Help with choice of Heating/ Cooling equipment for Southern New England

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by Scup, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    Understand that the equipment you are talking about and installaton is going to run to the strong side of 20 grand and it may save you 50% but thats 50% of the oil cost and since you are running the wood furnace..............At any rate you will be dead and burried long before you see any payback dollars in your pocket.

    IIRC the Williamson 5 in one (I used to be a Williamson dealer) used a Beckett AF oil burner which is still the top selling oil burner of all time, still manufactured, still capable of turning out good efficiency numbers and anything but obsolete. The furnace itself is fairly effecient for an oil fired forced warm air unit and as a package, properly set up and tuned, capable of 82% combustion efficiency. Even at 37 years old, if the heat exchanger is still in good shape, modern oil fired furnaces are not going to give you too much more in the way of efficiency. The air conditioning components may possibly need to be updated because modern compressors and motors run more efficiently but not enough so to justify replacement if they are in good running order. In short, at 75 years old, your best bet is to have someone that is proficient in set-up come in and go through the system. You will never recover the cost of replacement in your lifetime.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
  2. Scup

    Scup New Member

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    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    Tom, there is something about your writings and honesty that makes me wish we were neighbors. I did not understand the installation would run on the strong side of 20 grand as the contractor I spoke to quote a figure of around 8 grand, but I am sure we are comparing apples and oranges. He did mentioned a ductless system initially, but when he saw the duck work I was asking him to tie into, it was never was clear, at least to me, what had happened, what the cost would be, or even what I would be getting. Understand, that I never knew that Saints like You, Dana, and Jim even existed (I apologize if I left anyone out).

    One thing is for sure is I am trying to get up to speed as fast as I can and I now know a lot more than when I first talked with a HVAC contractor.

    I never did expect to live long enough to get any payback from a new installation. My family wants to continue to live in our home, and I would really like to help them out even if it is from the grave, but since that is not possible, I do wish at least to leave something behind that is not falling apart.

    There is a certain worry factor as well for this old man: I just do not trust an outside oil tank. Not sure of the replacement costs either but I expect it to be at least 3 grand now just for starters and considering what it might cost should I ever have an oil leak, 20 grand just might be a low ball figure for clean up. The last time around it was around $1500 for removal.

    I know the outside air conditioning compressor unit is on its last legs as mice got into the wiring. When I got into it several components were corroded away, no wiring diagram in the inside panel (never could obtain one), but I knew enough to get it operating as a single speed compressor. It still does cool the house off very quickly as I suspect it was oversized from the beginning.

    You are right on concerning my wood fired furnace, as that has been one of the most reliable appliances I own requiring only periodic replacement of a small blower/motor (have no idea why the original blower lasted 20 years and the Chinese made replacements last only 2 or 3 years but that is still a minor cost and of course a couple of chimney cleanings per year. Right now my heating bill is probably around one tenth the cost of cooling although this is really hard to accurately estimate considering other high electrical use items like a hot water tank.

    Being a Maine guy, I know you know what it means to heat with wood. I suspect that what my wife and I have done in heating with wood over the years, will never be duplicated by our children. Even now it is getting difficult for my wife and me to be getting up out of bed and taking turns during those near zero nights to feed the wood furnace. Therefore, either oil, propane, a heat pump, or some combination of, is now mandatory especially when we are feeling low or tired. It is tough to get old, but now a complicated decision has to be made to select reliable source/s of heat/cooling even if we shudder at its cost and you have given us much to think about.

    If you, Jim or Dana are passing through Stonington, shoot me an email as I know of pretty good Greek restaurant in New London (typical plate is only around $15) that does a pretty good job on fried seafood and of course, it would be on me.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2014
  3. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Eight grand you could buy a couple of decent mini-splits, but at CT contractor pricing you'll be lucky to buy ANY modulating central heating for less than $15K. I'd be surprised if the smaller 2-ton GreenSpeed was north of $20K, but it won't be anywhere near $8K.

