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question about converting oil burner to propane.

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  • question about converting oil burner to propane.

    I have been thinking about converting our oil furnace over to propane. First question is can it be done? The price of home heating oil is 3.55 a gallon where propane is about a dollar less. Second question is any idea about the approx. cost of converting over would be?

  • #2
    Re: question about converting oil burner to propane.

    first no expert here, but my guess is it can be done, as at one time they converted coal burners and other units.

    first one thing to take in consideration, fuel oil is about 140,000 BTU per gallon, and propane is 91,500 or so it will take more propane to provide the same amount of heat,

    most conversions are not that efficient, at least in the past they were not, and if you loose any efficiency with the lower BTU of the propane most likely you would not save any thing,

    depending on the age and type of furnace have you considering a hi efficiency furnace may be the better route to go,

    years ago I put in a high efficiency propane furnace, and took out a wall heater, (one of the more inefficient heaters ever to be made), actually we were using wood down stairs and the little wall heater up stairs, we put in the 96% efficient furnace and we heated the entire house for the propane it it had took to heat the up stairs on the little wall furnace,
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    • #3
      Re: question about converting oil burner to propane.

      BHD has it right. Conversions can be done. Moving from an oil burner to a power-gas burner results in a huge drop in efficiency. It may even hasten the demise of your furnace if it is a large, old unit. Other conversions from coal, wood, trash, and slinger burners were comparable because of the close equivalents of the energies of the fuels. A conversion burner with labor is usually in the thousand+ dollars range. Another consideration is that the unit may not be compatible with a conversion burner. Only the manufacturer can tell you if it's approved.

      ... it was plumbed by Ray Charles and his helper Stevie Wonder


      • #4
        Re: question about converting oil burner to propane.

        Is it a furnace or boiler? The reason I ask is, cause most of my customers tell me on the phone they have an oil furnace, when in fact they have a boiler. We don't see too many oil furnaces around here, as most are heat pumps.

        So for argument sake, I'm going to assume you have a boiler..

        One thing that wasn't mention here is...whichever you have, has to be cleaned thoroughly!

        Here in Pa, if one switches any type of gas, the chimney needs to be lined. (we have exceptions for terracotta un-cracked)

        Secondly, there are smart controls out on the market for fuel consumption savings if you're using oil, something you might want to look into, cause Propane is tied to the price of oil as well.

        Lastly, if you decide to use a conversion burner, the burner has to be compatible to the furnace/boiler, specifically the firebox chamber.

        Contacting the manufacture of the conversion burner and furnace/boiler company would be a wise decision before anything like this is done.

        We personally don't like doing these types of conversions often because..there is a major liability issue here, as "some" boilers are too old to make this conversion, and we don't feel comfortable doing it.

        If the unit is within a few years...that's a different story. But if the unit is 25+, I wouldn't even think of doing it....just my opinion.
        Last edited by Flux; 02-02-2013, 12:37 PM.


        • #5
          Re: question about converting oil burner to propane.

          I don't know about furnaces but boilers I do know. It can be done. Its done frequently. The problem is the liability and the fact that most inspectors will not and shouldn't pass the conversion due to it the boiler not being listed for that combination.

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          • #6
            Re: question about converting oil burner to propane.

            It is a is about 5-6 years old.


            • #7
              Re: question about converting oil burner to propane.

              If the boiler is wet base - no type of refractory or target wall - expect large amounts of condensation to form inside the boiler. This is caused by cool iron and water at startup and gradually goes away as it heats up to above 140 degrees. Oil has much more heat energy and this problem is there but passes in seconds. This condensation will form sulfuric acid with the remaining deposits inside the boiler and chew it all to hell. If the unit has refractory it will be a little less of an issue but the water will eventually break down the refractory, too, due to chemicals and steam. No matter how well the boiler is cleaned out you can expect this problem.

              The construction of the boiler sections for oil is thicker than on gas fired sections. Oil flame is much hotter and direct; it causes a faster and higher thermal shock. Thicker sections take longer to heat.

              Be aware that the unit will run much longer than previously expected due to the new fuel having less energy. IMHO, putting money into a unit that was not designed for a specific fuel, to achieve a much lesser efficiency, and to possibly violate its rating is wasteful. Put the money into a unit designed for the fuel it burns.

              Who cares how old it is? If age is a true consideration, leave it at the fuel you have.

              Remember that a conversion is not just the burner. In addition to what others have stated there may also be:

              - chimney liner
              - flue metal type change (may need stainless)
              - wiring
              - controls
              - fuel piping (hard pipe with sediment/drip legs in most areas)
              - fuel tanks
              - gaskets

              All these changes can add thousands of dollars to your conversion.

              ... it was plumbed by Ray Charles and his helper Stevie Wonder