By Diana Perez, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Worried about the cost of staying warm this winter, especially if you heat with oil?

Some people are saying enough, and making a change.

Like John from Belmont who Declared his Curiosity to WBZ-TV:

“The price of oil has been steadily rising. Is it cheaper to heat with oil or natural gas or anything else?”

We checked it out and found that while it can be cheaper, you have to look carefully at the price of switching.

At Patricia O’Mahony’s home in Quincy, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

She’s converting from oil to natural gas.

“It’ll save me a lot of money in the long run,” she says.

Making that kind of switch is definitely a long term proposition.

Here are some ballpark numbers.

If you’re switching a forced hot air system, expect to pay between $4,500 and $7,000.

For radiators, the cost is upwards of $7,500. Converting a forced hot water system is the most expensive, between $7,500 and $11,000.

You may also have to pay to run a gas line to your house and to get rid of your old oil tank.

Despite the costs, a lot of people are taking the plunge.

“This year we project 14,000 conversions,” says National Grid’s Dennis McCaffery.

He says there’s a simple reason for that.

“They can expect to save a range of 15-to-34-percent. That’s because natural gas is a lot cheaper than oil right now.”

And that’s keeping Hub Plumbing busy doing about 10 conversions each month.

“They want to save money, they want their equipment to be reliable, they want a reliable source of fuel coming in,” says John Clary of Hub Plumbing.

It’s not just switching to gas.

Some homeowners are thinking very long term and going geothermal, where your heating and cooling come from below ground.

But that’s hugely expensive.

You could pay from $15,000 to $40,000 for a geothermal system mostly due to drilling and construction costs. However, you could also save as much as 70-percent on your heating, cooling and hot water bills.

For a much smaller investment, some people are buying pellet stoves to supplement their heating systems.

A bag of wood pellets costs about $5 and lasts all day.

“You can cut your oil bill down by about a third,” says Rob Buchanan who owns Buchanan Fireplace in Medford.

At his shop, pellet stoves cost between $4,000 and $5,000.

“You should be able to pay that off, with oil rising, within a couple of years,” says Buchanan.

By far, switching to gas is the most popular choice.

But with the high changeover costs, timing is important.

“My boiler was old and I knew I needed a new one,” says Patricia O’Mahony. And that’s the best time to consider making a move.

WBZ-TV’s Diana Perez reports

The heating oil industry doesn’t dispute that natural gas is cheaper than oil, but warns that the upfront costs of switching to gas can be great.

The Mass. Oil Heat Council also says some of the gas industry’s advertising is misleading.

Even though oil prices have been dropping, bringing us some relieve at the gas pumps, heating oil prices are expected to remain high in the long term.

Comments (21)
  1. Phil D. says:

    If you decide to switch from oil heat to another technology, as part of the quote, make sure your contractor completely removes the oil filler spout on your home. You don’t want hundreds of gallons of fuel oil accidentally “delivered” and deposited in your cellar which could cost $$$ to remove and cause your home to be unlivable and even condemned by your city inspector because of toxicity and noxious fumes.

  2. Leo says:

    Oil heat consumers should switch to Bioheat. A renewable, energy source that is blended with regular heating oil. The Bio component is domestically produced, reduces dependancy on foreign oil, has created 31,000 american jobs and requires no changes to your existing unit. Visit for more info

    1. Rebecca A. says:


      Thank you for the link. I heard an ad for a company that does biofuel conversions on CBS radio in NYC but couldn’t find the company when I googled biofuel conversion. Now I have a lead at least.

  3. Ernie says:

    I feel you did a lousy job comparing gas to oil conversions. You allow a company to say gas equipment is more reliable, that gas is a more reliable fuel source without proof. What are the fees to have gas in your home check your gas bill that should be added to the cost of gas when compared to the price of oil. Not brought up was in a lot of cases one has to line their chimney when switching to gas. Oil is now adding Biofuel and also going with Low sulfer which helps the enviroment. Please compare everything.