    As a value proposition mini-splits are usually pretty good, if you can make them work with your floor plan, and being completely separate from the wood furnace, they'll always "play nice". With mini-splits sized correctly for their zones you'd always have at least some comfortable spaces when it's knocking on 0F outside, but doored off rooms could lag by 10 or more unless you added some resistance heaters like radiant cove heaters or electric baseboards, and managed them carefully to keep their duty-cycles low.

    My wife works with someone who recently installed a 4 ton Lennox modulating ducted heat pump similar to (but not as efficient as) the GreenSpeed- I'm sure it was well over $20K, but probably less than $30K. (I don't know them well enough to ask.) They're in central MA, and have about 8-10 kilowatts of grid tied solar- this heat pump is surely going to solve their excess power production issue (and then some), but it's not as if $4/gallon oil was being very kind to them either, living in a barely insulated 18th century antique. (Last summer I had suggested they go with mini-splits, and spend the real money on air sealing and insulation since they close off half the house in the winter and keep that half at 50F anyway.)
  4. Scup

    Scup New Member

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    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    I am really getting at odds with what I would like to have and what I can afford. As Dana seemed to guess, my home is probably not all that bad for a 35 year old home as it was originally designed for electric (resistance) heating, which was never installed since at that time, oil could deliver three times the BUTs per hour than resistance heating for the same buck. While I expect electric rates to climb, right now at $4 per gallon, oil is not the bargain it once was. Even worse, the potential liability if an outdoor tank should ever leak is quite scary. No option here since I have a finished ground level basement, things have become so cramped that my water heater is in a what should have been a clothes closet.

    Do not see how a couple of mini-splits can possibly work out because of three living levels consisting of quite a few small to moderate sized rooms with the loft being exempted. They are all fed by what I would considered to be more than adequate ducking.

    So far, nobody mentioned propane heating. I have not ruled propane out for the following reasons: yes it is very expensive in my area, but the bulk of my heating bill will not be propane but wood. My wood furnace has the same problem all wood furnaces have in that one has to be there to feed it. If we have to take a trip, or we get ill, we need a reliable heating backup that will keep the house warm while unattended. I saw the size of a propane heater and it would lend itself to being installed in a cramped location, and an outdoor propane tank is not a DEEP liability (at least I hope not).

    Not sure if the propane tank could even fuel an emergency whole house emergency electrical generator. I have lived through two hurricanes Irene and Sandy, that has knocked out electric power for around two weeks combined, existing only on a small gasoline generator. We have always lost power here and there throughout the decades we lived here, but now something very different seems to be happening. I do not recall even losing power for more 12 hours the first 25 years I have lived here. The problem seems to be not the number of times we lose power, but the time it takes to get back on line. I suspect power companies simply do not have enough linemen on call to handle emergency situations, probably because of budgeting considerations. Repair men have to be called in from all parts of the country so it seems that now one could find himself in a real situation especially if it happens during a nasty winter cold snap.

    Would appreciate any comments on the above as to my reasoning: please tell me if I am way off base. For example could the main propane air handler present any problems to be tied into the existing duct work, and perhaps be nice with the wood furnace. There still is a need for air conditioning! Does that push me back to the point of considering a heat pump once again, or should I consider a hybrid propane/air conditioner.

    I really think I know far more now than before I started this post, but for some reason it seems I am now hopelessly lost in the woods as I do not see an obvious solution/s.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  5. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    I'm not a fan of Propane. Besides it being expensive, it also delevers less BTU/hr than fuel oil. The other problem that has surfaced is the propane shortage with supplies being limited. The outside oil tank could be an issue but, there are a couple of companies that make fiberglass, double walled tanks designed for outside applications. They are a little pricey but certainly not out of reach. If it were mine I would have a qualified professional go through the furnace and replace and upgrade whatever needs to be upgraded. I would probably spring for a new A coil and condensing unit also. BTW, Williamson is still in business and they would have the AC equipment you need that would match your furnace.
  6. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    The long term prospects on both oil and propane pricing aren't very good, and buying a system that uses either is a 20+ year investment in those fuels. Oil production worldwide isn't likely to keep up with the "rise of the rest" despite the frack, as more and more people in India/China/Africa start driving. The cost of all of that "new oil" and gas production puts a very high floor on the prices, the current low cost of natural gas notwithstanding. (Shale gas is a net-loss for the producers at recent pricing unless there is sufficient liquid fractions like propane and butane in a particular well to make it worthwhile. At $4/gallon retail propane they're making out OK, but most would go broke or shut down the wells at $2.50 gallon propane.)

