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  1. #1

    Converting Ceiling Radiant Heat to ... help, please!

    Hi…

    I moved to the Central Hudson Valley of New York and purchased a 1680 sq. ft raised ranch last year. The entire house runs on electric and the heat source is radiant…but here’s a twist: it’s a ceiling radiant system (completely illogical to me, but apparently somewhat popular in the late 60s, early 70s). The radiant heat no longer works in the LR & DR and cannot be fixed. Thus, I’m looking to install a new heating system with the possibility of central air. I’ve met with 4 HVAC contractors and the options are varied. These are the options so far:

    1. Mitsubishi mini splits – one large unit in the LR, a smaller unit in each of the 2 bedrooms; the contractor said that a heat pump would be a terrible option b/c of the cold weather.

    2. A/C 15 SEER Heil heatpump system installed in attic (I think the electric strips for back up power when temp drops below efficiency of heat pump)

    3. A/C 15 SEER Heil heatpump system installed in attic with 95% efficient LP furnace with variable speed and 2 stage blower and 16 SEER A/C only condensor

    4. Carrier Infinity dual fuel (elec & propane) HP central heat & A/C

    5. TempStar Heat pump – waiting for the entire quote

    One contractor suggests installing the duct work under the floor (I have a drop ceiling, so it shouldn’t be too difficult) and placing the vents in the floor. Two of the other contractors suggest installing the ductwork in the attic; both would place the vents in the ceiling. However, one would place the return in the ceiling, the other would place 3 returns (LR, both bedrooms) closer to floor height (I understand that for A/C, high returns are best but for heat, lower returns are better).

    Alternatively, electric baseboard is an option…it would be the cheapest to install, but the most expensive to operate. Another possibility is pellet fireplace insert, but I’m not sure if that’ll be sufficient as the sole heating source. So…based on my location (cold winters), the type of house and somewhat limited finances, what do you all recommend?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,841
    Quote Originally Posted by amyash View Post
    Hi…

    I moved to the Central Hudson Valley of New York and purchased a 1680 sq. ft raised ranch last year. The entire house runs on electric and the heat source is radiant…but here’s a twist: it’s a ceiling radiant system (completely illogical to me, but apparently somewhat popular in the late 60s, early 70s). The radiant heat no longer works in the LR & DR and cannot be fixed. Thus, I’m looking to install a new heating system with the possibility of central air. I’ve met with 4 HVAC contractors and the options are varied. These are the options so far:

    1. Mitsubishi mini splits – one large unit in the LR, a smaller unit in each of the 2 bedrooms; the contractor said that a heat pump would be a terrible option b/c of the cold weather.
    This is a much better option than straight electric but will be a little pricey to get heat in every room. If there's a way to do ducted, I'd lean in that direction.


    2. A/C 15 SEER Heil heatpump system installed in attic (I think the electric strips for back up power when temp drops below efficiency of heat pump)
    The cost of operation should be paramount in your decision. The most expensive is electric resistance, next is LP (liquid propane), then comes fuel oil and finally natural gas. Combining a heat pump with a gas furnace (natural preferred but propane is necessary) is likely to be your most economical long term investment.


    3. A/C 15 SEER Heil heatpump system installed in attic with 95% efficient LP furnace with variable speed and 2 stage blower and 16 SEER A/C only condensor

    4. Carrier Infinity dual fuel (elec & propane) HP central heat & A/C

    5. TempStar Heat pump – waiting for the entire quote
    You should deal only with companies that insist on doing a full room-by-room load analysis on your home. Discharge any companies that do not include that service as part of their regular approach to the business. After that, since you'll be relying on your heat pump for most of the heating and all of the cooling season, I'd recommend installing the highest efficiency you can get, then for supplemental/emergency heat, a 90+% AFUE gas furnace. A multi-stage is nicer but whatever you select, make sure it is an exact match system per the AHRI website. You're installing company needs to know that they are expected to document the installation as being the highest efficiency.


