• Tag Archives Life-Cycle Cost
  • OIL AGAIN THE “CHEAP HEAT” IN NH — FOR THE SMART BUYER

    When our family entered the NH Oil Heat Service Market 60 years ago, #2 Heating Oil was $0.135 a gallon! It had replaced virtually all other fuels despite poor heating equipment in un-insulated buildings. In these succeeding years we participated in the evolution of heating appliances and fuel preferences. All the while we have witnessed technical development being compromised by economic and regulatory policies. Fortunately recent developments in fuel extraction have overtaken market manipulation and put things back into perspective.

    Referencing our prior Heating Blog entitled “Heating Fuel Selection — From An Engineer’s Perspective” will provide a base to qualify our further arguments. Briefly, physical characteristics of heating fuels, in particular “energy density”, physical state (gas, liquid or solid), processing & handling characteristics predetermine their viability and effectiveness. Understanding fuel properties will guide you into what we can now refer to as “The Perfect Storm” that has developed in our region, and may be applicable in others as well.

    Understanding the difference between “distributed” and “delivered” fuels is paramount. Simply, a distributed fuel is piped or wired to your building (electricity, natural or city gas) while a delivered fuel is physically dropped at your location (coal, oil, propane, wood, etc.). Distributed fuels are typically single-source provided while delivered fuels are openly competitive. Heating oil is the highest energy density liquid fuel within a competitive and somewhat volatile market (until recently) and thus presents the “smart buying” opportunity. We will demonstrate that #2 Heating Oil far surpasses ALL other heating fuels when properly sourced. Yes, including Natural Gas.

    Whether its gasoline, diesel or heating oil there are many participants in the petroleum fuel products market and competition is keen. Note the number of heating oil companies represented in your area. They are like the varied gasoline stations, but on wheels. The only visible difference can be the size of a particular fuel company and its operating area, but the fuel distribution market is changing, and rapidly.

    NOTE: As a matter of policy we do not reveal specific identities of our sources, organizations and participants.

    Here in Northern New England we have an expanding presence of a Canadian-based “vertically-integrated” Refiner/Distributor. Their combined advantages of excess refinery capacity, direct transport & distribution, a weakening Canadian Dollar and lowering feed-stock pricing makes them a formidable competitor indeed. Although we have not researched it, similar current or potential situations could exist in the Mid-Canada-US Region as well.

    As an individual user in a prolific supplier market you have little buying leverage excepting to “gang up” as Buying Clubs, Co-Ops, etc. and purchase aggressively. Only in so doing can you move into the ‘Big Boys Club” and attain “rack pricing” as it is referred. The buying groups are out there, but they vary in scope and effect. Do your homework well, in particular to the terms of affiliation with both they and their subscribing suppliers. Making the leap from “Good Old Joe” my local oil dealer who has “kept me warm” (at a price) can be a daunting one to an unknowing consumer, so let’s put some numbers together to make things more exciting.

    We use the NH-OEP Fuel Prices Page, published weekly and loaded into the NH Climate Audit Calculator (typically updated monthly) as the basis of our comparison. Loading our daily Co-Op #2 Heating Oil Price we obtain the “Price per Million BTU”, then adjust all the other Fuel Unit Costs to equate. To obtain an “apples-to-apples” comparison we use the average of latest generation heating appliance efficiency (AFUE) for oil & gas as 87% and 95% respectively. The resultant Fuel Unit Costs are the equivalents to oil-generated heating energy. The “distributed fuels” (gas & electricity) must be factored to your total bill for actual fuel cost + distribution/services.

    Fuel TypeFuel Unit CostUnit of MeasureHeating Unit EfficiencyPrice per Million BTUBilled Cost MultiplierFinal Fuel Unit Cost
    Coal215Ton7910.92
    Fuel Oil (#2)1.3186Gallon8710.93
    Natural Gas1.038Therm9510.931.3 (Estimated)0.7984
    Propane0.948Gallon9510.93
    Wood126.70Cord5810.93
    Electricity0.036kWh9910.921.85 (Estimated)0.01946
    Wood Pellets144.30Ton8010.93
    Kerosene1.15Gallon7810.92
    Geothermal0.102kWh27510.921.85 (Estimated)0.0551

    Go to the NH Climate Audit Calculator and substitute your own values for fuel cost, efficiency, multiplier (where applicable) to ascertain your personal numbers. Only if we substitute our statewide fuel oil average cost which appears to be affected by “pre-buys” can we even approach a par with natural gas. My how times are changing!

    Looking forward it bares noting that the appliance efficiency differential between oil & gas seems to be closing as well. Selective gas appliance manufacturers are claiming AFUE’s of up to 97% while “oilers” are nearing 90%. While gas is nearing its zenith oil has a ways to go. We are watching recent advances in higher temperature combustion oil burners and initial results with cleaner “Bio-Heat Fuel” as examples. We will advise as worthy.

    Our personal soon-to-be-published efforts applying Delta-T Hydronic Distribution will benefit ALL heating systems. To quote JFK, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. The sailing ahead should be smoother …..


