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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    4
    I have a house built in 1935 and it still uses the original American Standard oil buring furnace to heat a hot water baseboard radiator system. We love the heat and moisture in the air from this system, but the oil prices are forcing us to replace it. I also realize that this sytem has a low efficiency rating, probably 55-60%. I am taking my time to examine all options, with the intention of installing something in 12-16 months. I do not have existing duct work in most of the house, and we have window units for AC. I also enjoy a rather low electric bill at the moment

    So far I'm mulling over the following:

    Heat Pump/AC unit - can be installed in our attic and ductwork run to all rooms. Differences between air heat pumps and geothermal?

    Heat pump system as a back up and install a wood buring or pellet burning fireplace insert for warm heat

    a wood burning or pellet burning stove to heat the existing water radiant system

    Since I am doing a new system, I'd also like to consider systems that would heat my hot water more efficiently.

    In looking at what my home state of VA offers, only a few tax credits are possible if want to go so far as to install a solar or wind generating system, not sure I am willing to do that.

    Any thoughts or ideas are welcome. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    654
    Originally posted by stumps

    So far I'm mulling over the following:

    Heat Pump/AC unit - can be installed in our attic and ductwork run to all rooms. Differences between air heat pumps and geothermal?

    Heat pump system as a back up and install a wood buring or pellet burning fireplace insert for warm heat

    a wood burning or pellet burning stove to heat the existing water radiant system

    Since I am doing a new system, I'd also like to consider systems that would heat my hot water more efficiently.

    In looking at what my home state of VA offers, only a few tax credits are possible if want to go so far as to install a solar or wind generating system, not sure I am willing to do that.

    Any thoughts or ideas are welcome. Thanks.
    You'll hate wood burning....it's messy, hard work if you cut it yourself, never heats the house consistently (either it's wayyy too hot or too cold), buying wood is over $200/chord and the price changes according to other fuels, and the wood burning boilers/furnaces are terribly inefficient. Most units don't last, but the ones that do are horribly expensive. Overall, IMO, not even a consideration.

    Heat pumps are efficient in tempered climates, maybe you're in one in VA. If not, heat pumps use electric heat to overcome their deficiency.....and we all know how expensive heating with electric is. Changing over to a heat pump system will no doubt cost tens of thousands, but you will get central air out of it.

    Your best bet is to replace your oil boiler now. Talk with a reputable oil dealer/installer and realize oil heat is still the least expensive home heating source there is. Modern oil burning equipment is clean, safe and efficient.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Posts
    3,717
    Ditto.I agree with everything casturbo is saying.

    Also not only with today new oil burner being flame rentention with means higher efficency,but there alot of
    new controls out there that can save you money on your fuel bill by resetting the water temps on mild days.

    Nice oil boiler with a indirect tank and,a outdoor reset
    control,you would have unsurpass comfort and efficency.

    What part of Virginia?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    4
    thanks for the replies...

    2/3 of the house is heated with the old boiler, but 1/3 uses a forced air system that burns oil. I guess I'd rather move away from any type of fossil fuel or non-renewal fuel - so I'd like to avoid oil, natural gas or propane

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    1,042
    I feel the pain of wanting to get away from non-renewable energy sources. Don't forget where electricity comes from, though. Over the south, it's something like 70% coal, 20-25% nuclear, 3% hydro, and the balance oil and natural gas. I don't think electricity in the mid-Atlantic is much different in its fuel source distribution.

    To some extent, finding the right answer to your question depends on how you balance your environmental priorities.

    If you actually want to minimize your CO2 emissions, heat pumps are the way to go. In your climate, you get 2-3.5 times (depending on outdoor temp) the heat output from an air source heat pump that you put in in energy. It sounds crazy (200-350% efficiency), but remember that heat pumps *move* heat instead of making it.

    A ground or pond source heat pump system (we tend to avoid the term "geothermal" in here) is even better in that regard- more like 4 times the heat output. Even with the inefficiency in power generation and distribution, you still end up well over 100% efficiency. Many such setups can also make domestic hot water, too. Upfront cost for these systems is pretty steep, though, and it can be relatively hard to find somebody who really knows them well enough to install and service them.

    The best you can get out of combustion right now is 96% from natural gas. Oil can get close to that. You won't get anywhere near that kind of efficiency burning pellets, wood, or other renewables, though. But it's hard to compare the efficiencies of renewables versus non-renewables when it comes to CO2 emissions, though, because you're putting carbon back into the atmosphere that was there to start with before it got trapped up in the form of a plant.

    Realistically, though, burning wood or pellets or whatever ends up being a lot of work. I know there are automated systems that feed pellets into the fire and such, but I'm not sure I would stick with it.

    Any way you go, a heat pump water heater is a nifty way to make hot water very efficiently. They're rare, but here's an example of one: http://www.ecrinternational.com/prod_wattersaver.asp

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    4
    wyounger

    thanks for the reply. You are right about fuel sources for my power. I use Allegheny Power, and I think they tend to be mostly oil and coal fired plants, with about 10% a mix of nuclear, wind and hydro. Currently our house uses 1000 KWHs per month, or 1 megawatt, which I think is pretty reasonable - we take many measures to reduce our electric use. I know that if we move to a heat pump we are drawing more electricty, but I will also move away from our standard electric water heater, so hopefully this will help offset the KWH we use.

    at any rate, you make an excellent point, in some respects it's six of one half dozen of another. The appeal for electricty is that the rates are regulated and stay fairly consistent. Even if rate useage per KWH go up it will go up in modest increments. What I don't like about using oil is I am at the mercy of the industry. As I said, 3 years ago I was paying $1.14 per gallon, now it's just under $3. I think natural gas is going the same way...

    It's a tough call, which why I am asking the pros here, because what I put in will be a worthy investment that will be used for years to come. Good points, though, thank you.

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