Hydronic system overhaul

Discussion in 'Boiler Forum' started by onelostsoul, Apr 18, 2014.

  1. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    I have been lurking here just as a way to educate myself. Thank you all for providing all this wealth of information for us laymen.

    I live in an old house in New Hampshire which is heated with methods and equipment more suitable to the 1960s than to the 2010s. The primary heat system is an oil-fired Peerless cast iron boiler (rated at 140K BRU). DHW hangs off it stored in a 40 gallon tank. There are three high-temp zones (baseboard) and two lower-temp zones (radiant). The house is complicated. It has two parts. First part consists of main floor with two rooms and a bathroom. There are three small bedrooms up top and a bathroom and a finished basement underneath. The basement has a small studio apartment, a bathroom and the utility room housing the before mentioned Peerles cast-beast. The construction is old 2x4 walls. The cavities are bat insulated where I have remodeled (about half the main floor and the attic) and acorn shells and dead squirrels in the rest of the wall. The windows everywhere are new - double or triple glazed. Second part of the house (the east wing of the palace) used to be a barn that was converted at some point into living space. There is a two story tall (with a loft) main floor and a second walk out basement - finished containing an office. The wall cavity is well insulated (I had foam sprayed in from the inside two years ago) but there is massive fenestration. Double pane mostly but of older vintage. Multiple stairs all over the place. 7 exterior doors - this kind of thing. A total of about 3300 square feet of conditioned space.

    I also have two wood stoves which I can crank at will (and did a lot this winter) that can heat everything except the basement spaces.

    This winter was harsh in the North East and prompted me into action. I burned through a lot of oil despite running the woodstoves a lot. About 5500 dollars worth of it plus about 3 cords of wood. I am now contemplating an overhaul of the heating system.

    The stand-by losses of the boiler are horrendous. The utility room is always very hot. There is a lot of short-cycling going on during the winter. Plus - it is all or nothing.

    Solar is out due to the shading from the forest on the south side.

    I have been looking at geo-thermal water to water systems. I do not have a well and will have to have a driller put in a couple of vertical bores. The cost of this alone (for a 5-ton system) is going to be about 15K (based on a couple of bids I have in hand). And it piles up from there. The cost of the whole system will probably come in at 20K+ after the rebates.

    Cheaper option (about third of the cost of the geothermal) would be replacing the peerless with something more efficient (like the 60K Triangle Tube propane boiler). THis will probably eliminate the stand-by losses and tighten up efficiency but then in March propane was the most expensive fuel to heat your house with in the North East. We do not have natural gas here which is significantly cheaper.

    Alternatively - an air-to-water heat pump - either the mitsubishi or the fujitsu. However these shut down at -15 F. I can run the wood-stoves but it is a problem if I am away from the house for a couple of days. This is a problem in NH.

    Or - probably the cheapest fix - is to leave the peerless in place and install a hybrid electrical DHW heater. This will allow me to shut down the boiler in the summer and have the DWH recapture the stand-by loss during the heating season. I am leaning towards the Airgenerate 66 gallon model. (It is quieter than the competition and this is important since it will be somewhat closer to a sleeping space). Cost of electricity is high - about 15 c/ kWh.

    Thoughts?
  2. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    System 2000.
  3. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

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    Location:
    New Hampshire
    You know - I had a System 2000 in my previous house. It worked quite well and reliably. Isn't new technology better though? Condensing, modulating, curve-resetting Harry Potter thing-o-magic? Technological advances and all that?
  4. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    Yea, but condensing oil boilers are only going to be marginally better than a system 2000 if at all and that's because in order for the condensing to occur (giving maximum efficiency) the radiation has to be such that a fairly wide delta t be maintained from feed to return. Your current system is designed to operate at between 180 and 200 degree water temperatures. So, the system 2000 running at 87% and being a low mass, fast recovery boiler will give you the most bang for the buck. Now that's without surveying the system and doing a manual J on your house which is always a good place to start. PM me and let me know where in NH. You are. I'm probably not far from you.
  5. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    I am working on the manual J. It takes a while to gather all the data for a New England house that has been added on for about 150 years :)

    After reading what the regulars had to say on the subject of high-mass/ low-mass radiation, I think that for a condensing boiler to work, I will need to replace the AL-fin baseboard with higher mass radiators. This will give me a reasonable chance to step down the water temperature that flows through the pipes.

    The cheapest way for me to do if I did this will be to do a single pipe series loop for the radiators:

    [​IMG]

    While this presents the problem with the diminishing temperature towards the end of the loop, it may be a benefit to the boiler operation since the return will be colder and thus closer to the boiler condensing temperature. ( it also presents me with the opportunity to place my least favorite child in the coldest bedroom). Is this correct?

