Converting From Oil Heat to Gas Heat

    Photo of a modern boiler room by frankoppermann/istockphoto.com.We’re not sure if it is worth it to convert from oil heat to gas heat. Although plumbers and utility companies in the Northeast report record numbers of conversions from oil heat to gas heat, it is not clear whether the conversions will pay off in the long run. A safer investment might be insulating your house and replacing a large, inefficient oil boiler with a smaller, Energy Star unit. Let’s look at the facts.

    Plumbers in Boston report that the ballpark upfront investment in converting from oil heat to gas heat is $10,000, and that figure varies depending on whether or not you need to run a pipe out to the municipal gas line. Will that investment actually pay itself off? Don't be too sure.

    4 reasons why an oil heat to gas heat conversion might not pay off

    1. The cost of gas might rise (or oil heat cost might drop). Right now natural gas is cheaper than oil, but if demand increases, it is possible that the price of gas will rise. Home heating oil dealers compete with each other, and you also have options like biodiesel fuel blends. If you don’t like your oil supplier, you can change suppliers. Natural gas is (generally) delivered by the local utility company. If they raise the price of natural gas, there is not always a competitor to switch to.

    2. Heating delivery problems can negate the value of your investment. According to Habitat, a magazine for board members and property managers of co-ops and condos, converting from oil heat to gas heat is worth little if the building has heat distribution problems. Ineffective heat distribution can cause overheating on lower floors, and cold temperatures on upper floors. Revamping your heat delivery system could improve the performance of your oil heater sufficiently to reduce the costs of using it. Revamping your heat delivery system might also be an added cost that would negate the value of the lower cost of natural gas.

    3. Ineffective insulation could render your new gas furnace ineffective. Truth be told, ineffective insulation could also be jacking up the price that you are paying for oil heat. Improperly installed attic insulation is one of the biggest heat loss culprits, as well as weak door and window seals. Without paying to convert from oil heat to gas heat, you can lower the cost of home heating by improving your house’s insulation.

    4. It might be cheaper to buy a smaller, Energy Star certified oil burner than to convert from oil heat to gas heat. Oil boilers in old houses tend to be larger than necessary, and not as efficient as newer, greener models. According to EnergyStar.gov, advanced combustion technologies allow new oil boilers to get more heat from the fuel. New Energy Star oil boilers run in the $3000 - $6000 range. Hire an HVAC contractor to install it for you, and your investment is still less than converting from oil heat to gas heat.

    Chaya Kurtz writes for Networx.com.

    Updated November 26, 2018.

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