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Oil heat? Natural gas heat?

Posted by Rona Fischman February 11, 2010 01:42 PM

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I got a call from one of my clients asking my opinion about the marketability of a condo in regard to its heating system. This client owns a condo with an oil-fired steam boiler which is on a fast-path to the boiler cemetery. She has natural gas in the house; should she do a quickie conversion to natural gas? The short answer is that she doesn’t have enough time for a conversion, because the natural gas company can’t respond before she finds herself with no heat at all. Conversion -- with whatever special give-away the natural gas company is offering -- requires extra steps and extra time.
Also this week, I received an email about new legislation regarding oil-heated houses that becomes effective this July. The legislation requires two important things:
1. Homeowners must install either an oil safety valve or an oil supply line with protective sleeve on systems that do not currently have these devices; and
2. Insurance companies must write homeowner policies to offer coverage for leaks from heating systems that use oil.

I’ve been seeing these protective sleeves for years now, and they do seem to work. I have also seen and smelled lots of basements with leaky oil lines. Kitty litter under leaky fitting just doesn't solve the problem!The homeowner cost to do the upgrade is small compared to the potential clean up. The new law makes homes insurable for spills. I see this as a good thing. Does this overcome your objections to oil heating?

I have seen a transition over my career. The natural gas lobby and PR efforts seem to be outstripping the oil lobby and PR efforts. My clients have changed from thinking that oil is more or less equivalent to natural gas to hearing the public repeat the marketing comments that “oil is dirty” and “oil is more expensive.” An inspector, now retired, used to say something like this: “When oil goes wrong, there is a big smelly mess. When natural gas goes wrong, there is a hole in the ground where a house used to be. I prefer oil.”

What do you burn to heat your house? (Besides money, of course!) If you have oil in your house, you should look at the new rules.
If you have converted to natural gas, why?

If you are a lobbyist for either side, please identify yourself in your comments. I am sure that Google Alerts will be all over this one.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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