    If you get off the fossil liquids and onto the power grid leveraged with heat pumps, the grid sources aren't price-locked to fossil sources, so there are natural economic upper bounds, as well as state regulated pricing structures. Even rooftop photovoltaics have a lifecycle cost of about 8 cents/kwh at current small-scale solar prices, and expected to fall under a nickel by 2020 according to many analysts. The rise of wind & PV are already cutting into the amount of fossil-fired power in states with big wind & solar resources, such as Iowa, South Dakota and Texas, all of which already enjoy much lower power rates than New England. But at current New England power prices even the sub-optimal wind resources here are cheaper than nukes, and would be competitive with combined cycle gas if/when the price of natural gas rise by ~50%. If/when electricity prices double due to higher gas/oil pricing even grid-storage and massive offshore wind (of which there is plenty in CT) become cheap enough to really matter. (At the moment offshore wind is comparable in cost to single cycle peak-power in CT, but far more expensive than combined-cycle gas baseload power. But things can change- and often do.)

    Bottom line, you can't stop folks in India & China from driving cars or farming with diesel tractors, but you don't have to compete with them for the fossil liquids if you go with a heat pump solution.

    Without a room-by-room heat load analysis I can't say if there's likely to be a mini-split solution or not. I know folks living in homes less well insulated than yours heating with mini-splits, and can stay comfortable with the doors of the doored off rooms down to ~25-30F, under which they opt to use some amount of resistance-heating for temperature balance in the rooms they really care about. The room losses are most likely to be dominated by window area, and you can improve the performance of a 1980s double-pane substantially with low-E storm windows, if temperature balance becomes a problem. I also know folks in higher-R houses in climates colder than yours heating with a single mini-split for the whole house, with no auxilliary space heating.
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Some of the minisplits support a fair number of head units...I do not know how they stack up to the more conventional ones, but some also support ducting.
  8. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Adding a bunch of heads, each oversized for the respective load of the rooms they are in is a HUGE cost-adder, and a big step down in efficiency as well. If a room doesn't have a design heating load over 5000 BTU/hr, it should NOT have it's own ductless head.

    This house can probably cut it just fine with 1-2 mini-splits and a few radiant cove heaters, but it's possible that a case can be made for a 3-head 3-ton, where two of the heads are mini-duct cassettes splitting output between two adjacent rooms. (Say a couple of bedrooms, where the cassette can be installed at the top of a closet between the rooms, and ducted both ways.) Mini-duct cassettes on most models I've looked at don't have extended range output charts below -15C/+5F, but that might be good enough here. It's possible for a good tin-man to split the output of a mini-duct cassette to as many as three spaces, but most of the time figure on two.

    But this is way beyond something that is doable as a "design by web forum". A pro who is up on ductless solutions (and isn't insane or greedy, putting a ductless head in every room) might be able to come up with a couple of scenarios that make sense. Mitsubishi has a Training and Design Center in Southborough MA- you might be able to get a reference for somebody near they can recommend who is fresh-up on training about sizing the correctly zone-for-zone.
  9. Scup

    Scup New Member

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    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    Being stuck inside, as of right now a blizzard is just finishing up most if its nasty stuff and is starting to taper down, I have read very carefully all the previous posts. My old wood furnace has been keeping us quite comfortable, even though it was/is blizzard like conditions outside. The temperature in the room where we are is 68 degrees, with a small space heater (1000 watts) being directed at close range at my wife's left leg because of an arthritis/joint problem (she likes a cool room, but her leg feels better if heated either with a heating pad or a direct source of heat and she does not like a heating pad).