    Also - where is the sweet spot for the supply side temperature for radiators (of the Buderus Solidoflux ilk) - 120F? 130F? 150F?

    Thanks.
  6. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Any zones that you can heat with a cold climate ductless heat pump (Mitsubishi M-series or Fujitsu Halcyon XLTH multi- & mini-splits) would only cost half as much as heating it by burning oil in a System 2K.

    Moving to propane is pointless- it has a comparable or higher per-BTU cost to oil in most New England locations.

    A 3/4 ton cold-climate mini-split would almost surely carry the load of the basement studio. Any zone you're heating mostly with a wood stove could be heated with a mini-split too (for less than the delivered price of seasoned cord wood.) They run at nearly the efficiency of a best-practices geothermal, but cost a heluva lot less up front. You could buy 5 cold-climate mini-splits for $20K, installed, but that would probably have 2-3x the capacity of your actual heat load. (It would be half that cost if you are up for a mostly-DIY installation.) You can probably cut your heating bill in half with three ductless heads, keeping the existing oil-boiler for backup, and for the zones too remote from the ductless heads to work. For less than your drilling costs you'd have at least most of it covered.

    A Daikin Altherma air-to-water heat pump would likely still be able to efficiently heat your low-temp hydronic zones, at least down to +10F to +15F or so (colder if they are radiant slabs), and can heat your hot water too.

    Pellet boilers would come in less than the cost of geothermal, and would have an intermediate operating cost.

    I'm not sure what the R-value of squirrel fur and acorn shells is, but I'm sure you could do better squirting some cellulose in there, which would also cut down on infiltration. At $3.50/gallon getting semi-serious about weatherization is cost-effective.

    Spending any money on new oil burners isn't money well-spent- oil is dead as a heating fuel.

    The short course on why oil heating has no future can be summed up in two pictures:

    [​IMG]

    The world supply of oil is fairly inelastic to the price at the current levels. Anybody who can make a buck at $100/bbl oil is already drilling as fast as they can, and opening up drilling on public lands in the US won't much change the world supply (and thus price), only which hole in the ground it's coming out of.

    ...and...

    [​IMG]


    Oil use in emerging markets (primarily India and China) will soon overtake that of the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the OECD (== most of the industrialized world) countries combined.

    Oil production simply can't be expanded at nearly the rate of the worldwide increase in demand, and it's highly unlikely that the OECD countries (particularly USA), would be able reduce consumption at a rate fast enough to keep a lid on oil prices going forward for more than another 5 years, even if we got SERIOUS about it. In less than a decade the emerging market countries will be essentially holding all of the oil cards, not just half the deck like they are today (or the pair of queens and a one-jack they held back in 1980.) If those countries still want the amount of oil most analysts THINK they will in 2025, anybody with an oil-fired boiler is going to be paying the piper more they have been over the past 5 years.

    A new oil boiler in Y2014 has a good 20-30 year life ahead of it, but last year's oil prices are probably going to look on the cheap side going forward. I'm sure we'll see $3 oil again, and we'll see $5 oil, but until soccer moms from Botswana to Bangalore to Beijing go back to walking their kids to the games, you won't pay any less for heating oil than what they are willing to pay for motor fuel. Propane prices have always tracked heating oil prices, so unless you expect the gas grid to expand into your neighborhood, heat pumps and biomass boilers are your better options.
  7. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Thanks Dana. I concur that oil is a dead end.

    Here is the Manual J calculation for my place - room by room with installed capacity for reference:

    Capture.JPG

    The current boiler is over 3X oversized and so is the installed baseboard. Experience bears this out. The office heats up very quickly. I can ostensibly run 120 degree water through this baseboard but I am not sure how well convection works at a lower water temperature.

    The thing that gives me pause on the air-source heat pump is that they seem to lose efficiency very steeply below 5F. My design condition is -3F. I would also have to lean pretty heavily on the electrical grid. Which - given that I cannot install solar at this place - makes me think "great - now I am burning coal instead of oil".

    I think that an appropriately sized efficient propane boiler can carry a 40Kbtu load better than the combination of an air source heat pump and the current oil-hogging rig.
  8. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    120 degre water doesn't do well and greatly decreases the efficiency of the emitters. Propane is the last thing you want to rely on. Propane is a derivitive of the refining process and will always be more expensive than oil plus it delivers only about 2/3rd the btu per gallon of heating oil.. Electric costs in NH are among the highest in the nation and we are just not at the point where electric heat of any kind is going to bea viable solution. Air source heat pumps are fine units but they either need to be ducted which is an expensive proposition or you need a few of them to distribute the heat around the home. Dana has made his opinion of oil pretty clear but believe me, oil will be around for at least another 30 years or so and your situation is the reason why. Seriously, look into a system 2000. It will most likely cut your fuel bill by 30% regardless of the cost of oil and it will give you limitless hot water too.

