Saturday, November 10, 2012

Furnace explosion!

My furnace did not explode.  The title is overly dramatic.  But I did run into a snag when I tried to get more bang for my buck (so to speak).  And the amount of money we expected to spend spiked dramatically, too.

I wrote a while back about how we'd looked into converting our oil boiler to a gas burner with a simple conversion kit (professionally installed).  After a bit of back-and-forth, my husband and I agreed to pony up the money and go ahead.
Our heater guys showed up right on time,
with lots of equipment.

Taking a peek into our oil boiler.

Our conversion guys came over right on time on the expected day, but about an hour into the project, they ran into trouble.  The chamber in our oiler boiler had a hole in it.  For reasons that I don't understand (I'm a theoretical mathematician, not an applied mathematician), our oil boiler is still on the verge of safe, but converting the system to gas would cause leaks (at the least) and explosions (at the worst).  We could all die.  So we stopped the project, sealed everything up, and regrouped.  Here were our choices:

  • We could fix the chamber on this 25-year-old boiler and proceed with the conversion.
  • We could replace the oil boiler with a regular gas boiler.
  • We could replace the oil boiler with a high-efficiency gas boiler.

Looking into the chamber:  the inside is crumbling.
We chose the last option.  I am, after all, an eco-nut.  And  the eco-option isn't that much more expensive than the other options, given the decrepitude of our current system.
Looking closer into that hole.
 It looks like . . . a messy hole.

Then we faced questions of who should do the replacement.  Our current oil/gas guys -- the ones who found the hole in our chamber -- gave us a quote of $10,000.  That seemed high from what I could read on-line, but all the other people we brought in seemed so very smarmy that I had to wash my hands with extra soap to get the grease off once they left.  (That's figurative, not literal).

So $10,000 it is.  Plus $81 for the building permit from our County Municipal Office.  Plus a few hundred bucks for carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom and landing.

This is a lot of money for heating a home.  But I think it makes sense to spend money to conserve heating fuel.  As much as I love pretending that my fuel-efficient Prius is the miserly way to conserve a planet's resources, I know that the true fuel user isn't the car I choose to park in my driveway; it's the house that the driveway leads up to.

 In theory (say the guys who are doing the work), this gas boiler will reduce our home heating bills from their current level of $2000+/year to about $600/year.  Time will tell if this holds true.  Work is scheduled for December 10 and 11, just after the semester ends.


  1. I expected the symbol ">" before the $2000 instead of "+" after, to mean "higher than"... from a mathematician mom like you. ;-)

    Now seriosly, 10000/1400=7.14 years. That equals an interest rate of about 5.2%. Hmmm... let's hope the technician is right about the fuel savings and that savings remain constant along the years (because the loss of efficiente inherent to any system). Not to forget the possible breakdowns that may can arise along the years...

    1. Ha! I hadn't even thought of that '>'. I suppose it's because I know a lot of math; but I've also taught enough people to know that '+' is easier for people to understand than '>'.

      The payback time is better than you think. This hole in our chamber means we're going to have to replace the current system very soon anyway. A new oil boiler (and new chimney liner, since that's deteriorating, too ) would run us about $7000, even if we don't convert to gas -- that's just keeping the heat on. So the difference in converting to high-efficiency gas boiler is a mere $3000, giving us a payback time (for the conversion part) of just two years. It seems crazy to think that spending that much money makes sense, but that's what we keep coming back to . . . - MM

    2. Always thought that using the "+" instead of ">" symbol is a concesion to the lack of math knowledge among people. I know the meaning of ">" since I was a child in the very elementary school. Why can't people understand it? In contrast, I always found the use of "+" pretty confusing. Just wanted to share with you.

      On the payback topic, now it makes much more sense to me.

    3. I don't know why '>' is so confusing, but it is! My guess is that it comes about from semantic confusion. For example, $200 is "two hundred dollars" (we say the $ last, not first). So for many people, ">200" poses the question, does that mean "more than 200" or "200 is more than"? Practices eases that confusion, but most people don't get much practice. - MM

  2. Oh my, can't you just get away with getting rid of it completely and going all wood stove or solar heat on everyone? LOL

    And Escorpluser comment scares me even more! Thats an awful awful price ......

    But a broken boiler is no fun either :(

    1. I've thought of both options. We live in (well, right next to the city), and so wood is expensive here. I have a friend who gets his for free by scrounging, but I've seen how much work he puts into scavenging and splitting . . . I'm not ready for that, especially since we're planning to sell the home in 6-10 years. And we've had two different solar contractors come, both of which said we have too much shade for solar. Too many trees for solar, but not enough for wood heating. Double BUMMER!! -MM

    2. "Too many trees for solar, but not enough for wood heating."

      Funny!! :-D

    3. If you get some extra money, you can suplement your gas heater with some solar heating (in the part of your roof more illuminated). I have seem it somewhere, but you have to work out the figures, calculate the savings, payback and -like someone said- the intangibles.

  3. By the way, I think you meant "Furnace explosion"... (typo).

    I'd say "Furnace expansion" (because the expansion of due money that a new one will produce) :-D

    1. Whoops! Fixed it now. Thanks for the catch! And let's hope you're right about the expansion . . . --MM

  4. After seeing your post title, I almost thought it was true! Good thing that didn’t happen to you. Just imagine how big the damage it can cause not only to the house, but also to your family. Anyway, I think getting a new gas boiler is a smart move. Keeping and repairing the 25-year-old boiler would be more troublesome because you’d have to deal with the wear and tear of use. Lastly, you might find yourself spending more and more money on endless repairs.

    1. Funny you should reply today (of all days). The repair guys are here; they've carted away the old boiler and will install the new one tomorrow. We are fortunate that our home is well insulated, and it's not very cold outside, because for at least one night, we have no heat! And I keep my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly and tomorrow the heat works properly. -MM