    My three favorite consultants, all just joined in, to provide Web site advice, which really is confusing to say the least. Not really sure how to go about explaining my problem but let me give it a try: Suppose each of you, imagine yourselves to be totally removed from your area of specialization. In other words, put yourself in my shoes and try to absorb the information provided in this thread. No two threads even come close to matching up, yet all the advice provided seems to be right on the mark.

    Typically I burn well less than 50 gallons of oil per year. Even if I double that in the future, and the price rose to $5 per gallon, that would amount to less than $250 per year and not even be worth considering. I am more concerned about the condition of the oil in the tank and have to add a biocide and another expensive chemical just to keep it flowing right when the temperatures drops to near zero.

    The only common point presented is I am going to need to find a honest (not insane or greedy either) professionals to come into my home and provide what he believes to be my best option. This could be harder for me to do than if I just threw my arms up in the air and announced "we are going to sell the house and move to Texas". I know, as I have suggested that, and would have been tossed into the doghouse if there was not a blizzard blowing outside.

    My thinking has now been altered to follow the common theme of getting contractors in here this spring to tell me what I should be doing. Then I plan on presenting what they propose, after I glean out the obvious left field proposals, and place their comments back on this post.

    To really understand my concerns right now (blizzard conditions) is if the lights go out. Yes, I do have a small wood stove upstairs that might supply something short of 10,000 BTUs per hour in an emergency without a need for electric power, but since heat rises, that will not be able to provide heat downstairs where things like frozen pipes could occur. The down stairs wood furnace can be operated as a gravity furnace (no electric power) but the instructions only stated at a greatly reduced output. I think that means I would have keep the output to well below 10,000 BTUs per hour. I do have a small gasoline generator on hand that could power blowers and such, but being operated only once or less per year, there is always the question (yes I do use fuel stabilizer and burn all the gasoline off before storage and always change the oil out after each use) that it might not start. Since heating with electricity does require ELECTRIC POWER of considerable amounts, if I go it alone with heat pumps, and/or some resistance heating, a reliable and sizable propane electric generator will be needed (doable).

    What really bothers me the most is if what the professionals advise this coming spring (and unlike this form where professionals provide their best advice without any incentive in it for themselves) will vary all over the place and result in even more confusion.

    So far, the only contractor that came into my home, proposed a single split mini with a propane backup for 8k and then I am not even sure his estimate included the propane backup. This seemed like too simple a solution for a complex problem but it is the only starting point I have so far.
  10. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    Well I doubt the mini split included the propane back up for that price but then again that backup might have been a direct vented, through the wall el-cheepo unit. It always comes down to money though. Given a large budget and little concern for return on investment, anyone's needs can be met but most times there has to be a balance between cost and practicality. If it were mine and knowing what I know the 1st thing I would do is thoroughly clean and inspect the oil furnace. Pull the oil burner and front plate and inspect the chamber and the heat exchanger for any cracks or weakness. If the exchanger passes muster I'm going to put new gaskets in, replace the firebox if it needs to be and then go through the oil burner to make sure it is properly adjusted and in good working order. Next is blowing out and flushing the oil lines. Installing a Wix or similar cartridge type oil filter at the furnace, not outside. Then I do a complete and thorough combustion test. I would then run a sonic test on the oil tank to determine whether or not it is worth saving. If it is, I give it a fresh coat of automotive underseal (rubberized) paint and let it go for another few years. If not I replace it with a fiberglass, double walled tank. The AC depends. You said rodents chewed the wires which can be replaced/repaired and no doubt the new equipment runs more efficiently and has a higher SEER but do you use it enough to justify the expense of changing it all out? I'm betting, probably not and AC equipment is pretty bullet proof. You might go through a contactor or even a compressor but still, maintaining is going to be less expensive than replacing.
  11. Scup

    Scup New Member

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    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    Sounds like good advice to me, but do not bet on us not using the air conditioner. Two long power outages lasting a week or more, both occurring because of Irene and Sandy, convinced us that while summer time outages are more of pain to deal with, rather than an emergency, we do rely heavily on air conditioning normally.

