Oil heat: Good or bad?

image via flickr by meme_crafter
image via flickr by meme_crafter

What’s one of the things that Americans are hearing about a lot these days?  The rising cost of oil, perhaps?  Well, I don’t know about you, but everyday on the radio I hear a constant stream of ads talking about the joys & cost benefits of installing oil heat in your home.  Let me say that again…cost BENEFITS.  (?!?!)

Hmmm….well, like many Philadelphians I have an old oil tank in my basement.  My house has long since been converted to forced air gas heat and is therefore no longer in use, but every house on my block used to use oil as it’s primary heat source.  My next door neighbor’s house has never been converted and is still filling her oil tank every couple of weeks, and has told me how much she spends each winter on oil…and the cost is OUTRAGEOUS!  Therefore it amazes me to hear these ads from Oil Heat America talking about the reasons people should install new oil heat systems into their homes.

While reading over their list of benefits, I still have a hard time believing any of them are actually true considering I’ve met people who complain about sky-high heating costs.  Not to mention the fact that Americans are always hearing how bad using oil is for the environment!   But seeing as how I’m not an expert, I thought I’d pose the question to the internet.  With the onset of winter coming, do any of you have oil heat?  If so, do you like it?  Would you consider switching over to oil heat?

As a side note, in last week’s people magazine I read an article about a man named Dallas Gigrich from Seattle who removes old oil tanks for a living.  He drains the remaining oil at the bottom of the tank and donates it to needy families.  They call him the “Oil Angel.”  I thought that was such a great thing to do.  Anyways…let me know thoughts on oil heat.  Everytime I hear one of those commercials, I start yelling at the radio really loudly!  haha.


9 thoughts on “Oil heat: Good or bad?

  1. Oil heat is the worst thing you can choose for a long term investment in a house.

    Ignoring the current dip in oil prices, the long term price of oil will continue to rise as the economies of the whole world repair the damage from the last 3 months.

    Simply put, there is not enough cheap oil to make it worth while for the long term investment of owning a house, and all of its parts to make Oil a choice for heating your home.

    Natural gas also is in a bad place as it too will increase in price in the near and long term.

    Alternatives include anything that generates electricity really… as liquid or solid fuels are all fosiel fuel based and are either running out (becoming too expensive) in the window of how long people own homes, or too damaging to the environment.

    A search on Google for Geothermal for Homes : http://tinyurl.com/5jbpj4 will give you a lot of good info.

    In short: below 10-15 feet from the surface, you’ll find in most parts of the world, that the ambient temp is between 50 and 60 degrees. Tapping in to this heat exchange volume allows you to maintain either a very cool house in the summer, or a somewhat comfortable base level of heat in the winter. Additional heating is needed to get up to 68 or 72 degrees as most people seem to want, but it can remove a lot of the other needed energy to maintain that temp.

    As a whole world we need to move away from a system that requires one cheap source of fuel for all of our needs. Its not sustainable and its simply running out.

    Investigate the alternatives.

  2. I agree with you…that is/was my reaction when I hear those radio ads, but I’m very intrigued to hear from people who may have (or know someone who has) oil heat.

    Meanwhile, my own house’s heat using natural gas is obviously not ideal, but was grandfathered in when I purchased the house. I have lots of things to upgrade at the moment, so baby steps. Baby steps.

    Maybe I can install my own wind turbine in the backyard. Whaddya think?!

  3. we have oil heat in our washington, d.c., area home. yes, it is VERY expensive. and on payment plans (like i’m on) you pay ALL YEAR ROUND. this year it’s about $400 mo., last year $366. the only reason we stick with it is that to convert to gas, is $10k… our savings isn’t quite there yet. (though what we will pay the oil company this year is almost half that) so like you said…baby steps;)

  4. Sara, aren’t there biofuel alternatives for oil heating systems? Or perhaps the biofuel won’t work with an old setup? Hmmm…anyways, just a thought. I know my friend converted his VW diesel bus to run on old cooking grease. Although, let’s face it you’d have to get a LOT of cooking grease to heat your house, plus it would smell like french fries.

  5. did you know that diesel engines were originally designed to run on peanut oil?(I was so shocked the first time I heard of it)
    So if your heating system uses diesel, yes you can go for filtered used cooking oil.
    And if it is heavy fuel oil(HFO), because of the high pollution potential, go for other types of heating systems!
    But I guess, the best and greenest solutions, are to ensure proper insulation, to use the heater only if necessary and to layer on the winter clothes!!

  6. I have oil heat and am pretty happy with it actually. Environmental concerns aside, oil heat is efficient compared to electricity. There’s a good article over at http://www.newenglandbreeze.com/nl/TEM20081130.html which shows the comparison of costs between oil, natural gas and electricity. The only downside of this link is that it makes some assumptions which will vary person to person. Modern oil fired furnances are 85% efficient, but older furnaces (like mine) are 80% efficient and even older ones can be much lower. The article also ignores that there are things like a thermal temperature reset or flame retention burner you can use to make your furnace even more efficient than it operates now. I just installed a Tekmar 260 boiler control and have realized a 15% reduction in my oil use for about $1000 investment. That’s worth it.

    As a matter of fact, when oil was near it’s peak, I looked into retrofitting my house with geothermal. The estimate, including well digging, equipment, duct work, etc. was $55k. While it is significantly cheaper to operate, it would have been an almost 20 year return on investment AND I still would have had to use oil or electricity to generate hot water. Much as I would like to switch technologies for the environmental reasons, until it gets down to a 5 year ROI, I’m sticking with oil and the incremental improvements I can make.

    And just to wrap it up, I received a letter from our oil company recently that they will be offering biodiesel to burn in our furnances for about the same price as oil, so I can save the environemnt AND keep the technology I have. Bonus! 🙂

  7. Most home owners have oil boilers that are either oversized or at least 10-15 years old which most likely makes the units around 80% efficient. The cost of replacement to get closer to the high 87+% range will cost an average of $8,000 unfortunately the return on investment would be many years. I have used the tekmar outdoor reset in my previous house and it cost around $1,200 to have installed with an annual “tune-up” of roughly $100 from my tech. I definitely saved around 5-10% annually in fuel oil cost. In my current house I was tight on cash and I did a lot of research on the alternative, an indoor type reset, the Intellicon HW+ 3250, which cost about $300 and saved me roughly 15% annually the last 2 years. The installation was significantly easier and there is no annual tune-up. So my recommendation would be instead replacing your boiler initially, I would maximize its efficiency with and outdoor or indoor reset. Btw the Intellicon 3250 manufacture offers a money back guarantee if there isn’t a 10% savings realized.

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