Revamping home heating/cooling -- oil/AC to electric

Our 1800-sf ranch house in NYS has a hodgepodge of heating and cooling systems.

An oil boiler (20 yo, with significant overhaul when we bought the house 3 yrs ago) heats our house via hydronic baseboards. It also heats the water, which is stored/managed by an indirect tank (added 2 years ago). Also replaced the oil tank (2 years ago).

We added (3 years ago) central AC throughout the house via new ducts through the attic. Compressor outside, air handler in the attic. Ceiling vents in each room.

We pulled the baseboard heaters (3 years ago) from the 3 bathrooms and put in electric radiant in the floors.

We finished the basement (2 years ago), and put in electric baseboard heaters throughout to warm that.

That’s all the preamble… The question is, what would be the best move for getting rid of the oil boiler entirely?


One, we want to transition away from fossil fuels generally. (We have a pretty large roof with southern exposure that we’d eventually like to add solar panels to, as well.)

Two, we have an insanely steep driveway and have genuinely had some close calls in terms of getting oil deliveries during the winter (I had a weeklong stretch one winter where the oil truck could not make it up our driveway and I was driving to the gas station and filling up a 5-gallon diesel can to make sure we didn’t run out of fuel).

Three, the boiler blower is loud and smelly, and switching to a chimney to alleviate those problems will cost around $9k.

Four, maintenance on a 20-yo boiler is real and regular.


Do we keep the hydronic heating setup upstairs and replace the oil boiler with an electric boiler?

Do we let the hydronics go completely unused and instead replace the AC with a heat pump capable of heating as well as cooling, sending heat to rooms via the ceiling AC vents? (We’ve lived in a house with ceiling-vent furnace heat before, so I’m aware that there are drawbacks in terms of heat delivery).

Something else???

In any case, do we add an electric water heater for our water heating needs? Tank or tankless?

And yes, we do lose power in the winter on occasion. But when we do, we also lose the ability to run the oil boiler, so switching to all electric is no greater risk in that regard.

Thanks for the input.

Moving this post to “in my humble opinion”, the forum for soliciting advice and anecdotes and how to do stuff.

Good luck with your project.

Thank you! Been a while since I went outside of GQ.

We recently installed a heat pump for the main purpose of adding AC in the summer. We didn’t think we’d use it much to heat with, as we have a 10-15 year old gas furnace. We thought it would be more of a backup. But, we also live in a place with cheap hydropower, and want to do what’s better for the environment. We opted for a very fancy heat pump that our fancy furnace was capable of coordinating with via a sophisticated thermostat. So now, we heat mostly using the extremely efficient heat pump, and the gas furnace kicks on when it needs to warm more quickly, like in the morning when the thermostat has been turned down overnight.

We were starting with forced air heating, though, with floor vents, so it involved less than what you are talking about. We’re really happy with what we wound up with, though, if that’s at all helpful.

There’s a company called Dandelion Energy that installs geothermal heat pumps in New York State. (I saw a segment on them on an episode of This Old House.)

Replacing the AC with a heat pump is probably the cheapest way. As you mentioned, it can take longer to heat a room with ceiling vents because you’re heating the room from the top down instead of mixing cold air with the hot air from the floor. But because you’ve got heat in the floors you’ll probably be okay. This is what I’d likely do. If you can afford it I’d go tank-less for the water.

A geothermal heat pump is more expensive at the start but eventually pays for itself. The downside is needing to rip up your yard to do the trenching. Some installers will drill down and run the pipe vertically; I’m not sure this is any cheaper.

When I worked for my father’s HVAC business removing oil furnaces was our least favorite job. They’re extremely heavy, dirty, and unpleasant to work with. If the pros in your area feel the same you may get a higher bid than you’re expecting. Not much you can do about this though; it’s not something you want to try to do yourself.