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Unread 08-30-2012, 07:23 AM
 
6 posts, read 5,512 times
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Default Oil vs natural gas heat in Boston!

Hi all,

So the story goes like this : my three roommates and I live in an older house in South Boston. It's two units, we are on the second and third floor of the house. I wouldn't be able to tell you square footage. 4 large bedrooms, one bath, large kitchen, small family/TV room. The house is very leaky in terms of heat. Not very well insulated. We're younger guys and don't spend a tremendous amount of time in the house as it is (work, girlfriends, etc) so we've dealt with this fairly well.

The house is heated by oil, which heats hot water and is radiated through baseboards and radiators throughout the house. We ended up paying a hefty chunk of cash last winter to heat this place - probably close to $700 each.

Our landlord has agreed to put in natural gas heat instead of oil. Is this a good move? I've read that comparably, gas and oil heat in the northeast tend to fluctuate in terms of price. HOWEVER, I know that gas is more efficient.

There is a catch, our landlord has asked to bump up rent an across $300 in order to recoup some of the cost of installing the new system and removing the old. Basically, a $75 increase a month per person. We can all afford this, and the bump of rent makes sense since our landlord is upgrading the property.

So, bottom line I am looking for opinions. Is gas heat generally "better" than oil all-around?

Thanks!
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Unread 08-30-2012, 07:40 AM
 
35 posts, read 25,824 times
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Bottom line - yes, gas is more efficient and heating bill will go down. It's not a question of "better" or 'worse" - both oil and gas give you as much heat as you need. Gas is cheaper, plus when huge oil tank is removed, it gives additional storage space in the basement (nice bonus).
Conversion costs money and effort and time. It's good that your landlord is doing it - will be better for him in the long run as well. It's a great move. It'll be somewhat easier for him to rent to other people in the future, because many prospective tenants ask about heating system (especially after they have paid huge bills for oil heat). Also, keep in mind that last winter was very mild. Imagine what the bill would be like in colder winter.

That said, it is also important that the house retains heat. Are windows relatively new? Are there air leaks? What temp do you keep your thermostat on? Little things like that help as well.

The reasons that not everybody is converting to gas are few. Actually, main reason is that not every street has gas lines, so you can't even if you wanted to. And another reason - effort and money. Some people keep postponing, or imagine that it would be harder than it really is, or don't have extra funds to invest right now.

Hope this helps
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Unread 08-30-2012, 08:12 AM
 
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Wow, thanks a lot Anna! It did help. I don't know too much about how this works so I appreciate it.

Windows are old, air leaks aplenty. It's an older house. Last season we bought a few packs of those plastic saran wrap kits that go over the windows to hold in heat. Worked pretty well overall. I'm thinking about using Next Step Living to audit our house (I've heard they even do some free work to improve energy efficiency and insulation?)

Regardless, I think gas heat will be a good move. Thanks!
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Unread 08-30-2012, 10:26 AM
 
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To give you a comparison, I have lived in two similarly sized 2-1/2 story houses, same style of house, both 100 years old, within a mile of each other. House #1 had no insulation but gas heat. House #2 had insulation but oil heat.

Yearly cost to heat house #1 (gas, no insulation): $1,920
Yearly cost to heat house #2 (oil, insulation): $3,750

For those particular houses, the difference worked out to about $150/month. My opinion is that switching to gas is absolutely the right thing to do, but your landlord is overcharging for it a little based on the savings you'd get. The conversion runs around $6k-$9k, so I'm guessing he's trying to offset his costs more than he's trying to save you money.

If you're going to go along with the plan, ask your landlord to get a free Mass Save assessment to figure out what needs to be done to keep the heat inside the house (insulation, etc.). Otherwise, switching over is just an expensive exercise in heating the outdoors.
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Unread 08-30-2012, 10:51 AM
 
35 posts, read 25,824 times
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donewithpretty brings up excellent points.
In terms of rent raise - it does appear to be on a higher side. On the other hand, rental market is very active right now. Depending on the area where the house is, and what kind of demand exists, some landlords will raise the rent by 100 or more just because the new rental year started, and they don't intend to do any improvements, especially not such costly one as gas conversion.

At the same time, asking your landlord for MassSave evaluation is a good idea. The company sends out a person to evaluate the house for energy leaks and heat loss. They explain what can be done, offer incentives for insulation, and at the very least change your lightbulbs to energy saving ones, free of charge.
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Unread 08-30-2012, 12:25 PM
 
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the rent raise might seem high but ask yourself this - would other prospective tenants gladly pay the new, higher price? If the answer is yes then you don't really have a choice do you? Ultimately, you can leave if you don't like the higher price and he can just rent to someone else.
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Unread 08-31-2012, 12:20 AM
 
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I thought National Grid or whomever was basically giving away gas furnaces to people who convert from oil. Also, why not a one-time assessment sort of thing, rather than a forever-raised rent?
But yes, landlords can pretty much dictate their terms, as always.
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Unread 08-31-2012, 07:34 AM
 
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The costs aren't just in the new gas furnace, unfortunately. You also have to pay for oil tank removal, installation of a gas line, and a new water heater (even pricier up front if you decide to go tankless).
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Unread 09-01-2012, 01:12 PM
 
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Outside the city, a lot of conversions might be from propane to natural gas, as it was in my town, when natural gas extended its lines into the community. I realize OP is talking about a more urban setting where oil is the original heat.
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Unread 09-01-2012, 01:34 PM
 
Location: Needham, MA
3,024 posts, read 2,102,525 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brightdoglover View Post
Outside the city, a lot of conversions might be from propane to natural gas, as it was in my town, when natural gas extended its lines into the community. I realize OP is talking about a more urban setting where oil is the original heat.
Propane is commonplace in your town as a heating source? Oil is very common in my town, but many homes have a propane tank as well for gas cooking and fireplaces.
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