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21 September 2009 @ 11:00 pm
why I think I don't want an oil heated house  
Please tell me if there are other reasons or if I'm wrong on the ones here.

  • Further dependance on foriegn oil: the US has natural gas reserves itself. I can only imagine our oil and gas issues will get worse as the decades advance
  • Dependance on oil delivery guy: while gas lines fail and service might be intruppted, I've heard more stories about late deliveries or problems occuring because the delivery person was having a bad day
  • fear of the failing oil tank: I've heard stories of the cost of a failed oil tank form the clean up of all the oil. Gas leaks happen, but you can usually clean those up by opening the windows, with the exceptions of an explotion, but things are getting better and better about preventing those.
  • less basement space: those tanks are huge

Right now oil heat is a complete strike from the list, which is sad, since it is about 50% of the homes around here, even the new ones.
Deneb: trolleymapalphacygni on September 22nd, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
Really? I'm almost eliminating oil-heated houses out of hand, and I don't feel like I've had to eliminate that many. My big feeling of disadvantage: you have this extra weird set of incentives involving when to call for a refill, whether to call for another that year, whether to wait. Whereas gas heat is one axis of heat vs. money without so many confounding factors. I don't want to have to decide whether or not to put on an extra sweater based on my guess of how many cold days are left versus how much oil is left in the tank.

Also, in my house search having a gas stove is important. And gas heat means a gas stove is likely, or at least easily possible.
kelkyagkelkyag on September 22nd, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
I'm also biased towards gas, in part because I strongly prefer gas stoves. On the gas side, I'd add "burns more cleanly" -- oil produces slightly more soot/dust (but not a lot). On the gas side, "choice of suppliers" -- for gas, you get one local monopoly, whereas there are lots of choices for oil (or propane -- one of my friends has that, and I'm about as happy with a propane stove as a gas one).

If you strongly prefer gas, it might be worth looking it what converting would cost.
phitotient on September 22nd, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
I've converted two systems to direct vent gas for around $4000 each. Regular non direct vent would have been less, maybe $2500. Compared to the cost of a house this is pocket change.
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on September 22nd, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
My guess though, if they're building new construction with oil, is that the pipes might not be close enough to make it economical, but maybe I don't understand why people would build new contruction with oil by choice.
bob "the wonder llama"bob_wonderllama on September 22nd, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
Gas houses are the norm in the midwest so I don't have any history with oil, but I can tell you that I've never had interrupted gas service and only rarely have I heard of lines failing. (usually in a flood or something)
Jeredjered on September 22nd, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)
I agree with avoiding oil, but I think the main reason is that oil burners (even modern ones) are kinda disgusting, relatively inefficient, and require frequent maintenance. I kept oil for 2 years and ended up converting to gas because I had mechanical issues at least twice a season.

Further dependance on foriegn oil: the US has natural gas reserves itself. I can only imagine our oil and gas issues will get worse as the decades advance

We depend on foreign gas at this point too, but that's usually from friendlier countries. Anyway, I would not rank this terribly high on the list.

sauergeeksauergeek on September 24th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
Our top three oil suppliers are the (relatively) friendly nations of Canada, Venezuela, and Mexico. Fourth is Saudi Arabia.
Natashahoneyartichoke on September 22nd, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
I prefer gas as well.

One of the houses we looked at had oil, and looked like possible leak, so i read up about it, and you are required by law to have it cleaned up - which involves digging out the affected soil in the basement and could cause structural damage as you can imagine, and huge costs for the clean up. This is kind of a worst case scenario, but i also agree with the other comments people have made.
Binkbinkbink on September 22nd, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
I lived in only oil fired houses in very cold climates before encountering the gas furnace in this one, so here are a few thoughts.
Oil doesn't explode.
You can service your own oil fired furnace.
Your supply is self-contained. If something goes wrong you don't have to argue about whether the problem is in the house or in the supply system outside.
You have control over your oil supply:
- You can choose your supplier (no monopoly)
- If you keep your tank full, you can go for months even if the supply chain is interrupted.

In farther out neighbourhoods, the gas infrastructure may make it more expensive (ask to know the heating cost over the last few years of any candidate) because oil can be trucked just about anywhere, but gas requires installation of pipes and distribution points.

- Yes, the tank takes up space
- Yes, a leaking tank can be a nightmare. Dag had a terrible time when the leak got under the house and the dirt had to be removed.
- Yes, there can be soot if your furnace is not adjusted.

I was disappointed, when I moved here, that we could not find an oil house, especially since a lot of gas furnaces smell really bad to me, and I have seen the results of gas explosions, but after all these years I have come to accept, and now even prefer gas over oil.

What I have learned is that gas or oil shouldn't be a deal breaker. The condition of the equipment, the price from the supplier, and whether the tank setup is inconvenient are more important.

Don't worry about fuel source issues, at this point. As pointed out, yes, we are dependent on foreign gas too.
In some areas, where the power is hydro or nuclear, an electrically heated house makes more sense, but I suspect this isn't likely to be a factor for you.

I am really surprised you are seeing such a high proportion of oil though, because when I was looking it was almost all gas.
Though then there was Oil Tank House, which we wrote off because I could smell the oil and that was the aroma of expen$$ive remediation.

Gas is likely the preferred choice for you though, and you don't have a deadline so you can take your time finding the right house.
On the other hand, I wonder if you might be seeing better bargains on oil furnace houses because others (like you) don't want to buy them. If the market depresses their price enough you might get enough savings to be able to afford to convert, assuming the neighbourhood has the gas available.

Nathannathanw on September 22nd, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
I think the political/import aspect isn't very important. I suspect we'll run out of both fuels at about the same rate, and I don't place much value on where it comes from; it all shakes out into the price.

The distribution infrastructure is a real issue, though. My mom's house has a gas-fired furnace and hot water heater, but they're way out in the sticks, so they have to get deliveries of gas, just like they would of oil. The tank is outside instead of in the basement. If you're looking at relatively far-out places you may find that there isn't natural gas infrastructure, so switching from oil to gas just means a different set of people to call to deliver fuel.

But I think this should be about the 20th-most-important thing on your list. I'd consider the way the heat is distributed within the house (hot water baseboard, hot water radiator, steam radiator, forced hot air) to be more important than the heat source.
A Sage With a Slight Flaw in Her Charactereccentrific on September 22nd, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
While I agree that gas > oil, I don't see this as meaning you should reject houses with oil out of hand. (Though I would definitely reject any with an underground oil tank or with a leaky or formerly leaky oil tank). Just pretend the house costs $5K more than it does to cover the cost of converting. As phi said, compared to the cost of a house in MA, it is not a large amount.
Binkbinkbink on September 23rd, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
For a non-smoker who is thinking about the possible problems, the nose knows.
I totally forgot about the underground tank problem, though. Near impossible to assess and more likely to be a remediation problem than one in the basement.
gmpe on September 23rd, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
We converted from oil to gas when we bought this house. We are on a snow emergency route, though, so the gas was already running up the street and we just had to get it into the house. I don't remember all the costs, but as others said, not so much compared to the cost of the house. If you do end up needing it, let me know and I think there are some vendors we can recommend from the process.