Like many of you, I have heard (almost on a daily basis) about customers calling their oil dealer or a mechanical company about converting from oil to gas heat. This of course was due to the extremely high cost of fuel oil or the gas equipment rebates being offer in some states. I’m trying to make sense of this, especially after hearing the oil product cost has dropped over a $1.00–or a 25% savings this year over the previous year–as recently pointed out by the US Energy Information Administration. Could it also be that some in the media have gone so far as to say that FUEL OIL is dying? Could it also be that another New England media outlet recently went on the air to let the general public know that on October 19 some oil companies could not believe the number of “out of oil” and “no heat” calls they were inundated with?
The “good news,” as also referenced by the same media outlet, was that those on gas simply had to turn up the thermostat to keep warm and there was never a worry of running out of fuel. However, I would say that many of the experienced full service oil dealers that I spoke to, said that they followed the weather forecast as usual and had their service technicians and drivers on standby by for any emergencies. By the way, I take issue with a statement that claims that just turning up a thermostat regardless of the fuel product, would guarantee heat.
Now let’s get back to converting to gas. This is not as easy as some make it out to be. It requires some research in order to make sure you have the correct application. The product manufacturer should be consulted to see if the heating unit has gone through an application test for a gas burner. The same that is done when an oil boiler/burner is qualified for a specific nozzle that will give the unit the best possible reliability and efficiency. This often referred to as a lab nozzle application test. This should be done regardless of a natural or LP burner conversion. I would be remiss if I did not mention that several boiler manufactures will void all warranty issues on a unit that has been converted without being pre-approved for the conversion. Keep in mind that becoming a gas service or product delivery company requires many hours of training, as does oil, in order to provide the best and safest service to the customer.
Now what about gas parts? This is a totally different requirement when providing service and a significant dollar investment in inventory in order to be truly in the gas sales and service business.
Another piece of advice, when a customer calls about a gas conversion–take the time to evaluate the age of the equipment. If it is older than 20 years recommend a new unit and you will now have a system that is designed for the fuel being selected. But also remind them if they are going on the pipeline there is likely going to be an added cost [and it can be significant]. But most importantly, there is no turning back to oil, since most cities and towns require that the existing oil tank and piping be removed.
Just so you know, I’m not against any type of fuel and in fact I have worked with several types in the past. And today, I continue to work with both oil and gas companies that have been very successful and have flawless safety records when it comes to gas conversions and installation.
In closing, let me make one more suggestion, include a carbon monoxide alarm detector in every home, upon the completion of any gas installation.