    One contractor suggests installing the duct work under the floor (I have a drop ceiling, so it shouldn’t be too difficult) and placing the vents in the floor. Two of the other contractors suggest installing the ductwork in the attic; both would place the vents in the ceiling. However, one would place the return in the ceiling, the other would place 3 returns (LR, both bedrooms) closer to floor height (I understand that for A/C, high returns are best but for heat, lower returns are better).Some will argue vehemently that return location is of paramount importance. I subscribe tothe tribe that believes that proper system design is more important. Either way, the warmest air will rise to the ceilings always and so high returns are always appropriate. Low returns are more important if your rooms have high ceilings but even then, some high returns are in order to draw out the warmest air and re-introduce it to the system for temperature adjustments.

    Alternatively, electric baseboard is an option…it would be the cheapest to install, but the most expensive to operate. Another possibility is pellet fireplace insert, but I’m not sure if that’ll be sufficient as the sole heating source. So…based on my location (cold winters), the type of house and somewhat limited finances, what do you all recommend?

    Thanks!
    As stated above, electric baseboard is a poor option in today's world. You get 3,414 Btu's of heat from 1-kiloWatt of electricity when it's electric resistance heat. Using a 19-SEER heat pump that same 1-kW of electricity will bring you 19,000 Btu's of heat. As I said above, getting the most energy efficient system you can is your best bet. If you can do geo-thermal, go for it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    southern california
    Posts
    535
    Before you can make any decisions , a load calculation must be made to determine the required heating and cooling equipment sizing. The next step may be to improve the building outer envelope to reduce equipment sizing and lower yearly energy costs. Step 3 would be to perform an energy analysis based upon the cost of electricity, fuel oil,natural gas, geothermal,etc. If you are planning on living in this home for sometime , then it would be in your best interest to spend the money needed to do it the right way even if you had to save for another year or two. You should also look at how you are heating your domestic water at the same time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
    Posts
    2,198

    Heat need dominate, therefore

    Floor registers have the edge especially since it sounds like you have a basement with a suspended ceiling. You don't want to go into the attic, which is outside the air and thermal barrier ( especially in Upstate NY) unless last resort.
    Actually, radiant ceiling was not a bad choice at the time or now. heat source (elec) is now somewhat expensive. Thing is with that warm surface beaming comfort toward you, you are comfortable with lower air temps because of the warm surface
    You have got to learn from other people's mistakes! Because God knows you don't live long enough to make them all yourself !!!!!!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    2,261
    A lot of companies will give you a quote price, and if an when you sign on the dotted line they will do the complete load calculations before starting duct lay out and so on. Very few companies are going to give this information away for free ( it takes time to be done properly, and time is money). But that is one important question you should be asking of every contractor, "do you do load calculations, and if you get the contract can I see them?" A big part of selecting a contractor is how well you trust them, they can install the best system in the world, but if it's installed poorly it will preform poorly.
    I r the king of the world!...or at least I get to stand on the roof and look down on the rest of yall

  6. #6
    Thanks for the replies, everyone. I'll definitely ask about a complete load calculation and factor the responses into my final decision.

    One update: the fifth contractor (last night's visitor) is suggesting a super efficient (98%) propane furnace and a separate a/c unit rather than going with a heat pump for the combined heating/cooling. Are there advantages to going with a furnace rather than a heat pump, taking into consideration my location (mid-upstate NY) and any other factors?

    Thanks, again!

  7. #7

    What did you do?

    This is the Ask Our Pro's forum, and only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC may post advise, commentary, or ask questions of the OP here. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

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    Last edited by beenthere; 01-19-2013 at 09:56 AM. Reason: Non Pro * Member

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
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    68,603
    caroleb, this is the Ask Our Pro's forum, and only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC may post advise, commentary or ask questions of the OP here. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

    You can find the rules for posting and qualifications here.

    Your post has been deleted.
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    PS: Start your own new thread, thank you.
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