    I did look up several double walled fiberglass oil tanks and tried to call their New England Representatives for a ball park figure but most are still screwed up because of the blizzard (only phone messages that they will be in at later time).

    Always had a cartridge filter next to the oil burner that is very simple to replace the cartridge. Things like electrodes, their adjustment, correct nozzle, and such I have been doing since the service guys in my area seem to lack even these very basic skills (or perhaps they are just lazy).

    Tom, while I am a diy, there has to be pro in the picture for the needed oil burner work. However, at least I now know what has to be requested as to what I want done.

    Since I am an electrical engineer, when it comes to the electrical part of the outside compressor, I am not really scared to get into it. However, there is no schematic anywhere inside the unit which seems strange since the oil burner unit is well documented. There is really not that much in the outside compressor, so I would doubt I would be in over my head if I had a schematic.

    Following this path, there are some other concerns as well. The evaporator coil is obviously still functional, but it has been in there an awfully long time. Just how long can one of these last before they have had it? The metal drip pan is not rusted out but is looking sad although it still feeds the condensate to a small level operated water pump that still does its job. No problem in replacing the pump if needed, but have no intention, license, or skills to get involved with refrigerant lines. Is it a big deal to have a contractor replace the evaporator core if it comes to that? Related question, can the entire outside unit be replaced with a higher SEER unit, without replacing the evaporator, or does that have to be replaced as well? Come to think of it, can the oil burner cabinet remain when just about everything else is being replaced? Since there an electrical tie in between the oil burner cabinet and the compressor outside (i.e. controls like heat, fan only, cool, off,) while simple enough, I have had problems with contractors in my area even getting these simplistic items right as they had the side shot forced furnace blower come on when the air conditioner lighted off. It was very easy for me to rewire it correctly, but have lost much in the way of trusting contractors in my area. The air handler cabinet is simple enough with its single speed belt blower and I could care less about the humidity function or the electrostatic air filter.

    As you mentioned there has to be a point reached in which one has to deal with maintenance or replacement but lets not forget about just who is going to do the maintenance work and what confidence a homeowner has in the contractor who is doing the task. I believe, that in my area, there are very few competent heating/cooling contractors because of their performance in the past. I could be way off base here, but all I know is what happened previously. With the exception of one guy whom I trusted (and unfortunately he died) I am sort a scared to present even routine maintenance tasks to the run of the mill hacks that have been in my home. To be sure, I believe the installation of a complete system would present no problem for them but even the slightest item out of the ordinary just might throw them for a loop.

    Tom, you are the only one that has ever stated and gave reasons why the Williamson five in one Burner is still a viable burner. Not one, again not one, service contractor has ever came into my home and not given me the usual talk about "you are foolish not to replace that dated unit". Like I said in a previous post, I wish we were neighbors!
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    The evaporator must be matched to not only the compressor size but the type of refrigerant used. So, upgrading the compressor would likely require replacing the evaporator as well.
  13. Scup

    Scup New Member

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    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    Thanks Jim, I sort of figured that was the case. I finally got through to a couple of suppliers of dual fiberglass oil tanks. Other than a kid with a 22, they should do their job long after I am gone. None gave me a price, not even a list price. Got the usual are you a licensed heating contractor! I had really thought that conduct went out long ago, but I guess not. I was not even looking for a discount since I am going to have to pay list for it in any event when I hire a contractor. One could go into Home Depot and order out a single wall metal oil tank without any problem whatsoever other than they do not carry the double wall fiberglass ones. There was no way I intended to install an oil tank but I have to have some idea of what ball part they are running in to determine if oil should be scrapped or perhaps it deserves further consideration. Most of the supply houses in my area will sell to a homeowner but have a scaled pricing favoring contractors. I am fine with that but that is not the case concerning oil tanks. Therefore, oil is out, because they do not even wish to talk to me.

    I looked up on the CTDEEP web site as to what contractors have to go through, including oil delivery men, and I do find it very scary. What a mess if an oil delivery is made to a wrong house with a full tank and a small spill occurs. Sorry Tom, but after reconsidering that I am living in CT, with the liability of having any kind of oil products stored on my property, including anyone even changing out his car's engine oil, makes me scared to go your route even though it makes a lot of sense to me.

