Heating System Guides

Consumer Buying Guides to Home Heating and Air Conditioning Systems

Can You Easily Convert an Oil Heating System to Natural Gas or Electric?

Does your home have an oil heating system and you’d like to convert it for use with a natural gas furnace or an electric heat pump?  Not surprisingly, that has been a very popular question in 2001 with oil prices on the rise and no slowdown in sight!

The good news is that this heating system conversion can be done quite easily and very affordably.  And with the relative affordability of heat produced by a gas furnace or high-efficiency heat pump, you can save money every heating season by converting.

In this heating systems guide we’ll look at what it might take to convert from oil to gas heat.

Converting from Oil to Natural Gas

Converting to gas heat, either natural gas or propane, is very easy.  The first thing to do is to make sure to drain heating oil completely and HammerZone has very detailed instructions on how to not only drain the oil, but dispose of it as well.  This will help make sure you avoid leaks when the system is disconnected.  The local oil company you purchased from may pump out the oil and pay you back for it – or credit it to you if you plan to purchase propane gas from them.

The next step is to select the gas furnace you want to use for your home.  In warmer climates, look at 80% efficient furnaces or those in the low 90’s for the most cost-effective system.  The cooler your climate is, the higher efficiency furnaces you should consider in order to strike the most economical balance between equipment costs and ongoing energy costs.

Have the oil furnace safely removed and disposed of properly.  Then have the gas furnace installed.  If it is propane rather than natural gas, you’ll have to order a propane model or install an inexpensive conversion kit for propane.  They cost between $75 and $125.  You will also have to run a gas line to the furnace, either from the natural gas line usually running along the road or from an installed propane tank on your property.

When the new furnace is installed, it is likely that you’ll have to do some sheet metal work in order to get the new furnace to connect properly to the existing ductwork.  A new plenum will probably be needed – but they are often required when replacing any furnace with a new one.  The cost should be less than $200. A new thermostat will also likely be required, and that cost will range from $75 to $400 depending on the quality and precision of the new system.  Once these installations and connections have been made, you have successfully converted your oil heating system to a propane or natural gas heating system.

Converting from an Oil Heating System to Electric Heat

Converting to an electric heat pump is slightly more involved and costly than converting to natural gas. The cost will also be slightly higher in most cases.  You don’t have the expense of running a gas line, but you will have the expense of installing the condensing unit and running a refrigerant lineset into the home to connect the condensing unit to the indoor coil.

The oil furnace will need to be removed and replaced with an air handler.  A new plenum and other minor sheet metal work will likely need to be done to complete the installation, but again, that is common any time an new system replaces an older one.  The condensing unit will be installed outside, on a small slab next to the home’s foundation, and wired into the home’s electrical box.  A new thermostat will complete the installation and your new system will be ready to use.

Conversion Summary

When you decide it is time to update your central home heating system, converting from oil to gas or electric heat can be a very good choice.  Your equipment costs will be affordable and, depending on the efficiency of the equipment you choose, your heating  costs may be reduced by as much as 40%, possibly more.

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