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Thread: Change from fuel oil burner to propane.

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  1. #1
    DIY Member Rughead's Avatar
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    Default Change from fuel oil burner to propane.

    Hi there. We're back to our new (old) house in NY in July. It's small, like 1200sq ft, and has a big old fuel oil tank in the cellar that occupies too much space. Am getting Paraco to install a large propane tank out back under the deck for a gas stove/oven, BBQ/grill and a few deck lights. Our current heating system is fuel oil forced hot air combined with central AC ducts. We'd like to convert this to a propane fired heating system. Is this an easy change? It may also affect the size of tank we get. There's no natural gas on our street, hence the LPG. Figure that since we're doing it for the cooking we might as well do it for the heat as well and rid ourselves of the diesel tank in the cellar. Any advice and opinions are most welcome. Cheers and best regards, Rug.

  2. #2

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    We did it when we moved into a new house. Wanted to get rid of the inside tank, noisy burner, and oil smell.

    Installed an underground tank, moved the heater location to the attic. Installed a high efficiency heater and went from a 125k btu oil to an 80k btu gas. (house about 2800 sf) Kept the same ac compressor, but changed the evap. Ended up converting one fireplace, cooktop to gas, and added the outside grill to the mix.

    Was not big thing, would do it again in a heartbeat.

  3. #3
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Retrofit burners are relatively easy (if not in the realm of DIY stuff.) What's more, propane/gas burner outputs can be sized lower than the lowest jet that works with oil, so you have a better shot at "right sizing" the burner to improve the seasonal efficiency. Odds are pretty good on a 1200' place that you're running the smallest practical jet on the oil burner and it's still 3-4x oversized for the actual heat load. Being oversized for the load that much drops it's actual as-used efficiency from an ~80-85% AFUE efficiency number to the ~60% range.

    If you haven't already, have a Manual-J type heat loss calculation done on the place, and if you can, don't oversize the propane burner by any more than 10% greater than the calculated number. (Don't settle for a "40 btus per square foot" or similar wild-assed-guess ballparking method or anything similar- they're guaranteed to be wrong, usually significantly on the high side of actual load. Measuring glazed area & window type, doors, wall & attic insulation, wall area, foundation type etc are all necessary to get it even close.)

    Alternatively, you might get quotes on what a right-sized (based on a heat-loss calc) condensing propane furnace costs. The air-handler for the oversized oil-unit is probably overkill for a right-sized burner (unless it's a multi-speed, and you can crank it down), which ends up using more electricity and makes it feel a bit drafty. With a smaller lower-speed air handler on a new properly-sized 90%+ AFUE condensing furnace it'll feel more comfortable, use half the electricity and 15-25% less fuel than with a retrofit propane burner on the old oil-fired beast.

    But if the air handler speed is married to the AC system design, it may turn into a big design headache, and the retrofit burner may be "good 'nuff". Just be sure to not make it any higher output than it needs to be and it'll be as-cheap or cheaper to run than the oil burner. (If only 2x oversized & adjusted for proper combustion efficiency by a competent installation tech, it could still hit ~75% for as-used efficiency. At 3x oversizing & up it's already well down the slope of the efficiency cliff.)

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    DIY Member Rughead's Avatar
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    Many thanks for this very useful information. I will engage a reputable HVAC company in NY to do all the calculations and make offers based on the alternatives. Am so glad we can do this. Might return with a few more questions once we get started with the process. Again thanks and best regards, Rug.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    This may be obvious, and a good contractor will not fail you. BUT....I would personally ensure that the VERY FIRST step in this project is to remove the oil fill tube. There have been horror stories in the news about where the tank was removed, and a zealous oil truck guy wanting to keep all his customers topped off....fillled the basement!!!

  6. #6
    DIY Member Rughead's Avatar
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    Thanks Jimbo. Yes it would seem obvious but stuff happens, I know. Good advice and I'll be sure that's the very first item removed once we get started. Cheers, Rug.

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