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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    North West Wisconsin
    Posts
    8

    Default What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    I have an old fuel oil hot water heater and would like to replace it soon. Any advice on what to replace it with? I have a fuel oil boiler as my main source of heat. My debate thus far is between: 1. electricity 2. propane (get a tank and eventually convert the boiler to propane as well) or 3. possibly an indirect system. Natural gas is not an option. I have two young children, who will soon be teenagers, so Iím planning for a high demand. Any thoughts/info/advice would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Sand Springs, OK
    Posts
    467

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    I think you answered your own question. High volume and fuel efficient are your main concerns. I haven't used propane in about 20 years so I don't know how the prices compare to the oil you are burning but I think that the combustion of propane is cleaner which will lower your environmental footprint.

    Get the most fuel efficient you can afford. I've said this a lot, I contemplated having a tankless system installed last year until we had a major ice storm knocked out power. I have a gas fuel unit now and it was so nice to have warm showers every morning after feeling gritty from manning the fireplace all night and day.
    Debby in Oklahoma

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    443

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    Max:

    Anytime fuel oil does another spike up in price there is a panic to change to some other fuel source.

    For those who have the option to switch to NG & the cost is advantageous, then I say go.

    But remember, NG and propane burn more than would a gallon of fuel oil to provide the same amount of heat.

    So before doing a switch you have to do a fuel cost comparison between the cost of oil & the cost of other fuels.

    The FUEL COST COMPARISON charts below compare apples with apples---they compare 100,000 btu of oil heat with 100,000 btu of propane heat, and 100,000 btu of elec. heat, etc.

    Many people switch to propane without checking the price---only to find out they are then paying more than before.

    Electric heat is usually MUCH more costly than the other types--in some cases propane is more expensive than heating oil.

    You'll have to call your local propane co. to find out what they charge a gallon.

    Also call your local elec co. to find out how much a kwh of electricity costs in your area.

    Your past posts indicate you're having trouble with an outside tank & NG is not available---I would try to get a Roth tank inside (2 or 3 of them, if you can fit them) if you find the FCC is advantageous in staying with oil.

    The fiberglass tanks (the same type the gas stations use are ideal for a buried tank--there is much less likelihood they will leak)---but they take a special local permit & there is the labor cost for installation.

    There are also "dura vinyl" "tank mate" custom oil tank covers (site below) in attractive white vinyl that not only dress up the yard, but protect condensate in the oil tank from freezing when an outside tank has to be used---end of "eyesore"---cost is ~$350 plus installation---it's not that big a deal to make one yourself out of framed plywood & cover with vinyl siding--just make sure the "roof" opens up for refills.

    For hot tap/shower water, if you stay wih oil, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you get a 40 gal. INDIRECT HOT WATER HEATER---these look like a standard HWH, but they have no flue or heating source---the water is heated by the hot boiler water via copper tubing & a pump---they last for years without wearing out--the heavy insulation saves fuel costs.


    You'll never run out of hot water---even with teenage girls---recommended brands are Triangle Tube Phase 3, Crown Megastor, Weil-Mclain, HTP Superstor & Buderus.

    http://warmair.net/html/fuel_cost_comparisons.htm
    http://hearth.com/articles/47_0_1_0_M7.html
    http://www.oilstoragesolutions.com/tankmate.htm
    http://www.bejane.com/node/2581
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 04-01-2008 at 11:16 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    North West Wisconsin
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    JacktheShack:
    Awesome info. Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

    A couple of questions:
    1. Do you know, if I have an outside tank with a tank cover, can I use #2 fuel oil?
    2. Here are my local costs for fuel. Propane $2.40/g, Fuel Oil $3.05/g, and electricity is $.09/kwh ($.054/kwh off peak). Plugging these numbers in, indicates that Fuel Oil beats propane, but electricity beats both. Am I off base?
    3. Why is an indirect water heater highly recommended? Is it much more efficient? I'm having a difficult time calculating any cost savings/justifying the extra cost (vs electric).

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    443

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    Max:

    Good work on your fuel cost comparison calcs---I think if you do a little more research you'll be able to get a firm handle on local conditions & make a wise choice for your heating equipment.

    You live in an area that has some of the coldest temps in the U.S.

    Are you closer to Superior or Milwaukee/Madison??

    All parts of Wisc. have sub-zero temps for a lot of the winter heating season---the estimate is generally 80 million btu's heating need/winter season.

    I was impressed with the low cost of .09/kwh & .054/kwh off peak for elec---here in New England we pay .14/kwh.

