fuel coming down in the future.
The really big differance in the two is that durning the year oil will tend to soot even if its only a little and this soot will insulate the fire from the sections so that at the end of the year your effiency is totally differant than at the start of the year and that is if you had a quality cleaning to start with.
You don't get that build up with propane or natural gas.
Now if the conversation is about cost of operation then I will say there is little that can be more benificial than sizing it exactly right.This might cost a little to do right but you end up with the benifit for 20 or more years.
Next would be having a outdoor reset installed when the boiler is installed.
An indirect water heater and a Spirotherm air elimination air scoop would also be included in any install I would normally do.
Being able to isolate the zones,the boiler,the circulator pumps,the water heater and any other items in the system with ball valves will pay for itself on the first trouble call.
Good luck
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Old 12-05-2011, 06:57 PM   #8
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


LP, with a good mod/con boiler with outdoor reset.
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Old 12-05-2011, 07:07 PM   #9
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


I thought you might say that. :-) If it was my $ that's what I would do, too. Interesting to see how this one develops....

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LP, with a good mod/con boiler with outdoor reset.
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Old 12-11-2011, 12:09 AM   #10
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


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Originally Posted by AandPDan View Post
FYI - around here LP is about $1.30 a gallon cheaper than oil, depending on your contract. Western MA.

Personally, I just went from oil to propane (and the modcon) and don't regret it one bit.
Wha?

I'm in Southern NH, and it's about that much HIGHER than oil!

-- Joe
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Old 12-11-2011, 06:42 AM   #11
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


need to REALLY check that carefully. is there not some hidden costs like tank rental and delivery charges that add up also? I guess there is a delivery chg for oil but maybe it is higher for propane? not sure if you can buy your tank or maybe it is cheaper to rent?

do they have a reputable mod con boiler installer AND servicetech. those are quite complicated and if the local guys are only good at oil or better at it then getting proper service and parts is a huge problem in rural areas.
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Last edited by yuri; 12-11-2011 at 06:47 AM.
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Old 12-11-2011, 08:16 AM   #12
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


Just like any fuel, you need to shop around.

I found prices that varied by about 60 cents a gallon. Some included delivery fees, "environmental recovery fees," and others, rental fees.

In my case, as long as I buy more than 250 gallons a year, the tank fees are waived. No other fees.
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Old 12-26-2011, 07:02 PM   #13
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


Quote:
Originally Posted by anesthes View Post
Wha?

I'm in Southern NH, and it's about that much HIGHER than oil!

-- Joe
I also live in southern NH (Hollis) and checked the price of propane with our local supplier just the other day. We currently use propane only for cooking and it's true that at $4.19/gal it is more expensive than heating oil at $3.59.


However, if we install a propane heating system, the price of LP propane will drop to $2.92. This is obviously a huge difference.


As has been written a zillion time on this and other forums, propane has only 2/3rds the btu's as oil does, so it's more expensive per btu... But it can be burned more efficiently, which helps close the gap.
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:39 PM   #14
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


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I

However, if we install a propane heating system, the price of LP propane will drop to $2.92. This is obviously a huge difference.
That is based on usage however, correct?

I only use about 100 gallons of oil per year as we primarily heat with wood (it's free). So I imagine I wouldn't be in a bracket that would receive a discount for usage.

Who quoted you $2.92 ? I'm in Salem.

-- Joe
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Old 12-27-2011, 09:50 AM   #15
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Boiler replacement, oil vs LP


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That is based on usage however, correct?

I only use about 100 gallons of oil per year as we primarily heat with wood (it's free). So I imagine I wouldn't be in a bracket that would receive a discount for usage.

Who quoted you $2.92 ? I'm in Salem.

-- Joe
Yes, for sure, with propane the price depends on the annual amount you buy. Lorden Oil and Propane quoted me the current $2.92 price, based on at least 1200 gal/yr. Eastern Propane was something like $3.30 for the same quantity! If I buy somewhat less than that (like 1000-1200 gallons... Not sure what thelower threshold is), the price jumps to $3.02 with Lorden.

I wish e could pay what they do in Kansas... Something like $1.88! But that's a steep price for having to live on the prairie...

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