There are several reasons to convert:
- Protection from future surges in oil prices
- Increased appliance efficiency
- Consistently lower cost of natural gas compared to oil
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Converting to natural gas heat is better for your bank account, the environment and your health. But how do you go about converting your oil burning equipment?
The Oil to Gas Conversion Process
Converting from oil to natural gas can take just a few weeks to get your equipment up and running. An oil to gas conversion is a four-step process:
- Determine whether you’ll convert to natural gas or propane
- Connect your home to a natural gas service line
- Ensure your home has suitable piping for natural gas
- Install equipment that uses natural gas, or convert your existing equipment
Step 1: Determine Whether You’ll Convert to Natural Gas or Propane
For many people, converting from oil to natural gas is an easy decision. Many utility companies provide natural gas as a utility, piped directly into your home. This is by far the most popular option.
However, a few people do convert from oil to propane. This type of conversion is rarer, and usually only attempted when there’s an obstacle to converting to natural gas.
If possible, we recommend that homeowners convert to natural gas instead of propane.
That’s because propane usually requires more effort over the long run. It produces less heat and more dangerous gases, like carbon monoxide. Propane shortages can also produce the same volatile price jumps that affect oil prices.
The Benefits of Natural Gas
Natural Gas Costs Less
One of the biggest benefits is price. Oil costs about twice as much as natural gas. Even with the cost of converting your home to use natural gas, you’ll break even in just a few years.
The dramatic difference is price has been remarkable in the cold winters over the past few years. In 2013 (the year of the Polar Vortex) homeowners who heated their house with oil paid more than $3,200 to heat their homes.
By contrast, homeowners with natural gas paid an average of just $971.
Now that the price of oil has dropped, you may wonder whether it’s worth switching to natural gas. Historically, natural gas has been less expensive than oil. Over the 2015-2016 winter, the cost of delivered oil dropped to $22 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). But that same season, the cost of the same amount of natural gas dropped from $10 to $9.
Natural Gas Is Cleaner
Converting to natural gas is also good for the environment. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available. As people have become more aware of air quality, it’s no surprise that natural gas has gotten more popular.
Burning natural gas doesn’t produce any sulfur dioxide. And while it does produce carbon emissions, they’re less than 60 percent of what would be produced by heating oil.
On the other hand, burning oil produces both sulfur dioxide and carbon emissions, otherwise known as greenhouse gases. Heating oils, particularly heavier number 4 and 6 oils, have such a big impact on air quality that there’s been legislation introduced to phase them out.
Natural Gas Is More Efficient
Increased efficiency is another big benefit to converting to natural gas. Oil burning heaters can achieve a maximum efficiency of 87 percent, but most oil heaters have efficiency rates of about 70 percent. Those that use natural gas have maximum efficiencies of up to 98 percent. High-efficiency furnaces can help you get more heat from the gas you use, lowering your costs and your carbon emissions.
Step Two: Connecting Your Home to a Natural Gas Service Line
Natural gas is usually pumped into your house via a pipe, just like other utilities. Most residential neighborhoods already have a natural gas line.
If you already have a natural gas service line to your home, you’ll simply need to call the utility company to get it turned on.
If you don’t have a service line, it’s possible to have one installed. A natural gas company will give you a quote on what installing a gas line will cost. Our experienced technicians can also help you figure out what needs to be done, and find rebates that can help you offset the cost.
There are two types of gas lines: Main lines and service lines.
A main line carries natural gas for a street or neighborhood. A service line, on the other hand, connects your home to the main line.
You may find yourself in one of two situations:
- There is a main gas line, but no service line to your home
- There is no main line or service line
Most residential neighborhoods already have a main gas line in place. This is good news, because trenching and setting a service line is faster and more affordable than a main line. Installing a service and meter usually take only two or three weeks. And many utility companies will install a certain length of service line free of charge.
