• Tag Archives Natural Gas
  • Heating Oil vs. Natural Gas Heating Cost Crossover, Again.

    http://oilprice.com/…/Is-This-The-Most-Bearish-Oil-Report-O…

    We are back in the $45/BBL Oil Barrel Price range. As we have prior blogged on our site, #2 Heating Oil is now again the Lowest Cost per Million BTU heating fuel in our region, including Natural Gas. This value is equated via. application of Appliance AFUE Efficiencies of 87% and 95% for oil & gas, respectively.

    For the second concurrent year we have recommended that our clients not purchase “Pre-Pay Heating Oil Contracts” and seek participation in Fuel Buying Clubs/Groups. The current and potential financial benefits are substantial.

    It further appears that this will be a prolonged condition.


  • Oil & Natural Gas as Heating Fuels Equate @ $45/bbl

    By our calculation #2 Heating Oil and Natural Gas equate at an approximate Crude Oil Price per Barrel of $45 in our locale (Northern New England). There are obviously many factors that contribute and must be individually qualified.

    Refer to our prior posting on “The Heating Blog” entitled “Oil Again The Cheap Heat ………….. “ for procedural detail. Note that it was published with Oil @ $30/bbl this past January.

    Of particular note is to always delineate between a “Delivered” vs. a “Distributed” Fuel. Whereas you purchase a quantity of fuel upon delivery (Oil, Propane, Wood, Coal, etc.), Natural Gas & Electricity are piped/wired to your location and you necessarily pay “service charges” for their facilities usage, maintenance, profit, etc. Factoring your “distributed fuel” bill is simple. Extract the actual cost for “fuel” and divide it into your total bill. The resulting “factor” of 1.XX must be used to multiply any stated “distributed fuel” cost for an actual one. Note that this “factor” is always changing and is particularly dramatic when comparing mid-summer and mid winter fuel costs.

    You will note that the only two viable heating fuels at present are Natural Gas and #2 Heating Oil. Even our regional “Fuels of Opportunity” as we refer, Cord Wood & Wood Pellets, as purchased are far less economic than generally perceived. Even “free” (self sourced and provided) Cord Wood is arguably uneconomic in use, particularly in our experience when purchasing and servicing Exterior Wood Boilers, a regional fad.

    To achieve an “apples to apples” heating fuel comparison you must use a contemporary appliance cost and performance for the fuels being considered. We use a 95% AFUE average value for Natural Gas & LP (Propane) Appliances and an 87% AFUE for Heating Oil. The Oil vs. Gas Heating Appliance Cost must also  always be considered in calculation, the Gas Appliances being pricier than their Oil equivalents.

    The further unwritten and unstated longevity of Gas vs. Oil Installed Systems must be quantified. You are not going to obtain system life expectancy from your “salesman”, who at best quotes Warranties (if you insist) nor provides maintenance histories. These come from the “old sergeants in the trenches” ….. independent service personnel who daily deal with prior work. Unfortunately they are too few, their voices are seldom heard nor are generally known, overshadowed by the self-anointed trade professionals and marketeers. We talk to the Sergeants …..

    Please avail yourselves of our extensive “The Heating Blog” Library on our website for further detail to your particular situation.


  • THE DELTA-T ECM CIRCULATOR — The “Automatic Transmission” for Boilers

    After speaking on-site  with a local customer about his system, he inquired as to what else we were doing. A mistake on his part.

    Both of us having differing technical backgrounds I launched into an inspired dissertation of our application of Delta-T ECM Circulation to Residential FHW Heating Systems. Obviously very interested, a running Q & A exchange of increasing technical depth ensued to the point of my noting he was developing that “deer in the headlights” look of incomplete understanding.

    We engineering types have a terrible habit of technically overloading our audiences, not as an “ego-trip”, but to inform as effectively as possible — we think!

    Needing to salvage the situation I paused, desperately searching for that inspired “bolt of lightening” to strike and clarify the atmosphere. By seeming grace, it came immediately! “I’m putting Automatic Transmissions on Boilers.” Yeah”, he responded, “that makes complete sense. Good idea!” Our further conversation became an analogy of FHW Heating Systems to Automobiles, surprisingly clearing our technical disparages. To expound …..

    After all, hot water boilers and automobile engines are both truly “heat engines”. An automobile engine must convert as much fuel combustion energy into mechanical propulsion power as possible via pistons, crankshafts, etc. Less than 60% becomes useful power, the remainder is dissipated as waste heat. The hot water boiler on the other hand necessarily converts its fuel combustion energy directly into useful heat at up to 97% efficiency!