    It's most important that you get a "feel" for what other homeowners, home builders, real estate agents & heating contractors are doing in your part of Wisc.

    I note that natural gas is not available in your particular area, but what do MOST of the locals have for heating equipment??

    Only the locals can tell you what works & what's best for your area--the people mentioned above make these decisions every day---house builders & heating contractors have to decide what type of heat to install, real estate agents have to know what heating plant is most efficient---talk to them.

    On paper, after calculating your FCC it seems that elec. is the most cost-effective, but elec. heat in a place like Wisc. may not be the best choice---elec. boilers need 23-27 kilowatts to run & produce the 80k btu/hr needed for such heat--that's a lot of juice.

    Elec. baseboard is often used in moderate climates, but usually doesn't do too well in northern states--ditto for elec heat pumps---fine for southern states, but not so for northern areas---the colder it gets outside, the less ability the heat pump has to extract any heat from the air when the temps fall below 35 degrees.

    Fuel oil has a lot of "punch"---140,000 btu in a single gallon & it can quickly get the water up to 180-200 degrees to get all the heat the home needs--this can't be said for most other fuels.

    A ground-source (geothermal) hydronic heat pump would be ideal, but the installation price tag could be $30k.

    Some corporations like Steffes offer electric thermal storage "off peak" heat, but the initial equip. cost would have to be looked at.

    Do you have any room to get the steel oil tank or a Roth tank inside??

    Do you have a crawl space or partial cellar???

    The oil tank cover would LOOK nice, but I'm not sure it would prevent the fuel from jelling on Wisconsin winter nites---some of the local oil dealers might have a better grasp of this.

    My experience here in New England is that outside tanks are not a good idea---unless there are absolutely no other options.

    The steel tank is going to rust due to weather exposure, the sun beating down on the tank on warm days will create internal water condensation that mixes with the fuel at the bottom of the tank---a mild sulfuric acid broth accumulates at the tank bottom & hastens rusting out of the tank.

    Even the smallest crawl space under your house should be able to house a tank (especially a Roth tank) & you'll be much better off.

    The indirect water heater mentioned is most efficient because it uses no extra fuel to run--for your hot water now you perhaps either have a "domestic coil" inside the boiler, or a separate elec., gas-fired or fuel-fired HWH, all of these are less efficient than an IHWH.

    Don't overlook insulation---you heating bill really reflects how much heat is oozing out of your house on a cold day.

    If you have little or no insulation in the exterior walls or attic, & the windows are old & drafty, then lots of heat is escaping & your fuel bills are much higher than they would be.

    How many gallons of oil would you say you burn in a heating season???

    Exterior walls & underside of crawl space should have R19 insulation & attic R40---this is always the 1st thing recommended--- that an insulation co. blow in as much cellulose insulation as you need.

    This can be done usually in 1 day & costs several hundred dollars or up to $1500---but still a great bargain.

    Heat Loss Calculation:

    You should do a free heat loss calculation (below) of your home to determine how much heat is oozing out of your house on a cold day---this will
    also tell you if your boiler is properly sized for the house, and you will know the size to order if you order a new one.

    HLC's take into consideration the amount of insulation in the walls & attic, the amount of window glass (a lot of heat goes out all types of windows), your location, the type of foundation, etc.

    The Slant/fin HLC is more comprehensive---it would be worth a call to the slant/fin technical staff (look for an 800 number on their site) to get their opinion on your fuel choices & heating plant---Slant/fin manufactures oil-fired, gas-fired & elec-fired boilers so is not prejudiced toward any one type of boiler.

    Heating Degree Days: a lot of oil dealers and homeowners use the data available at the the local weather bureau to calculate how much fuel they have burned over a heating season & to calculate the efficiency of the boiler--a site for this is below.

    If the tank must remain outside, there are additives that may save you from burning the more expensive kerosene: "Hot 4 in 1" @ $8/16 oz. is widely used--also Mitco fuel treatment (anti-gel).

    A feed-line out of the top of the oil tank will prevent ice from forming in a bottom feed & supply pipe in sub-zero weather (common occurance).



    http://www.bgmsupply.com/calculateheatloss.asp
    http://www.heatload.com
    http://www.slantfin.com/heat-loss-software.html
    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ftproot/service/emeu9401.pdf
    http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/journa...d=19&prid=1848
    http://www.steffes.com
    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/reso...ree-days_x.htm
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 04-02-2008 at 08:11 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    North West Wisconsin
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    JactheShack:
    Great info and thanks again for your time.