    I have had a run in with the CT authorities concerning a British made underwater transducer that contained four ounces of oil sealed within its housing. I was tasked to help the Brits out by allowing them to have their sonar equipment tested at a Naval facility since the brits simply do not have the capabilities we have. It was sort of a good will scenario between two friendly nations. I got stopped dead in my tracks by the environmental crowd. Was not allowed to place the sealed transducer in the water to be tested because of the four ounces of oil it contained. I asked the Brits is it critical as to the type of oil used; they maintained just about any oil would work including castor oil. Flushed out the oil in the transducer and replaced it with four ounces of castor oil I purchased at a drug store. Resealed the unit and still could not gain permission to test the transducer. If I am living in a state that considers four ounces of castor oil in a sealed housing to be dangerous, then an oil fired heater is no longer a viable option for me.

    Stonington is a coastal commercial fishing town, and commercial fishing is rapidly ebbing away. When boarded, the very first thing checked is always the bilge as they look for any trace of diesel oil.

    I might still end up being the only one in CT having a tankless Williamson 5 in 1 oil unit, as I still need the air conditioning, the air handler for the wood furnace, and its air filters. There could be some resistance base board wall heaters included to satisfy code living requirements as even that would not be that costly considering the amount of time they would be in use. Besides, it is about time I did something to lower the tax assessment of my property as going from oil heat to electrical resistance heating has got to lower it.

    I am definitely not upset with all the time you guys spent on me, as I really appreciated it, but I suspect I am probably getting upset in realizing that Connecticut is a very poor choice for those wishing to retire.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  14. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    1. I would ask your local oil supplier.

    2. You can put an above-ground tank in cheaper. Because it is above ground, the requirements are not as stringent. You could have a 200 gallon high aspect ratio tank in the garage with fill pipes through the garage wall. I know somebody who did that in CT. She had to have the the below-ground tank filled with dirt. She anticipated that that method of taking the underground tank out of service might not be allowed in the future, so she did it sooner. I don't know if that was based on then-future regulations coming into force on a schedule or whether it was more proactive than that. Anyway, she was planning to sell, and somehow the sales process might have been harder with the in-ground oil tank.
  15. Scup

    Scup New Member

    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    The first tank I had was an in ground tank. It never leaked, but like the lady you mentioned, I did not wish to fool around with it.

    The professionals came and did do a good job in getting it out of there. Actually they got it out in less than hour and a couple strong men just carried it out to their truck. There was not an option to leave the tank in the ground and fill it with sand. The tank was carted away and there were additional, but expected, charges to get rid of the remaining sludge contained within the tank. Another requirement was to have several soil samples taken and then tested for oil. A building inspector was called to witness how the testing was performed. Everything came back negative, and I filed the results with the town's hall of records. If the soil samples had come back positive, i.e. that there had been an oil leak, I have no idea of what would have then happen nor would I even like to think about it.

    The garage idea is a good one, but my garage is detached and around 75 feet away from the house. Really do not care for the idea of buried oil lines either!

    The use of oil heat had its time and it served me well in the past, but living now in CT, any oil storage is now a liability. I do understand the mental state of the woman you mentioned in your thread.
  16. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    1.5-2-ton mini-split, $4.5-5K, 80% efficiency propane wall-furnace $2-3K, sounds about right to me.

    Not all mini-splits are created equal, especially at 0F or lower outdoor temps- what model was quoted?

    Even the smallest wood stoves have well over 10,000BTU/hr of output- most of the tiny ones are good for 25K, so don't underestimate them as a no-power backup.
  17. Scup

    Scup New Member

    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    Thanks Dana,

    Actually, maybe I was really unfair to the contractor who visited me, since when he looked over my existing heating system, he threw in so many options at me, which I suspected was just suggestions, with ball park figures and with no mention of specific named products. The contractor probably correctly read exactly what I really wanted, rough estimates as to what options may exist for me. I never mentioned my budget (not sure why since in my field, SONAR, I would be at a lost to even provide rough estimates without specific funding availability).

