Author Topic: Changing home heating system -- Northeast US  (Read 1943 times)

caliq

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Changing home heating system -- Northeast US
« on: February 16, 2015, 06:29:07 PM »
So, this came up a little while ago on a thread in the Wall of Shame/Comedy forum but I'd like to get some opinions from a broader audience:

I own a 1000 sq ft ranch with a ~500 sq ft finished basement in southern New England.  It has electric resistance heat (baseboards) in most rooms, electric radiant ceiling heat (apparently a thing from the 80s?) in one bedroom, and electric wall heaters (forced air) in the basement and garage.  We pay $0.1099 per kWh and are on a budget billing plan for a year-round monthly payment of $300.  From Dec 23 - Jan 23 we used 2671 kWh. 

My husband is disabled and at home all day, with our two dogs and the cat, so I don't have much of an opportunity to turn the heat down because the house is basically never empty.  It also means our usage is probably pretty high because he's obviously using more stuff (electronics, lights, whatever) since he's home all the time.  Regardless of our usage, my house isn't that warm :(  The upstairs living room/kitchen is always freezing, even if I turn the heat up past 70 (only did it once as an experiment, I swear!).  We do have newish (2007) double pane windows and good insulation, and a new roof; but the open 'great room' has a slightly vaulted ceiling which probably isn't helping.

It's been below zero for the past several nights, and my pipes froze overnight last night :(  No water when I went to shower this morning for school -- luckily nothing burst and DH and my dad got it sorted after I rushed off to my aunt's to shower (and I even made it to class on time!).  We didn't realize there were pipes in the garage and hadn't turned the heat on (this is our first full winter here and the garage walls are sheet-rocked and insulated -- plus there's no plumbing above the garage so it makes zero sense that the pipes are there...). 

Obviously, this has reopened the discussion about changing our heating source.  There's no natural gas in our area to my great regret. 

My dad is local and friends with a couple HVAC guys and a guy who owns a fireplace/woodstove type store.  So, he's given us some ideas/options.  I just have no idea how to go about deciding between them, and was wondering if any MMMer's have insights on any of these types of systems in the northeast US:

1.  Propane forced hot air furnace, installed in our attic above the bedrooms/bathroom and abutting living room.  So, would only really be able to heat main floor unless we sacrificed closet space to get ducts down to the basement.  No feasible way of getting ducts to the garage (attic doesn't extend over that part of the house).  My dad seems confident we can install the duct work ourselves with planning help from his HVAC friend, which would apparently keep up front cost for the system around $2k, not including the propane lines and tank. 

2.  Propane stove in the basement; currently there are floor vents between the basement and 2/3 bedrooms but we could probably add more.  There's not really a way to add vents into the living room/kitchen or bathroom though.  I'm also worried about the basement getting ridiculously hot, as it's where we spend the majority of our time.  My cursory online pricing shows a 35k BTU stove is around $1.5k to $2k and install would be very inexpensive through my dad's friend. 

3.  Ductless minisplit heat pumps?  People in the other thread seemed to really like them but I'm concerned about the efficiency at very cold (sub 15 degree) temps.  These seem to be quite expensive and would require a bulky wall unit in each room at around $800 per room * 4 or 5 rooms = $2400-$3200.  Unless I'm misunderstanding how they work.  And they're still run off electricity, so we'd have to keep the baseboards as a backup and get a whole-house generator (losing power is unfortunately fairly frequent here and we've really lucked out not to lose it for more than an hour at a time this winter -- there have been several harrowing waits where I was about to drain the pipes completely and take off with DH & dogs & cat to my parent's house...).


Ummm, I wrote this really long thing and I'm not sure if I even have an actual question at the end of all of this. 

Does anyone have an opinion on propane forced air vs. propane stove vs. heat pump?  Is this even worth it in if we're going to sell the house in the next five years?

kwh03001

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Re: Changing home heating system -- Northeast US
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2015, 07:21:31 PM »
Hi,
I created a username just to respond to this post.  (longtime lurker).  We live on the CT shoreline and have almost the same circumstances as you.  1200 sq ft ranch, electric baseboard heat, SO home with three children all day.  I recently installed a wood pellet stove, and have seen our heating costs decrease drastically.  I installed it myself, and was budget paying CL&P $284 year round for power.  Last year from jan 14th to feb 14th, we were billed $450, and this year, with no baseboard heat, only electric hot water and other appliances, we were billed $170.  I figure we burn around a bag of pellets a day on average, which is around $150 per month.  The house is at least 64  degree in every room at all times.  Let me know if you want more info!

caliq

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Re: Changing home heating system -- Northeast US
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2015, 08:02:02 PM »
Hi,
I created a username just to respond to this post.  (longtime lurker).  We live on the CT shoreline and have almost the same circumstances as you.  1200 sq ft ranch, electric baseboard heat, SO home with three children all day.  I recently installed a wood pellet stove, and have seen our heating costs decrease drastically.  I installed it myself, and was budget paying CL&P $284 year round for power.  Last year from jan 14th to feb 14th, we were billed $450, and this year, with no baseboard heat, only electric hot water and other appliances, we were billed $170.  I figure we burn around a bag of pellets a day on average, which is around $150 per month.  The house is at least 64  degree in every room at all times.  Let me know if you want more info!

Wow, what a coincidence (we're up near Hartford, lol).  Thanks for making an account to help me out!  My dad's friend has a rebuilt 38000 BTU pellet stove that I think we could get for a relatively good price.  I'm just hesitant about the pellets, I guess.  Do you find that the room with the stove in it gets too hot?  And do you have to load a bag of pellets a day?  I also have concerns about the extra labor because of DH's disability. 

kwh03001

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Re: Changing home heating system -- Northeast US
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2015, 09:31:46 PM »
Usually the pellet stoves are rated by the square footage, and I purchased a 1500 sf englander model from Home Depot. They matched the 10% off coupon I had from lowes.

The room the stove is in can get warm, but my SO likes it hot, so it is generally 72 degrees, with 64-66 degree bedrooms.

A thermostat can also be added fairly easily to modulate the temperature in the room.

I check and fill the stove when I wake up and before I go to bed, and they have 'hopper extenders' if you want to be able to load two bags in at a time.

Each bag is 40 pounds, so I guess it depends on DHs mobility.