Gas vs Oil For Heating A Movie Theater???

posted by howell on February 4, 2005 at 4:47 am

I was recently told that a theater I once knew of had the oil tanks removed from the lot it was on. This was done when it closed because the tanks were on a lot owned by another business.

How much could it cost to hook up gas and install it into a theater with about 11,000 square feet. How cost efficient is it compared to oil??? Thanks for your help, this is in effort to get the theater up and running again.

Comments (11)

EvanC on February 4, 2005 at 7:51 am

It depends on the type of heating system used. With natural gas rates climbing faster than heating oil, I would not rule out oil.

It will take some serious web-searches to find out the efficiency of the newest generation of oil-fired boilers versus gas. The only disadvantage with oil is that it cannot be turned down like a gas burner.

For a theatre, the most economical way to heat was how they did it in the old days—-radiator heat with hot water. A boiler can run with much lower fuel usage and shorter cycles to keep water hot versus constantly keeping the air warm.

KenLayton on February 4, 2005 at 8:32 am

I would suggest contacting several heating contractors for estimates. Every building and every heating system is different.

EvanC on February 4, 2005 at 10:51 am

By all means this is a job for a heating contractor. A lot depends on the old system in the building now. The only disadvantage with hot water heat is the need for air conditioning forced air—which would entail using whatever air circulation plenums are in the theatre.

You didn’t mention the seating capacity, age of the building and type of system it has now.

howell on February 4, 2005 at 11:35 am

Thankx for the info fellas. The theatre is twinned and seats about 450 total. Its was built in 1926. It did run by oil and forced air along with a chiller unit outside of the building. The tanks have been removed and I now must use another alternative. I do have a heating contractor working on some ideas for cost and they will be visiting the theatre shortly. The existing oil furnace is a Wells McCain, installed in 1991. It put out 9 gallons an hour and 1,004,000 btu’s. Its pretty big and two huge blowers force the air. The current idea was to install two gas units to minimize the cost and efficiency of usage. I did like the idea of using a boiler for the job if possible.

Anthing else you can suggest I am all ears…lol.

IanJudge on February 4, 2005 at 3:52 pm

We use gas units that are on the roof and each auditorium has it’s own unit, except for our main theater which has three. What is good about that, is if the heat breaks, only one unit breaks and can be repaired, so the other units continue to work.

The heat and A/C are in the same unit, so that makes it easy too.

howell on February 5, 2005 at 7:43 am

How much was the total conversion and installation ????

Should I plan on 20-$30,000. for this project Ian ???

Patsy on February 5, 2005 at 7:55 am

I recently spoke to a long time former theatre/drive-in owner and he told me that one month’s heating bill was $1,700 back in the late 80’s! The theatre WAS in my hometown of Westfield NY (The Grand).

JimRankin on February 5, 2005 at 11:34 am

As was brought out above, the usual course nowadays is to put unit heaters/air conditioners on the roof of a cinema to heat/cool it individually which is much more flexible should an auditorium not be used or a unit malfunction. It is the advent of natural gas that made this technique possible since it can be easily piped up there, unlike oil. While it may seem a waste to abandon the boiler, the cost of heating oil is now much greater than gas, and the cost to you to replace the oil tanks, which the city will probably require you to put in your basement, may be much more than you would imagine, given the difficult access and large size of new tanks. If you must go this route, look on the blueprints which may be kept on microfilm by the city, to find any dashed lines drawn over any pavement areas on the prints which might indicate a removable slab (probably below layers of latter day asphalt) for access to the boiler room. Oftentimes, such were removable for access specifically to replace boilers which have a limited life span, like everything else. Sometimes such ‘hatches’ were over the old coal bins then under a sidewalk or alley.

If the whole matter is giving you headaches, try to approach the professor/instructor of HVAC at any nearby college who might be willing to asign a survey of the situation to his classes and they may end up designing your whole new system themselves at no cost to you. Bring your blueprints and specifications/cost analysis along with you to show that you are looking for cooperation and not just trying to dump this in his lap; also make clear that you are looking for design advice, and not legal agreement for him to be responsible for your situation and the advice he/they give. Such an approach also avoids the old problem of ‘having the fertilizer salesman tell you how much fertilizer to use!’ An impartial source that has nothing to gain from recommending any approach or equipment is always the best advice to get. Best Wishes.

howell on February 9, 2005 at 11:50 am

Has anyone ever had to replace a leaking oil tank and is oil still good if it has not been used in three years ???

wimovieman on April 9, 2005 at 4:17 pm

If your air handler and heating coil (assuming the oil boiler was hot water and not steam) is still in good condition you can do what I have done in 3 different buildings and that is use the newest boilers (last projest was 4 150,000 BTU boilers that are as small as a suitcase) and hook them to the coil. One project done last year saved me almost 40%. Cost of the project was $13,000 which included getting rid of the old stuff.

TheaterBuff1 on December 12, 2005 at 9:07 pm

According to my own research on this topic, both oil and gas heating systems should be ruled out completely at this stage and all favoritism shown toward geothermal on the road ahead — which provides both for heating and cooling. And the beauty of geothermal is that not only is it fully environmentally friendly, but, even though it might be costlier to initially install than oil or gas heating systems, it is for the most part a onetime expense only. Routine maintenance check-ups every few years thereafter is all. For geothermal energy itself is totally free. So if you’re getting ready to install a new heating system in your theater, forget about gas and oil and just go with geothermal, and you, and your patrons, will be happy thereafter, not to mention your theater promoting a cleaner and healthier and much less expensive energy future!

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