  • THE “DELTA-T” FHW HEATING ADVANTAGE

    Whether you’re replacing an existing boiler or installing a new Forced Hot Water (FHW) Heating System, the procedure is the same. A plumbing/heating guy moves in with a service truck full of parts and tools, a supply house truck arrives and drops the boiler and sundry parts. Then the game begins …..

    The old boiler (where applicable) is removed by whatever means required, the ensuing mess is cleaned up, and the new boiler is moved into the area. Locating and positioning the boiler is the first task and directly determines the effectiveness of the entire installation. The preferences, methods, materials and the heuristic judgement of the installer prevails. Thenceforth the building of the “Erector Set” continues, pipe by pipe, wire by wire, device by device until the task is finally completed. It’s a slow, costly and inefficient process …..

    All tradesmen develop their own methodologies, reflecting their pride and workmanship in the resultant. Unfortunately the customer pays a premium for this both initially and throughout the lifetime of his system ….. knowingly or not! We cynically refer to boiler installations as “The Plumber’s Playground”, that last vestige of “free expression” removing us from the daily tedium of “fixing leaks and squeaks”.

    Installing or replacing a boiler should be no different than a dishwasher or a water softener, with a few more pipes and wires attached ….. and it can be! Problem is we plumbing/heating guys (ourselves included) continually lag technology. We “Old Dogs have to learn New Tricks”, and brother we have!

    Recent technology now allows us to configure a FHW (Hydronic) Heating System as a true appliance! All heating system functions excepting radiation can now be integrated into a “packaged unit”, engineering it for peak performance and value in the process. “Delta-T” (Differential Temperature) Circulation Technology is truly an evolutionary and revolutionary improvement. Developed in the “high-tech” process world, it has now become both practical and economical as applied to Residential Hydronics (FHW Heating).

    Mercier Engineering via its website www.BoilersOnDemand.com is the introductory leader of Residential Delta-T Hydronic Heating. The question is not if Delta-T Circulation will out-distance conventional Fixed-Speed Circulation, but when. Evidence the following Pictorials and Details for comparison.

    Identically Configured Oil-Fired FHW Installations          

    Conventional Oil-Fired FHW System   “Delta-T” Oil-Fired FHW System
    Typical Plumber Boiler Install - 18 hrs DTO-100T2(Exp)H4-4X6

    Features Comparison Table

    Attribute"Conventional" System"Delta-T" SystemComments
    Boiler TypeWelded Steel Plate (Example Unit)Cast Iron "Triple-Pass"15 years +/- vs. 30 Years +
    Boiler Weight270 Lbs.625 Lbs.Very High Mass - Durability
    Oil Burner TypeVarious OfferedBeckett NX (Pressure-Fired)Flexible, stable operation
    Gas Burner TypeFixed, Appliance-SpecificCarlin EZ-PRO (NG/LP) (Pressure-Fired)Appliance-Specific Interchange
    CirculationMultiple Fixed Speed Circulators onlyA Delta-T Variable Circulator w/ Intelligent Zone Valves>/ 15% Fuel Savings
    >/ 85% Electrical Savings
    Piping/FittingsCopper (Typically)All Iron & Cast ConstructionSuperior Strength/Durability
    Indirect Water HeaterVarious Mfrs. & TypesAll Stainless Steel OnlyA Lifetime of Service
    Floor Space UtilizationInstaller-dependentOptimized Package DesignMinimum Space Requirement
    Energy PerformanceInstaller-dependentOptimized Energy DesignPeaked Hydronic Efficiency
    Component SourcesU.S./Foreign Mix (Typical)"All-American" (US/Canada)Quality and Serviceability
    Installed Cost (Oil example shown)"Over $10,000" (Oil, as shown)$7,000 (Oil, as shown)Price, Performance, Value

    Notes:

    1. Estimated service lives are from our and our collaborating serviceman’s actual field experience.
    2. Fuel & Electrical Energy Performance per Taco, Inc. published testing data.

    Reviewing our Comparative System Photos will will confirm many of the suppositions in our “Features Comparison Table” above. The immediate impression is one of excessive plumbing and space consumption of the Conventional System. In fact the “Delta-T” System occupies 1/3 of the space, uses 1/2 of the near-boiler piping (with no copper), with only one (1) Circulator, fewer valves and fittings ….. and with optimized hydronic flow and distribution performance! Flow is so idealized in fact that under certain component fail modes “gravity induced circulation” will continue to provide heating at a reduced level! (Patent Pending)

    Arguably a high-mass (heavy) “Delta-T” System will outlast two (2) Conventional FHW Systems with a higher Hydronic Total System Efficiency at 1/3 the “life-cycle” cost.

    So when your potential FHW Heating System Installer comes calling, ask him first about “Delta-T” Circulation. If it draws a blank stare, send him home to call Taco, Inc. — and that another “Old Dog” told you to do so. After all, you the customers are deserving of all the “New Tricks”!