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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    28

    Default oil to gas conversion - heating question

    I'm in the process of buying a 2100 sqft house in MA built in 1928. It has an oil fired steam boiler that feeds radiators and baseboards for heat. I'd like to convert to a gas system, any suggestions for what I should into? Ideally, I'd like a 3 zone system, a thermostat on the first and second floors, and one more for when the basement is eventually finished.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    central pa
    Posts
    98

    Default Re: oil to gas conversion - heating question

    as far a zoning that depends entirly uppon how the radiators are plumbed now could be easy could be very difficult and expensive

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    201

    Default Re: oil to gas conversion - heating question

    As far as I know, you're probably stuck with the steam heat system the way it is; there is no way I know to convert a steam system to zoned valves; of course, you can still control the heat to each room with the radiator/baseboard shutoff valves.

    If you're thinking of converting to a gas-fired forced hot water system, you would have to scrap the entire steam system, install new baseboard & distribution piping and a gas-fired boiler with 3 zone valves---the zone valves themselves are easy to do & very widely done, but in your case it would be expensive, perhaps $10k or more to scrap the steam system & go with hot water; the steam systems in these older homes tend to be very old, noisy, and most of all, very inefficient and burn a lot of oil---if it's a very old steam system, it probably should be scrapped; a new system would burn 1/2 the oil or gas as the old steam relics.

    I favor gas-fired boilers by Triangle Tube, Buderus, Burnham, Crown, Dunkirk, Peerless and Weil-Mclain with a companion 40 gallon indirect hot water heater for the domestic tap hot water needs.

    What about AC for the summer heat?? If you decide to scrap the steam think about a forced hot air heating system where the heating vents would double as an AC system in the summer; if you want to go with forced hot water heat you could install ductless mini-split AC units to cool the house in the summer.

    There is also a Unico system that combines high velocity forced hot air & forced cool air for heating & cooling seasons at http://www.unicosystem.com
    Last edited by Dobbs; 04-14-2013 at 09:41 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: oil to gas conversion - heating question

    Thanks for that info! I'm definitely considering scrapping all of the current steam heating system. Most of it is very old. Plus, I grew up with a natural gas steam radiator system in my parent's house and would prefer something quiet and much more efficient.

    I'm thinking of choosing a tankless water heater. I'd like to finish the basement at some point, and want to minimize the space needed by utilities.

    I'd like to do AC as well, I'll be looking into those options. The mini-split AC looks easier to install vs putting in ducts.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    201

    Default Re: oil to gas conversion - heating question

    Rekonn,

    It sounds like you've done your research & are headed in the right direction; I would recommend a gas-fired forced hot water heating system with 3 or even 4 zone valves, but instead of a tankless hwh, I would recommend a 30 gal or 40 gal indirect hwh; I've included a site below that explains how an ihwh works---they are actually a HEAT EXCHANGER---they efficiently use the boiler's hot water to heat a 30 or 40 gal tank of fresh water via piping (and yes,) using a zone valve & the boiler's circulator (pump)----many studies have shown that this is the most efficient & cost-effective way to heat domestic hot water (tap water), and you'll never run out of hot water; these units have no moving parts & no flame burner, so they last for decades---if you happen to have hard water (high calcium & mineral content well water) in your new house, opt for a double-walled stainless steel ihwh.

    I also favor the standard cast-iron gas-fired boilers, as mentioned in a previous post, over the more recently introduced wall-hung "boilers" which have demonstrated lots of operational problems, because the bugs haven't yet been ironed out, and because the standard cast iron boilers operate at 180 degrees water temperature which provides fast & continuous heating comfort for the house occupants, and gives quicker response for the indirect hwh.

    Consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors" & get written estimates from at least 3 contractors before you decide which one to hire---the quotes usually vary in cost estimates by quite a bit, for what's essentially the same job & equipment---make sure each HC does a HEAT LOSS CALCULATION, which takes into account building square footage, window condition, insulation, attic insulation, etc.; the first thing the HC will ask you is do you have any insulation in the exterior walls of the house. (a HLC is based on the concept that your building is losing a certain # of heat BTUs/hour on a cold day; once the calculation is done & the contractor has a heat loss number (for example 70,000 BTU/hour heat loss) the boiler is sized accordingly, & a 70,000 BTU/hr gas-fired boiler is installed---reject any heating contractor that wants to put in a boiler without doing a HLC).

    Before you even THINK of changing the heating system, by all means think exterior wall INSULATION---ask the previous owner if there is any insulation in the exterior walls of the house---there are several ways to check, or call in an insulation contractor to check it out---it's amazing how many new homeowners completely ignore exterior wall insulation (which costs only a few hundred $$$ to have cellulose insulation blown in & done completely from the outside of the house in one day)---this will save you thousands of $$$ over the years of your occupancy at the new house in both heating & cooling costs---this usually allows the heating contractor to install a smaller capacity boiler, & thus allows considerable savings in annual heating costs; insulation & a new heating system (and new vinyl double-pane windows on any windows that are old & single pane) all qualify for the $500 credit you can qualify for in your annual Federal tax return.


    I also concur on your comments about the mini-split ACs---great cooling systems without any indoor noise, easy installation.


    http://homeenergysaver.lbl.gov/consu...eater-combined
    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/a...heaters-ov.htm
    Last edited by Dobbs; 04-15-2013 at 12:25 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: oil to gas conversion - heating question

    I'm glad I found this forum, thanks for the advice!

    Yes, I'll be looking into the insulation for sure. MA has this masssave program where you can schedule a home energy assessment. LINK A special_ist comes over and analyzes your house and comes up with a custom list of recommendations that include insulation and heating/cooling system options.

    The attic floor has this crushed styrofoam looking stuff the sellers say they added in the 1980's. They couldn't remember what it was, but my inspector believes it's Perlite. No idea if anything is in the exterior walls, I suspect not, but I'll ask.

    The house already has a 32g indirect hwh (Amtrol I think); it's in much better shape than the oil boiler. Can I reuse that with a new gas boiler?

    I found this calculator LINK, and put in my location and 2950sqft (this includes the currently unfinished basement). It says my estimated BTU requirement is 146,000 BTUs. If a contractor comes up with the same number from their HLC, would this boiler work LINK? Is $2636 a good price for that?

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