    The automobile uses a transmission to adapt its mechanical power to control vehicle propulsion. A variety of gears, pumps, valves, etc. are used to accomplish this. The hot water boiler conversely needs only to move heated water (via a pump) exactingly to ideally acclimate our heated areas and (optionally) our domestic hot water (DHW).

    The Delta-T ECM (Differential Temperature) Variable Speed Circulator (Pump) is that ideal “boiler transmission” that delivers heated water most efficiently to maintain our comfort. So efficiently does it do so as to reduce system fuel consumption by up to 15% and electrical consumption by up to 85% as documented by Taco, Inc. Published Testing Results.

    No longer is heating system efficiency measured solely (and inaccurately) by the Boiler AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) Rating, but the aggregate of Boiler, Distribution and Radiation Efficiencies. There are THREE (3) Elements in a hydronic heating system! Just as in Sulky Racing, it’s the combination of the horse, the jockey and the buggy that wins races.

    Even more exciting  is the opportunity provided by the Delta-T ECM Circulator to most efficiently configure a FHW Heating System, which we have done very effectively. Refer to our other, recently published Delta-T Blogs on this site that detail our development, field testing and observations of our systems.

    Our “Packaged Delta-T ECM Hydronic Heating Appliance™” (Patents Pending) exhibits the following attributes in direct comparison to the typical “conventionally installed” system:

    1. Has a higher Combined Boiler AFUE and Delta-T ECM Distribution (System) Efficiency than achievable with any “conventional” system configuration.
    2. Consumes less fuel and electrical power than any equivalently sized system.
    3. Our Integrated Boiler/Indirect Water Heater System occupies 1/3 to 1/2 the floor-space of others.
    4. Our proprietary Fully-Iron & Cast near-boiler piping maximizes durability and distribution performance using fewer materials.
    5. Further combining a High-Mass Boiler with an All-Stainless Indirect Water Heater assures a dramatically projected economic life (30 years or more?).
    6. A truly universal, multi-fuelable Appliance. Just change the burner and not the system!
    7. Provides, Simple, Durable, Efficient and Cost-Effective FHW Heating.

    So yes, we do put “Automatic Transmissions” on Boilers!

    Author’s Note: Updated 07/23/2018


  • MAXIMIZE HEATING EFFICIENCY WITH A SINGLE ENERGY SOURCE

    Optimization of heating efficiency first requires determining your specific requirements. In general terms there are two or more distinct heating energy uses:

    1. Area Heating – Warming occupied areas fully, or selectively as living habits occupation or use may demand.
    2. Domestic Hot Water  (DHW) – Heated, potable (drinkable) for baths, showers, laundry and personal consumption.
    3. Special Uses – High temperature power washing, sanitizing, etc. (Refer to prior blog.)

    All of these requirements can ideally be met by using a hot water boiler system as a single, central source but the question arises of how to accomplish this efficiently. Specifically, varied heating demands that may range from continuous (?) DHW to very occasional (seasonal?) and selectable area warmth can become a challenge, particularly economically. However occasional demands can “lighten your wallet” to execute and maintain. Let’s address this problem systematically.

    Arguably the most important decision has to be your heating fuel selection. We cannot overemphasize this and the use of a Heating Cost Comparator to define your choice. (See our other blogs.) The standard unit of measure is the “Cost per Million BTU” expressed as a dollar figure. We use the NH-OEP Calculator for our area usage, but similar ones are available online. Use your current or projected new heating appliance efficiencies (AFUE) to get an accurate calculation. New Gas (Natural or LP) AFUE’s are typically 95% for top end (condensing) boilers and 87% for Oil Triple-pass boilers.

    The current and foreseeable heating fuel choices have become quite obvious in the northern climates:

    1. Natural Gas (where available) is the accepted baseline. But BE CAREFUL! Natural Gas is a “distributed fuel” (through a pipeline). Your actual bill will be considerably higher due to service and distribution costs added to your actual therm usage. Get a billing estimate from your gas provider first! (Our local multiplier is up to 2.0 or 100% added for your actual natural gas billing costs.)
    2. Heating Oil is the predominant fuel where natural gas is not available.
    3. Liquid Propane (LP) Gas is another option along with oil where natural gas is not available. LP has been used predominantly for domestic cooking and somewhat for DHW generation. As an area heating and DHW fuel it has traditionally been up to a 100% premium over oil. It is a heating option of choice in our experience.

