Fuels to Heat Your Home, Church or Business

To save Operating Cost, do you plan to replace or supplement your Current Heating System before Winter 2017 / 2018? What Fuel will you choose to power the new system? There are numerous possibilities including Heating/Fuel Oil, Natural Gas, Electricity, Propane, Coal, Wood, Solar and Wood Pellets.
When replacing a Hot Water or Steam Central Heating System to save operating cost, many of our customers are switching from Fuel Oil (Oil) to Natural Gas (Nat Gas) or Propane. If they have an Oil Hot Water Boiler they might choose a High Efficiency (95%) Nat Gas or Propane Hot Water Condensing Boiler. Although hot water heat is tough to beat for comfort during those cold winter months it has the disadvantages of not providing Air Conditioning (AC) in the Summer; therefore, another option is to keep the present Oil system as a backup and install a Ducted or Ductless Heat Pump/Air Conditioning System to help lower the heating cost in the winter and provide AC during those hot summer months. This is a very good option if you have an Oil Steam Boiler as the efficiency of a replacement oil steam unit will only be in the 80% to 85% range and unless you go to the expense of converting the steam system to hot water you will continue to incur the inherent inefficiencies of steam heat.
Two examples come to mind both being Churches. Church #1 had two large hot water boilers one powered by Oil and one powered by Nat Gas. We replaced the two large boilers with four High Efficiency (95%) Condensing Nat Gas Boilers. The payoff was an impressive 5 to 7 years. Church #2 has an Oil Steam Boiler and an Oil Hot Water Boiler. Their primary focus was Air Conditioning but they also wanted to save money on their Annual Oil Bill. Their answer was the installation of Ductless Heat Pumps. Their payoff will be longer but they didn’t have the financial resources available to convert the steam system to hot water and to replace the oil units with high efficiency propane condensing boilers (Nat Gas was not available).
For a complete replacement of a Warm Air Central Heating System, to save operating cost, many of our customers are switching from Oil to Natural Gas, Propane or Electric. Since a Warm Air System supports both heating and cooling there are more solutions and they are simpler and less costly. If you are not interested in AC, your Oil Furnace is older and you want to save operating costs, you can replace the Oil Furnace (80% to 85% efficiency) with a Nat Gas or Propane Furnace (95% efficiency). If you currently have only an Oil Furnace (no AC) and the Unit is in good condition you can choose to keep the Oil Furnace as a backup and add a Heat Pump which will save lots of Oil and provide AC in the summer. It is important to note this option will not give you the highest Heat Pump Efficiencies because the Oil Furnace will most likely not have a Variable Speed Blower. If you want to eliminate the Oil Unit you can replace it with a Heat Pump with a Variable Speed Air Handler and an Electric, Nat Gas or Propane Backup. Lots of good stuff out there to save you Lots of Money on Operating Costs!!
Another plus for Natural Gas or Propane versus #2 Heating Oil is the reduced cost of maintenance. If you have a Warm Air Oil Furnace or a Hot Water Oil Boiler you need to have it serviced yearly. Gas units don’t require yearly service. We suggest every 5 years.

Curt Bierly is president of the bierly group incorporated of which Stanley C. Bierly is a division. He graduated from Penn State with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and is the chair of the Penn College HVAC Advisory Board. You can contact him at 814-349-3000 or cbierly@bierlygroup.com.