    Since, after having read and adsorbed all the informational threads provided on this post, I have to admit I probably should not have wasted the contractor's time until I had become more gelled in my mind as to what I wanted and what I could afford. Basically, I have become overwhelmed at the number of heating/cooling options possibilities, and I am still not completely firmed up yet as to which way to proceed.

    There was even another option thrown out by the contractor that I dismissed because of its very high initial cost that I have never even mentioned on this post. Cannot recall the ball park estimate but it was somewhere around 28K, for a geothermal heat pump. I did ask "why so high" and he replied you would require a dedicated drilled well, and piping to and from such. Still remember going outside and pointing to a drilled well 75 feet from my home that came up with a recovery rate of around a gallon per HOUR, so it was capped off 35 years ago as a worthless 180 foot drilled hole. He seemed to think the well would be fine, but cannot recall how much that would reduce the estimate by or even if this type of installation is really practical in the northeast since I know of no one who has ever had one installed.

    There is also a problem with acid water in CT as other than stainless fittings or plastic piping, metals simply do not seem to hold up very well. My home's water supply required a PH tank to reduced the acidic affects or my plumbing would have been in shambles by now. Even with the PH tank, any copper piping prior to the tank (high acid water), including some high Zinc content PEX fittings have had problems. Not sure even if my concerns are valid concerning a geothermal heat pump, as I have no idea of what goes down into the well or if water with a PH level of 6.2 would play havoc with such a system. I did wonder about if things could ever freeze up, having a failure in which such a system could flood out the house, and if I would need a plumber on call, in addition to HVAC guy to repair/maintain the system.

    In any event, when the contractor departed, I was definitely confused and I am sure he knew it. Still we departed on good terms. I definitely could pay him a visit this time around as he knows about what I have, and with the heating/cooling workup sheet provided by the power company in hand, get some specific specs as to suitable systems, types, makes, models, ball park costs, and exactly what is to be done (i.e. removal of old units, as the Williamson is really one massive two part unit) etc. I am sure the costs have risen somewhat since the old estimates, and there would have to be some miner ductwork needed to tie it into the existing system. The low ball system he mentioned, a single mini split coupled with propane was actually a turn off for me since even then I knew a single mini split unit could have never fulfilled either the cooling or heating required. However, he did cover quite a large range of options of which now some of them seemed to have been more reasonable than originally thought.

    Dana, I was surprised at your comment of the BTUs per hour rating of a small wood stove. I looked up the specs of an old Energy Harvester I purchased from a friend that was made the early eighties. It's rating is 4,000 to 50,000 BTUs! I only installed in a fireplace because I did not want to soot up the new fireplace that never been fired off. The stove came with a screen that would fit where the door was so we could look at the flames. Probably a horrible efficiency being operated that way but when ready for bed, the screen came off and the door was closed.

    To install it, I just removed the legs, and set it inside of a fireplace on four bricks (it was too tall to fit otherwise), removed the damper, and shot a 6" metal flue right up through the existing masonry flue and out the very top of the outside chimney. The stove is sort of half in and half out of the fireplace but level with its front resting on the hearth. I insulated the damper area as best as I could, and again only used it as a functional decorative item.

    One of my concerns in heating my home is what would happen during a power outage, say like the non blizzard we had a couple of days ago where the outside temperature dropped into the single digits. I was shying away from a heat pump because of the hefty emergency electric generator requirements operating under these conditions. As you pointed out, I already have a passive emergency heater in place that I never really considered viable. I also noted that directly above the wood stove at the highest point in the cathedral ceiling is a massive return vent which means that by just powering up the air handler some of the wood stove's heat could be ducted to the entire house. I never dreamed that the small Energy Harvester would have the same rating as my wood furnace. Even without any electrical backup power, I now think by using the downstairs furnace as a gravity unit, with upstairs harvester fired off, I am probably far better off in an emergency than I have ever imagined.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2014
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