    I live closer to Superior. Almost everyone in my area uses propane. Fuel oil is fairly rare. No new homes use fuel oil, the only people who have fuel oil in my area seems to be those that own older homes (mine was built in 1973). So it has been hard to find answers to my questions. I do like fuel oil a lot, no dangers of having a gas and as you say more btu for your dollar. The disadvantage for me is the storage and that itís not used much around here.

    I donít think I would go to electricity as my primary source of heat. I have actually been trying to get in touch with local contractors, to get more info about a Steffes unit, as a secondary source. I didnít know electricity was so expensive in other areas ($.14/kwh). I thought my rate was expensive when I compared it to a friend in MN ($.03/kwh, off peak).

    I donít have a really good place to put a fuel oil tank inside, but because of the disadvantages of having one outside, I think I would try to squeeze one in. Thatís one of the things that I like about the Roth tank is that it is a lot smaller than a steal tank.

    I typically use around 1000 gallons of fuel oil in a year (thatís for heating and hot water, I have an old fuel oil hot water heater).

    I have insulated my ceiling to an R40 by blowing in fiberglass.

    Also, last fall I had a high efficiency wood-burning fireplace installed, which works great and cuts down on the fuel oil bill a lot. A possible issue Iíve heard about is that fuel oil boilers work better if they run a lot (burns cleaner if it remains warm vs cooling down then heating up again). Since the heat from the fireplace will prevent it from running as much to heat the house, I like the idea of an indirect hot water heater so that it runs a bit more. Any thoughts on this?

    Do you think an indirect hot water heater would still be more efficient and cost effective when considering the times of the year when Iím not heating the house and just need hot water?Ē

    My current thought is to stay with fuel oil for my boiler, and store the fuel oil in the house with a Roth tank. Then get a separate electric hot water heater. I think this would be cheaper (with off peak, compared to my current system, and to purchase) and I would be ďspreading my riskĒ among a couple of different (all ready expensive) energy sources. Does that sound like a sound theory?

    Thanks again for your time and info.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max ****man View Post
    JacktheShack:
    Awesome info. Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

    A couple of questions:
    1. Do you know, if I have an outside tank with a tank cover, can I use #2 fuel oil?
    2. Here are my local costs for fuel. Propane $2.40/g, Fuel Oil $3.05/g, and electricity is $.09/kwh ($.054/kwh off peak). Plugging these numbers in, indicates that Fuel Oil beats propane, but electricity beats both. Am I off base?
    3. Why is an indirect water heater highly recommended? Is it much more efficient? I'm having a difficult time calculating any cost savings/justifying the extra cost (vs electric).

    Thanks again!
    Cost of ownership should always be considered when making any decision, a bargain could end up as a bottomless hole in your wallet.

    $3.05 of fuel oil gets you 140,000 btu's
    $3.05 of electricity gets you 68,000 btu's (assuming 2000 btu's / kwh and $.09/kwh)
    So if you heat anything with electricity (home/water) it will cost you about double over oil.
    Propane is also deceiving, it is cheaper than oil by the gallon however only has about 80,000 btu's (I'm converting from metric in my head but wont be far off)
    Natural gas has the lowest btu's per cubic metre however is also very inexpensive by comparison. This was not an option for us so we went oil (from an electric furnace & water which saved us about $3000 / yr which paid for the upgrade the 1st year)

    This is unfortunate since electricity converts to heat at 100% efficiency (there is no waste) and is easy to deliver. Electricity from solar, wind, and hydro uses no natural resources nor produces atomic waste that needs to be managed for 250,000 years (a.k.a. FOREVER - prepare for higher electricity costs when utilities start passing this cost along.)
    The question for the Electric Utilities is why is electricity so expensive? (Sorry had the urge to rant a little)

    Something to consider is we got a little hassle from the insurance people due to our outdoor fuel oil tank. They want it replaced every 20 years, it now must be double lined, and they wanted it protected from falling ice. They would not insure the house without compliance and some companies were down right stupid about the outdoor tank. I just don't want the tank inside my house - space, smell, overfilling accidents, etc. They do not want the environmental risk of the tank leaking into the ground, this may be a regional thing but they all follow suit eventually (I'm in Ontario Canada)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Nashville, TN
    Posts
    149

    Default Re: What kind of hot water heater should I get?

    I vote for an underground propane storage tank with a tankless water. Check www.tanklesswaters.com for info. Process of elimanation. Good luck.

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