If you’re in a neighborhood with no main gas line, converting can take longer. Construction on a main line will generally take from four to six months, and it can be considerably more expensive for customers.
We encourage customers in this situation to get together with their neighbors. Utility companies usually share out costs between the houses that will receive gas service. This can bring down the cost of converting to natural gas.
Step Three: Ensure That Your Pipes are Suitable for Natural Gas
The second step is to ensure that your home’s piping is able to accommodate natural gas. If your home was previously set up for natural gas, you probably already have the piping for natural gas in place. You probably also have pipes in place if some of your equipment already uses natural gas.
If you’ve never used natural gas before, you may need to install gas pipes. These lines are usually short, and go directly from your gas meter to the equipment that will use natural gas. This equipment could include your heater, clothes dryer, water heater and stove.
Natural gas piping is usually made of either stiff iron pipes or flexible steel pipes. However, installing this piping is not a do-it-yourself job. Because of the risks of an unsafe gas line, you should have a qualified technician install any gas pipes you need.
With good planning, you can also extend your gas pipes in the future. This means it’s possible to complete the conversion process in phases. If you have relatively new oil equipment that can’t be converted, it’s possible to wait to convert it until it needs replacing.
If you plan to convert your oil burning appliances to natural gas in phases, make sure your technicians are aware of this. They can either extend gas pipelines during the initial installation, or set up gas pipelines that you’ll easily be able to add to when you’re ready to convert other equipment.
Step Four: Convert or Replace Your Natural Gas Equipment
Many people convert to natural gas when their existing appliances fail. That’s because natural gas appliances cost significantly less than similar appliances that use oil.
If you’re planning to convert because you need to replace appliances, you can simply choose new appliances that use natural gas as fuel. HVAC contractors can walk you through the conversion process and help you select energy-efficient equipment for your home.
Converting your existing equipment to natural gas is also possible. If your oil equipment is in good shape and doesn’t need any major repairs, a conversion kit may be the most practical option.
There are also conversion kits available for most appliances. These conversion kits let you replace the oil-burning part of your existing equipment with a gas orifice. The rest of your equipment stays the same.
Converting an oil heater to run on natural gas is the most common. To convert, we’ll install a natural gas burner in your existing oil furnace. We usually remove the old oil tank to reduce the risk of fires and contamination.
It’s possible to purchase conversion kits and complete the oil to gas conversion for an appliance yourself. However, we recommend finding a licensed technician to complete the conversion for you.
This is particularly important if you’re new to home improvement projects. Residual oil soot can interact dangerously with natural gas, creating acidic reactions that eat away at your equipment. Oil spills can also cause soil and water contamination.
Instead, find a licensed gas technician or a plumber to install your conversion kit.
Incentives for Converting to Natural Gas
Whenever possible, we recommend purchasing equipment that’s designed to use natural gas instead of converting oil burning equipment. That’s because equipment designed for natural gas is more efficient than converted equipment.
More effective equipment means you’ll need less fuel to produce the same amount of heat.
Many manufacturers provide rebates and incentives to buy energy-efficient equipment. Utility companies, as well as national programs like Energy Star, all offer incentives to switch to natural gas utilities.
Here’s a quick guide to the types of incentives that can help you convert to natural gas.
Manufacturer Rebates for Converting to Natural Gas
Manufacturer rebates are offered by equipment makers to help lower the cost of appliances for customers. These rebates can be instant rebates, which are applied when the equipment is purchased, or mail-in rebates. Mail-in rebates usually require you to submit proof of purchase or installation after the fact.
Manufacturer rebates for natural gas heaters can easily be worth $200 or more. The amount of the rebate will depend on the manufacturer and the specific equipment you’re purchasing.
Oil to Gas Conversion Incentives From ConEdison
Enbrdige Gas provides rebates and incentives for customers who are switching to natural gas. Natural Resources Canada also has a link to rebates and incentives These rebates can help offset the cost of installing a natural gas water heater, boiler, furnace or thermostat.