    Note that solid fuels (wool, coal, peat, waste, etc.) have been purposefully omitted from this discussion. Insurers typically disallow continuous firing fuels using interior combustion equipment. External or “outdoor boilers” are “zero pressure” and require a “plate exchanger” interface with an internal power fired system to assure continuous heating maintenance. Verify these statements and weigh potential penalties for your particular situation.

    Consumers predominantly identify their area heating options as Forced Hot Air (FHA) Furnace or Forced Hot Water (FHW) Boiler Systems. Similarly DHW options as Electric, Gas or Oil stand-alone Water Heaters or from an immersion coil within a boiler. So therefore we usually find the typical FHA System with a stand-alone DHW Heater as a combination. FHW Systems usually provide DHW from an internal Immersion Coil, as previously noted. Currently we are seeing the emergence of the Indirect Hot Water Heater, supplied by a boiler as the efficiency choice.

    But in fact our heating options are more extensive. They include:

    1. Air Handler – A FHA Furnace without a fuel-powered heating source. Instead it has an internal large radiator (heat exchanger) that is externally supplied with energy from a FHW source (boiler).
    2. Unit Heater – A radiator with fan, typically found as an overhead heater in a garage, warehouse, etc. There are also variations of these with provisions for attaching ducting – otherwise similar to an Air Handler.
    3. Plate Heat Exchanger – Basically two (or more) mutually integrated radiators allowing the interchange of heat from varied sources. Source variation attributes may be pressure, temperature, flow rate(s) and composition. Their composition may be aqueous (or not) and adjusted for properties such as freezing and/or boiling resistance.

    Utilizing these latter devices allows us to employ higher efficiency or lower cost hot water generation sources (or both) for all our area and DHW heating requirements. We respectfully suggest that where a single, efficient energy source is desirable or necessary for continuous demand a FHW boiler should be employed. Further, that this source then be applied to all your structure’s heating demands with all the resources detailed within.

    The unmentioned physical fact is that utilizing water as an energy conductor is inherently and significantly more efficient than air. Thus an HVAC System (air heating/cooling) is less efficient than a hot water boiler (heating) coupled with an air handler (cooling) combination. This can be witnessed in their assigned AFUE values.

    So, let us wrap it up by considering some common scenarios for our FHW boiler system source:

    1. A Central HVAC (Heating,Ventilation & Air Conditioning) System Upgrade.

      • Upgrade the existing FHA Furnace with an Air Handler, if desirable, or
      • Install a FHW Heat Exchanger (radiator) into an existing FHA Plenum, plumb and rewire as necessary.
      • Install a “Chiller” in the Hydronic System to provide an A/C source.
    2. Existing or planned FHA System Upgrade – Same as 1. without A/C.
    3. FHA installation into a seasonal, incremental, unheated area or as an expansion.
      • Install an Air Handler or Unit Heater variation to suit.
      • Where freezing protection is desirable, employ a Plate Heat Exchanger with anti-freeze as necessary.
    4. Use a Plate Heat Exchanger to couple “incompatible” secondary heated water sources such as exterior wood & coal boilers, solar & geothermal loops, etc.
    5. In all cases, move to an Indirect Water Heater for efficient DHW generation.

    By the way, these new high efficiency boilers do not necessarily need a chimney. Condensing Gas Boilers typically use PVC pipe for venting and Triple-Pass Oil Boilers with Pressure-fired Burners can use a direct exhausting vent kit.

    Have we run you out of options yet?

    Last Edit: 10/18/2018 pdm


  • CONDEMN THE GAS THIEF IN YOUR BASEMENT — UPGRADE YOUR LNG/LP HEATING APPLIANCES!

    That subtle hissing from a constant-piloted gas furnace is continuously wasted energy. The same applies to constant-piloted gas water, pool and other heaters as well. Similarly, being vented into a chimney accentuates these losses by pulling heated air through these appliances.

    They are certainly becoming fewer and further between — haven’t run into one in a couple of years, until this week again. Furnace looked good, having lived in a nice, dry cellar for many years. (Moisture is the nemesis of hot air furnace systems.) That hiss is even soothing to the neophyte, until the gas bill comes in.

    In our experience the numbers are very compelling, considering the efficiency advances in “Condensing Gas” Appliances as to question the motives for their continuing existence. These 70% AFUE range “gas suckers” are being replaced by 95% AFUE range appliances. The last one we changed a few years ago netted a solid 45% annual fuel reduction. Combine this with the Tax Credit Incentives currently available and you have a sure bet!

    Diss the Hiss!

    Last Edit: 10/10/12 pdm