October 20, 2016

How do you react when you are showing a client a home heated with oil?

  1. Try to avoid bringing too much attention to the oil furnace and hope they don’t ask any questions.
  2. Tell them not to worry, they can always switch to natural gas.
  3. Give them the pros and cons of switching to natural gas vs. staying with oil.

If you answered numbers 1 or 2, keep reading. My goal here is for you to have enough current information and facts to give your clients options, so that they can make an educated decision.

Oil Heat Today

Although most people think of heating oil as thick, black and dirty, the reality is that today’s heating oil actually looks a lot like water. It’s clear, thin, and 95% cleaner today than it was in 1970. Today’s standard oil heat is called ultra-low sulfur (ULS) heating oil.

In recent years, we have been campaigning an even cleaner heating oil product called Bioheat, which can be used in your oil tank without any modifications or changes to your furnace. Bioheat is a blend of biodiesel and ULS heating oil. Genesee’s bioheat is unique in that it is made from recycled restaurant cooking grease. Instead of going to the landfills, all that french fry grease is recycled by a local company and blended with ULS heating oil and used to heat homes. As natural gas, coal, and standard heating oil are all non-renewable fossil fuels, Bioheat is in the same category of renewable fuel as wind and solar power.

The Carbon Footprint of Bioheat vs. natural gas

Reducing our carbon footprint has recently become a growing concern as we are learning and feeling the affects of greenhouse gasses on global warming. Clean, as in carbon output, isn’t something we can see, however it can be measured. The graph below is a comparison of the amount of carbon in pounds that is emitted into the environment per year. The blue line across the top is natural gas, showing that it stays constant. The green bars with varying percentages of biodiesel/ULS heating oil show that the higher the Bioheat blend, the lower the carbon output. Therefore, heating with oil (Bioheat) WILL reduce your carbon footprint.*











Comparing Costs: Switching to Natural Gas Vs. Staying with Oil

This all sounds great, but what everyone wants to know is, “how much is this going to cost me?” In Seattle, we tend to want to be green, but we don’t really want to break the bank by doing so.

New homeowners have two choices: 1. keeping the oil furnace, and 2. converting to natural gas. Below is a chart that shows the pros and cons of both options in 5 categories.

As far as cost goes, heating with oil is more expensive than heating with natural gas. However, if a new homeowner decides to switch to natural gas so that they can save money on their yearly heat bills, the reality is that they will not start saving money for a minimum of 12 years. Saving $600 per year X 12 years = $7,200, which is the minimum cost for a gas furnace, IF there is already a gas line in place. If not, that initial cost goes up to approximately $15,000. Also, gas furnaces only last 12- 15 years, so once they break even on their investment and start saving money on yearly heat bills, they will need to spend another $7000 on a new gas furnace.


Oil and Gas Leaks

The big question on everyone’s minds is, “but what if the oil tank leaks?!”. Unlike natural gas leaks, if an oil tank leaks, it is never a threat to human life. Oil tank leaks are not scary, they’re just messy, and need to be cleaned up. That said, it is still something that makes people quiver at the thought.

If the oil tank is being filled regular by an oil company, the oil company will likely know when the tank starts to breakdown even before the oil gets into the soil. Every time right before a new delivery, the delivery person tests the contents of the tank to determine if there is water inside. If water is detected, a few more tests will determine if the tank is in fact starting to break down. Because water is heavier than oil, the water will get inside the tank, before the oil gets out. If the tank is breaking down, the tank will need to be replaced.

If soil contamination is discovered, there will be a bigger clean up job. However, if the homeowner registers their tank with PLIA (Pollution Liability Insurance Agency), they will be covered up to $60,000 in clean up costs. Registering with PLIA is one of the few things in life that is free for the homeowners. All they need to do is go online and download the form.

If you remember only 3 things…remember these:

  1. Bioheat is the cleanest option of heating oil. A home heated with Bioheat is reducing greenhouse gasses by emitting less carbon into the air than those using natural gas.
  2. The economic payback for switching from oil to natural gas is at least 12 years. The average number of years a homeowner stays in their house in Seattle is 10 years.
  3. Oil leaks are not scary. They can be messy, but they are not life threatening. Registering with PLIA is free and will cover up to $60,000 in soil clean up.

* To download the whole NORA research document, click here.