By Brian Bicknell, Service Manager
Over the past several years many homeowners have taken the step of converting their home heating system from oil to pipeline gas. They were convinced by the gas industry’s heavy handed marketing that gas was cleaner, more efficient and less expensive. But many of these homeowners have been disappointed by hidden costs and lingering problems that turned their hopeful expectations into bitter regret.
What the gas company refuses to tell people about converting their home heating systems could fill a book. But I’ll give you a quick summary so that you’ll have more complete and accurate information before making a decision for your home. Consider these facts:
- In a house with existing usable ductwork, a new high-efficiency gas furnace can cost $4,000-$6,000 for a basic installation.
- A high efficiency gas boiler costs $3,000-$4,000 more than a new, high efficiency oil-fired system. Even with enticing rebates offered by the gas utilities, you’ll probably spend more money on the installation a gas heating system than you can hope recover through anticipated fuel cost savings. At best it will take decades to “even out” your investment costs.
- Installation costs for a warm air gas system are typically $2,000 more than an oil system, and can run higher if your ductwork needs to be upgraded – a frequent requirement.
- Many high efficiency gas boilers sold are oversized for the homes in which they are installed. That drastically decreases efficiency and increases the amount of gas you’ll need to burn.
- Gas systems advertised as “95% efficient” only operate at that level under perfect conditions, which is seldom the case in a New England winter.
- Most high efficiency gas boilers come with a 10-15 year warranty on the heat exchanger, which is the most vulnerable part of the system. On the other hand, most oil boilers come with a limited lifetime warranty.
SERVICE IS AN ISSUE
If you do choose to convert to a gas heating system and you have a problem, don’t count on the gas company to provide service. Even many of the companies that install gas heating equipment do not provide service after the installation. If you have a repair issue you’ll have to find your own service company.
Choose carefully. Unlike oil heating systems, there is little standardization in the components of gas systems. That becomes a problem when the system fails or something breaks, because few service companies are able to stock all the parts for all the systems they may be called upon to repair. As a result, you may be forced to wait several days for a part to be shipped – not a pleasant prospect when temperatures plunge below freezing and you have no heat in your house.
Because of the inconsistencies and non-standardization of gas heating systems, repair technicians require more extensive training in order to keep up with changes. That makes it essential that you choose a service provider that has invested the time and money to properly train their technicians, as well as the appropriate tools for testing and repair. If you go with a cut-rate service company you may not receive a quality repair to your system.
Oil systems, on the other hand, can generally be repaired using standard parts, which we usually carry right on our service truck. So we can have your heat back on faster.
PRICE IS BECOMING A PROBLEM
To top it all off, the biggest promise made by the gas company – lower fuel prices – is no longer valid. Natural gas prices have risen sharply over the past three years and continue to climb, but oil prices have dropped considerably thanks to increased domestic production and a stable supply.
In fact, a January 2017 report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency predicts heating oil prices will remain at a level near last year’s lowest price, which was significantly lower than the previous heating season. The same week this report was released the largest Massachusetts gas utility petitioned for a 20% price increase. So the fuel cost price trend favors oil.
Now that you have more information about what you can expect “after the sale,” I hope you will take a long, hard look at the potential costs and complications associated with converting a home heating system from oil to gas. The facts simply do not support the decision to convert.
To learn more about the facts on oil heat vs. gas, call Alvin Hollis at (800) 649-5090.