  4. aid h says:

    in your report you omitted installing a heat pump … living with a heat pump on the nashua border for 2years …. extremely pleased ….. oil burner chamber cracked requiring immediate replasement …. results …. no gas/propane needed lower cost than either oil or gas burner … with gas would have needed chimney modified/relined….. cost to heat/cool home was at least 30 % lower 2 years ago than oil …. side benefit now have central a/c

  5. val says:

    we installed a natural gas furnace and central ac 4 years ago. The cost of the new furnace and new duct work and removal of all baseboards was the biggest expense as our home originally had hot water baseboards. The cost to bring the gas to the house was only $500 for digging and installation as we had an gas easement line already on our property. As for the price to heat the home, we are running about $250/month less in the winter with the new central heat vs oil and are much more comfortable in the home. It will take us years to recoup the price of the new furnace, etc but the oil furnace needed to be replaced anyway (over 25 years old) so because gas was cheaper in the long run we went with natural gas. Another benefit to having natural gas brought to the house, during power outages because we installed a gas stove in the kitchen, we are able to cook on the stove. We have already had a few neighbors around us install new gas furnaces and are seeing the savings.

  6. RICK MARTINO says:


    1. Ian says:

      Propane is very expensive $5.40 per gallon. I just left my grill on, and drained my tank, so not very cost effective.

  7. Julie says:

    No one mentions that for 15 out of the past 20 years, oil has been cheaper, as much as 1/2 the cost of natural gas. Who’s to say that won’t return? And oil heat is the heat of the future because of new technologies and the blending of bio-fuels. Natural gas has no bio component, and methane (natural gas) is 27 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide. They claim their cleaner re: CO2, but they don’t mention the pollution caused by methane and hydrolic fracking. Very selective in their pitch. AND… just by upgrading an existing oilheated system, you can save as much as 30% on your heating bill–maybe even more! They don’t tell you that, either!

  8. Ian Brown says:

    I bought my house 5 years ago and it had a pellet stove already installed. 2 years ago, i had a problem and had to replace the stove, and replaced it with a bigger one, Keeps dowstairs of a split ranch at about 80 degrees on the coldest of days, and about 70 upstairs. I burn through about 4 tons of pellets a year, and shop around for the best price, and have to ability to pick them up, so don’t have to pay delivery charges. Depending on where pellets are bought and grade of pellet, they run $200 – $300 per ton. $197 at home depot and Lowes this fall. As for the stove, they can run anywhere from $1500 to $3500 or so, and about $500 for an install. Love my pellet stove, and barely use any oil. ( about 50 gallons a year ).

  9. Timmie M. McElwain says:

    The installation of the Burnham boiler using copper for a header on steam is not the best idea. I would think that most plumbing and heating contractors would know that along with Mr. McCaffery from National Grid. In fact Burnham who makes the boiler being installed will tell you they do not want copper used on steam boilers of theirs.

    As a former gas company Customer Service Supervisor and Trainer for 28 years we would not allow that installation. The gas industry continues to go down hill because they do not have people in the field who know what they are doing. WBZ-TV should contact me to get the straight story on many gas conversions which are taking place using Modulating/Condensing Boilers improperly applied to the existing systems in the homes. Call me 401-437-0557 love to talk to you, in fact come visit me at Gas Training Institute in Warren, Rhode Island.

  10. Jamie says:

    pretty interesting article about converting oil into natural gas.

    Where I am from the city we use oil but I wish we had the option to go and change to natural gas.

    Also the comments on this post are helpful too, which you usually don’t find alot.


    – Jamie

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  15. Old time CT. steamfitter. says:

    I am not suprised to see copper being used on a steam system. In Mass. you do not need a license to do heating work, in fact Mass does not even offer a license for the heating trade. So there for, there is no apprenticeship required to become a heating tech. Most of the work is being done is by plumbers ( who are properly licensed) with little or no training in steam and hydronic heating. The system being shown in the video will fail with in the next couple of years, leaks will start to show up above the water line, from a lack of swing joints causing the copper to expand and contract, which in turn will cause the solder joints to crack and start to leak. It is just an over all poor way to install a steam boiler. As far as the company’s large volume of conversions, has to be due to their pricing, not with the quality and expertise of their work.

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