If you heat with oil, switching to natural gas can save you money, reduce your emissions, and cut down on the maintenance you need to do. Oil to gas heating conversion is a relatively straightforward process, although it can take a few weeks if you don’t currently use gas.
The cost varies from around $5,000 to more than $10,000, depending on your home’s size and layout, and whether or not you already have a gas supply.
Preparing Your Gas Supply
As the first step in the conversion process, the installer you choose will assess your home to determine the exact steps you’ll need to take and give you an idea of the cost. If you already have gas lines and a gas meter, you’re probably all set for gas heating.
Even so, you’ll still need to have a professional check that the lines are the correct size for use with gas heating equipment. Once you’ve verified that your existing gas lines are an appropriate size, contact your gas provider to have service turned on.
If your house has never used gas or the existing lines aren’t the correct size, you’ll need new lines installed. There are two types of gas lines: main lines and service lines. A main line, or distribution line, supplies gas to the whole neighborhood. A service line connects your home to the main line.
In regions where gas heating is common, most residential areas already have main lines, so you’ll only need service and a meter installed. Your heating equipment installer can help you make plans for where the service line and meter should be installed. You can then submit an application for installation to your chosen gas provider. Typically, you’ll need to wait between two to six weeks for the line to be installed.
Converting to gas in stages is another option. If your oil equipment is relatively new and in good condition, you can have a line installed now, then have it extended when you’re ready to install new gas equipment. This lets you get the most out of your existing equipment, yet still be ready for a quick conversion when the need arises.
If your neighborhood doesn’t have a main line, you can still convert from oil to gas heating, but you’ll need to have a main line installed. That can take up to six months and costs far more than service line installation.
Convert or Replace Your Oil Equipment
Once your gas supply is set up, you’ll need to decide whether to convert your existing oil equipment to gas or to remove your existing system and install new gas equipment. If your oil equipment is more than 15 years old, consider replacement.
Although these systems can last 25 years or more, they lose efficiency and sustain wear every year. What’s more, equipment designed for natural gas is more efficient than any converted oil system.
You might also need to have a chimney liner installed to protect your chimney from the acidic gases and condensation the furnace produces. You won’t need this if you plan to use a high-efficiency condensing furnace.
If your oil equipment is less than 15 years old and still works reliably, it might be more practical to convert it. This means replacing the burner and possibly the igniter and skid as well. You’ll need to buy a conversion kit and have it professionally installed. Conversion could void your oil equipment’s warranty, so check with the manufacturer first if you’re concerned about this.
Deactivating Your Oil Tank
Because you’ll no longer be using your oil tank, you’ll need to ensure it won’t cause issues in the future. If your oil tank is above ground, your installer can take it to a scrap yard for recycling for you.
Dealing with an underground tank is more complex because, if neglected, these tanks can leak and cause soil contamination that could cost you thousands to clean up. Some municipalities require complete removal of underground tanks while others let you shut down the tank without moving it through a process called abandonment.
Removal means physically taking the whole tank off your property and transporting it to a scrap yard. For this, you’ll need to apply for a permit from your municipality and call a contractor who’s licensed for oil tank removal.
The contractor will start by removing all usable oil from the tank for recycling. They’ll then prepare the tank for safe removal, remove the tank, clean it and prepare it for safe transport, and finally take it away. If the tank was underground, the contractor will handle any contaminated soil according to local and federal guidelines, then fill in the hole.
Abandonment is a cheaper option, but it’s rarely done because even abandoned tanks still pose some risk of leaks. The process is only possible if the tank is in good condition with no leaks, and you’ll still need to hire a licensed contractor.
Abandonment starts with a soil analysis to ensure there are no leaks or areas of soil contamination. If none are found, the contractor can open the tank, clean and inspect it, then fill it with sand or foam. Most states require homeowners to register abandoned underground oil tanks and disclose their location when selling the house. Having an old tank on your property could make it harder to sell your house in the future.
If you’re considering an oil to gas heating conversion, start planning well ahead of when you’d like to make the switch. Converting oil equipment or installing new gas equipment can be done in a day, but hooking up your gas supply and removing a buried oil tank takes some time.