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Posted: 8/22/2017 12:43:15 PM EDT
My wife and I are looking at buying our first home.  (No pics online and photobucket sucks)  Everything we can afford seems to have oil heat.  I've never dealt with oil heat before as my parents always had a wood stove and either electric baseboard heaters or a heat pump.  The apartment we are living in now is heated with propane.  What are the pro's and con's of oil heat.  Also are there any inexpensive options to convert from oil heat to something else.  Or maybe something to supplement the oil heat such as adding a pellet stove or something of the like?

Thanks
Link Posted: 8/22/2017 1:03:35 PM EDT
[#1]
Oil is usually readily available but it can be stinky.  Gas is much better if available in your region.  Propane is good too if you buy it on contract when it is at its cheapest.  Electric can put you in the poor house if used in very cold climates.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 12:58:46 PM EDT
[#2]
Oil heat is VERY dusty.  Like you'll have layers of it everywhere.  

I also know someone who had an old house with the oil tank in the basement (I don't think you can do this anymore?).  Oil delivery co screwed up and blew out her tank.  3 inches of oil in the basement.  House totaled.  (The smell!  Aka fums)  Lost much of her stuff.  Had to sue to get made whole.  Took like a year and half for court to play out from day 0.  Than, had to knock down old house and build a new one.  

So, if the tank is in the basement... budget moving it outside as a cost factor.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 2:10:00 PM EDT
[#3]
We've had oil heat for many years without issue.

The smell is only a problem with a poorly operating or maintained system. If it is working correctly, you'll never smell the oil. The rupture of the oil tank is very infrequent and is again usually due to poor maintenance or cheap oil (with a lot of contamination or water present in it). This causes the tank to rust out, but takes decades to happen. There are additives that can be added to your tank to absorb it, just like additives for your car.

Dust is always an issue, but not because it is oil but because it was probably a forced hot air system which not only recycles air, but any dust that is present. Changing air filter periodically will help reduce this issue.

Nothing to be scared or hesitant about with oil heat. I'd guess 75% of the homes in the northeast are heated with oil with the fuel tank in the basement. It last longer inside, and it eliminates problems with fuel gelling (requiring higher costing winter-blend heating oil or kerosene), and you have less condensation issues than outdoor tanks have. Once a year, have the system serviced (about $150). They'll change the oil filter, replace the burner nozzle and run tests to ensure it is operating correctly. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to include an inspection of the homes heating system as part of the overall inspection. Some older homes still use very inefficient systems and it might be economical to update the system.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 2:24:44 PM EDT
[#4]
I have propane. It's nice. 

The house I grew up in had oil. The water heater was part of the furnace. 
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 3:28:24 PM EDT
[#5]
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Quoted:
I have propane. It's nice. 

The house I grew up in had oil. The water heater was part of the furnace. 
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My previous house had the water heater as part of the furnace. Was very annoying to hear the furnace turning on to heat water in the middle of summer. I ended up hooking up an electric water heater and bypassing the furnace.

Right now I have oil heat, but it is seldom used. I think I've used less than 100 gallons over the last 3 yrs. Primarily, I heat with wood. But also have propane heaters on the 1st floor, as well as a wood pellet stove. I pretty much go with whatever is cheapest to operate at the time, and that is usually wood.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 3:56:24 PM EDT
[#6]
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Quoted:
My previous house had the water heater as part of the furnace. Was very annoying to hear the furnace turning on to heat water in the middle of summer. I ended up hooking up an electric water heater and bypassing the furnace.

Right now I have oil heat, but it is seldom used. I think I've used less than 100 gallons over the last 3 yrs. Primarily, I heat with wood. But also have propane heaters on the 1st floor, as well as a wood pellet stove. I pretty much go with whatever is cheapest to operate at the time, and that is usually wood.
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Quoted:
Quoted:
I have propane. It's nice. 

The house I grew up in had oil. The water heater was part of the furnace. 
My previous house had the water heater as part of the furnace. Was very annoying to hear the furnace turning on to heat water in the middle of summer. I ended up hooking up an electric water heater and bypassing the furnace.

Right now I have oil heat, but it is seldom used. I think I've used less than 100 gallons over the last 3 yrs. Primarily, I heat with wood. But also have propane heaters on the 1st floor, as well as a wood pellet stove. I pretty much go with whatever is cheapest to operate at the time, and that is usually wood.
It was a lot cheaper heating your domestic hot water with oil than your electric, and if it was a tank setup you had faaaaar more hot water recovery.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 3:57:07 PM EDT
[#7]
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Quoted:


My previous house had the water heater as part of the furnace. Was very annoying to hear the furnace turning on to heat water in the middle of summer. I ended up hooking up an electric water heater and bypassing the furnace.

