By Valerie Corbett,
In April 2011, New York City adopted a new heating oil regulation requiring owners of nearly 10,000 buildings to phase-out the use of #6 and #4 heating oil.
Existing boilers must switch from #6 oil to a cleaner fuel before their current permits expire starting in 2012 and no later than 2015. By 2030, existing boilers, not yet replaced, must be modified to meet the equivalent emissions of burning clean #2 oil or natural gas. Newly installed boilers must only burn clean No. 2 oil, natural gas or its emission equivalent.
To check your building’s fuel go to www.nyc.gov, input your building’s address and click on DEP Boiler Information.
Only 1% of the city’s buildings use #6 oil, but they generate 85% of the soot pollution. The NYC Health Department says this regulation could improve air quality, and reduce negative health effects like aggravated asthma and respiratory symptoms, preventing 200 deaths annually.
Should you just switch to # 4 oil in the interim? Each building is different. You can comply with your building’s deadline by switching to low-sulfur # 4 oil, perhaps requiring only an oil tank cleaning and removal of the side-arm pre-heater, and a few other minor changes.
A conversion from #6 oil to an alternate fuel should be professionally evaluated by an independent consultant and implemented by an experienced licensed installer.
The process of switching from #2 oil is similar to that of #4 but with #2 oil you may be required to either clean, repair or replace the oil tank, depending on the results of a leakage or tightness test. You may also have to make minor changes to the oil pumping system.
Your fuel costs will increase with #4 or # 2 Oil, but not as much as you think. You can also stay flexible with a dual fuel option, and have the ability to alternate between #2 oil and natural gas.
Current #6 users who choose to switch to #4 will have to move to a 1500 ppm sulfur #4 blend consisting of 40% #6 oil and 60% ULSD (15ppm # 2) [by October 1, 2012].This change will increase the net fuel costs to former #6 users by $0.55/gallon based on historical average price spreads.
Natural gas is the cleanest alternative and produces 25% less CO2 than #6 oil and reduces the operating costs associated with oil usage (pumps, motors, filter and permits). Burning a cleaner fuel will use less energy because you don’t have to circulate or heat it like #6 oil.
For example, if your building is within 100 ft. of a main gas line, Con Edison will likely connect your building for free if you select their gas pricing option for up to five years. If you contract for “interruptible” gas (i.e. dual fuel option) you may have to pay for the utility’s underground street work, which can be costly.
Since gas produces twice as much water vapor as oil, many chimneys will require a new liner to prevent corrosion, which could cost up to $10,000 per floor.
One example of the internal costs of preparing a 107-unit 11-story co-op building for conversion might be $160K. In addition, you may have to pay significantly more to connect to the utility. The cost may range from $1,000 to well over $1 million.
Their boiler also heats the building’s hot water. For example, by switching to gas and installing a separate high efficiency gas hot water heater, the co-op can turn off the main boiler in the non-heating season and save about $8,000 annually.
Energy Efficiency rebates and incentives are available through Con Edison, National Grid and NYSERDA: www.coned.com/natural gas/ or email@example.com, www.thepowerofaction.com/efficiency, www.nyserda.org.
The City will soon announce Clean Heat, an information outreach pilot program to building owners and community groups.
New york City DEP/DOB’s plan to streamline the fuel conversion permit process will, if implemented, further reduce fuel conversion costs.