Natural Gas Conversions Are On The Rise In Maine
Why are so many people converting to Natural Gas in the Bangor, Brunswick and Portland areas? The reason is simple, it’s an affordable, easy alternative to Oil. If you are lucky enough to have Natural gas on your street, it represents a quick and easy conversion away from Oil based systems with many benefits.
In Portland, Natural gas costs $1.40 per therm, that’s the same as Oil at $1.96 a gallon. In Bangor, it’s even better, with Natural gas costing only $1 per therm, or the same as $1.40 a gallon Oil. For the average house, to simply convert from one fuel to the other would save about $1400 per year. The picture can be better still, as converting to a high efficiency low mass boiler can save between 20 and 30% on fuel consumption as well as the fuel savings, and help make customers eligible for federal and state incentives, as well as Financing.
Natural Gas is still a fossil fuel, but it’s a better fossil fuel. Bangor is hazy on cold winter days because of all the oil being pumped into the air of the valley around the river. Natural gas has a fraction of the particulate, and makes for cleaner air. There are also a small fraction of the sulfates and nitrates that cause acid rain. In terms of Carbon, natural gas has about 30% less carbon than oil. While a lot has been written recently about Natural Gas exploration in the United States, the EPA is issuing rules about natural gas extraction, and, no matter how you slice it, it’s hard to see the environmental issues rising to the same levels as, for example, Tar Sand extraction in Canada or the Gulf Disaster. Personally, I have more faith in the EPA than I do in Venezuela’s EPA, if there is such a thing.
Natural Gas is 85% domestically produced, with the lions share of the 15% we import coming from Canada.
By design, high efficiency Natural Gas boilers use less energy than High Mass Oil boilers for a number of reasons.
- High mass oil boilers are connected to a natural draft chimney, which is always pulling heat up them. They also lose more heat to the room, as they are generally poorly insulated themselves.
- Oil boilers are binary, they fire at 100%, then they shut off. Natural Gas boilers are modulating, they fire at a fraction of their output, the better gas boilers only fire at 25% of full fire, which means more, longer firings, which is more efficient than the start stop of an oil boiler.
- Oil boilers pull cold air into the house, cooling down the house to provide make up air for the boiler. Direct Vent Natural Gas boilers pull fresh air right into the boiler, keeping the warm air in the house where you want it.
- Oil boilers are start-stop boilers, they run at 100% of capacity, then shut off, then run at 100%. That’s like driving with one foot on the break and one on the gas. Natural gas boilers modulate, which means they run at as little as 25% of capacity. More longer cycles is a more efficient way to go.
- Condensing Gas boilers vent with plastic pipe. They can do that because they pull so much of the heat out of the gases that some of the gasses actually condense into liquid before they exit the boiler. By trapping this latent heat, we can squeeze an extra 10% of the energy out of the boiler and hit efficiencies up to 95%.
All of this adds up to between 20 and 30% energy savings, on top of the fuel savings.
No more annual cleanings and no more deliveries to schedule.
To convert or swap out?
There are two conversion options, you can swap out your burner only, and leave the boiler in place, or you can install a brand new boiler, designed to run specifically on natural gas. Which is the best way? Short answer is that it depends. A simple conversion, where we take the oil burner and switch it to a Gas Burner but leave the boiler in place costs as little as $2,000. However, when the burner is pulled, the whole system has to come up to code. If you’re chimney is unlined, a liner needs to be added. This adds between $1,000 and $3,000 to the cost depending on what is present, and how hard it is to change.
Simple conversions don’t do anything to make the system more efficient, you’re just burning a better fuel. They also don’t qualify for any rebates, loans or tax credits.
Converting to a high efficiency gas boiler costs anywhere from $7,000 to 12,000, the difference being how big and complex a project is, if there is an existing indirect water heater to use, and what type of boiler we chose to install.
The decision comes down to what is existing, and how much you save by upgrading to new. If you have really old equipment and an expensive chimney to line, you might be better off with a new system. If you’ve got a steam boiler, and no plans of deep retrofits, then you may well be better off with simple conversion. It comes down to the details.
HESP. This is the Efficiency Maine Home Energy Savings Program. Hesp is income blind, and provides rebates for customers who verify 25% energy savings through an auditor. ReVision Heat works with a number of auditors who can help guide you through the HESP process. HESP is nice, but it’s not a huge dollar amount. At $1,500 per unit rebate, it’s enough to pay for the audit and then some. If insulation makes sense for you (and it does for many homes), consider the HESP program. Converting to high efficiency gas already saves about 20%, and goes a long way toward reaching the 25% mark. Many of our customers do a little insulation in order to garner the rebate while they’re doing the conversion.
Efficiency Maine Appliance Rebate. Efficiency Maine has a $500 per boiler rebate program for high efficiency natural gas boilers. Federal Tax Credit. The federal tax credit is still alive, and is good for $450 for a high efficiency boiler and water heater.
PACE financing. Due out soon, this program will allow homeowners to get 5% interest rates for energy savings projects that qualify under the HESP program. What would you say if I told you I could save you $2,000 per year and it would cost you $1500 a year in interest and principal? By combining Insulation upgrades with a new high efficiencies gas boiler, you can essentially have a new heating system that saves more than it costs for No Money Down!