Right now I have oil heat, but it is seldom used. I think I've used less than 100 gallons over the last 3 yrs. Primarily, I heat with wood. But also have propane heaters on the 1st floor, as well as a wood pellet stove. I pretty much go with whatever is cheapest to operate at the time, and that is usually wood.
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Currently I also have propane for hot water as well, a rinnai unit. It is actually pretty loud. I can hear it on the second floor if it's real quiet and I listen for it. Personally it doesn't bother me though. 

I do  like being able to set the temperature remotely. So say I have it set for 110 or 115 for showers I just get in and turn it full hot. I want to do the dishes, I set it for 130 and run the dishwasher, etc. I only use the hot water I need, not heating it up to cool it back down. 
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 3:59:14 PM EDT
[#8]
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Quoted:
The rupture of the oil tank is very infrequent and is again usually due to poor maintenance or cheap oil (with a lot of contamination or water present in it). This causes the tank to rust out, but takes decades to happen. There are additives that can be added to your tank to absorb it, just like additives for your car.
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Negative.  

In the ensuing court case, an engineer's report stood behind the tank as in good condition, rupture was NOT due to rusting or a tank defect.  

Operator actually admitted error when it happened.  (So, the 3inches of oil was pumped out VERY quickly after it happened, but some of course was left behind and the basement was finished on one side.)  

Operator's insurance company wanted a fight and forced the court case and engineering report was done to support the claim.  AKA the insurance company just wanted to reduce the payout if possible.  They have lawyers on the payroll, may as well use them, right?
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 4:14:28 PM EDT
[#9]
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Quoted:


Negative.  

In the ensuing court case, an engineer's report stood behind the tank as in good condition, rupture was NOT due to rusting or a tank defect.  

Operator actually admitted error when it happened.  (So, the 3inches of oil was pumped out VERY quickly after it happened, but some of course was left behind and the basement was finished on one side.)  

Operator's insurance company wanted a fight and forced the court case and engineering report was done to support the claim.  AKA the insurance company just wanted to reduce the payout if possible.  They have lawyers on the payroll, may as well use them, right?
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I don't see how a tank could rupture without it being due to age/condition or defect. I can see the oil company responsible for overflowing the tank, which happens when the driver isn't paying attention, but how could the oil company be responsible for a ruptured tank. Unless the oil company was held responsible for the pumping of excess oil into a tank they knew only had the capacity of 275 gallons. In any case, it does happen, but not very frequently.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 5:10:09 PM EDT
[#10]
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Quoted:


I don't see how a tank could rupture without it being due to age/condition or defect. I can see the oil company responsible for overflowing the tank, which happens when the driver isn't paying attention, but how could the oil company be responsible for a ruptured tank. Unless the oil company was held responsible for the pumping of excess oil into a tank they knew only had the capacity of 275 gallons. In any case, it does happen, but not very frequently.
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I think you answered your own question.  ;)

This could be as simple as misreading how much oil is in the tank, tank's max size or calculating how much to put in it.  

What I can tell you is that her homeowners insurance only covered clean up costs to the policy max (which was maybe $10K).  

She had to fight to have her house declared unlivable (condemned) and than for the delivery company's insurance to pay for the value of it.  All while the delivery company supported her claim.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 5:30:39 PM EDT
[#11]
As long as the furnace is a good efficiency and condition it is good to go.

Have a competent person service it every fall. Make sure they also inspect the tank and change the filter.

I got an add on heat pump to supplement my heat and fuel usage and I saved using 200 gallons a year.

In my area propane and fuel oil are the same price. Propane unless you own your tank you have to play games with that propane company to fill or they run out of propane like I have seen in the dead of winter. Fuel oil is just diesel and i can call any supplier and they fill it. If price is too high I buy off road diesel 10 gallons at a time so I can hold off until the price is low.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 5:36:29 PM EDT
[#12]
Here in Texas . . . literally the "heart" of oil country . . . oil heating is virtually non-existent.

Natural gas (in the cities) or propane (out in the sticks) is the predominant fuel for both residential and commercial space heating.

Electric strip heating (or heat pumps) are fairly common in some areas but they work very poorly when the outside air temp drops below freezing and the cost of electric heat is much higher than gas.
Link Posted: 8/23/2017 6:03:09 PM EDT
[#13]
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Quoted:


I think you answered your own question.  ;)

This could be as simple as misreading how much oil is in the tank, tank's max size or calculating how much to put in it.  

What I can tell you is that her homeowners insurance only covered clean up costs to the policy max (which was maybe $10K).  

She had to fight to have her house declared unlivable (condemned) and than for the delivery company's insurance to pay for the value of it.  All while the delivery company supported her claim.
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OK. That explains it. I think I interpreted it as the tank rupturing, rather than an overfill situation. I heard of a similar instance last year where someone had converted to gas and removed the tank. The problem was that they never removed the fill pipe, or notified the oil company, so they came out to fill the tank and just pumped the oil directly into their basement. I think it turned out that it was shared responsibility. The owner for not notifying the oil company and the oil company for not monitoring the fill whistle and not stopping when they couldn't detect any air flow. I think they ended up stopping after 200 gallons was pumped into the house.
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