    Read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/b...-coal-use-predicted-to-keep-growing.html?_r=0
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2014
  9. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Relying on the grid even at a coefficient of performance (COP) of 2 in NY is a lot cleaner than 87% efficiency oil. The coal fraction of the ISO-NY grid is smaller than you think, and has been rapidly shrinking in the face of natural gas that is cheaper on a per-BTU basis, and combined cycle powerplants are running nearly double the efficiency (and far better ramp times) than legacy coal. As of Y2012 the fully dispatchable &/or metered utility-scale sources looked like this:

    [​IMG]

    http://www.nyiso.com/public/about_nyiso/importance_of_reliability/powering_new_york/index.jsp

    The 1/3 of the pie covered by nukes hydro & renewables is essentially zero-carbon and zero sulfur. More than half the gas fraction is combined cycle plants running at 50% or better thermal efficiency (compared to the high 20s to low 30% range for thermal coal.) The oil fraction is primarily low capacity-factor peakers that they fire up mostly in the summer to manage air conditioning peaks.

    The pie doesn't show the distributed solar fraction behind the ratepayer's meter, but it's in the low single-digits of the total now and should hit well into double digits within the lifecycle of a heat pump or boiler.

    The oil & gas peakers have been losing capacity factor (essentially the fraction of hours they run) to both PV solar and "demand response" programs, where utilites pay ratepayers with loads they are willing to turn off during absolute grid power draws to actually turn them off. (Some of that is now automated, controlled by the ISO NY grid operator, some requires day-ahead forecasting and contractual manual shut-down.) The 2012 pie could use some updating to reflect how the grid is really being powered in 2014, but it will change pretty dramatically by 2020.

    Current generation cold climate ductless mini-splits run at a COP of 2.0 @ -13F, and will seasonally average better than 3.0 over a heating season anywhere in NY (except the top of the Adirondacks.) Ducted versions start crapping out pretty badly on both capacity and efficiency at +10F or so.

    From Tom's referenced article:

    "The report predicted that the increase in United States production would contribute to a decline in the world oil benchmark price over the next few years to $92 a barrel in 2017 from a 2012 average of $112 a barrel, which should translate into lower prices at the pump for consumers."

    BFD

    At $92/bbl you might get see $3/gallon heating oil (in your dreams), but that's still more than 1.5x the cost per BTU of a mini-split averaging a COP of 3. The price (WTI Cushing in the US) has been averaging in the mid to high $90s in 2013 & 2014, and you can see what a bargain heating oil has been. A 5-10% shift in the price isn't going to change the financial analysis much. It would likely take a crude price of $75 to actually see $3 heating oil.

    At a delivered residential per-kwh price of 22 cents (the NY state average for February 2014) a mini-split averaging a COP of 3 will deliver 3 x 3412= ~10,000 BTU for 22 cents, (or $22/MMBTU.)

    Ignoring the pumping & control power used by an 87% oil burner and the standby & distribution losses, the best you're going to get out of the System 2K, is 138,000BTU/gallon x 0.87= 120,000 BTU/gallon. That's the same amount of heat delivered by 12 kwh with the mini-split, at a cost of 12 x $0.22= $2.64. That means that even if oil hits $3/gallon you'll still be better off heating with the mini-split.

    Nyserda's monthy averages for heating oil show the last time oil was below $2.64/gallon was for the single month of September 2009 (getting on to 5 years ago) during the worldwide recession when oil demand slumped, and the spot price for crude in Cushing Oklahoma was $69/bbl after slowly climbing out of the severe market crash pricing of late 2008. If the world economy returns to the late 2008-2009 levels maybe you'd break even against a better class mini-split with a System 2K (but not really- that system still uses power too, not just oil, and it has more expensive maintenance than a mini-split.)
  10. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Thank you for your thoughts Tom.

    Here is how my problem looks from an operating standpoint currently:

    Capture.jpg

    We all stare at our crystal ball and try to predict the future. Domestic oil production may rise resulting in a drop in price of heating oil. Or - as Dana argues - ubiquitous solar installation can result in cheaper electrical rates.

    Personally, I am skeptical on the subject of coming oil abundance that the NY Times pundits predict. (I did read the article). The oil import deficit we have dwarfs the increase in production. Also, the new oil capacity does not come cheap. The low hanging fruit was picked last century. We are climbing into the upper branches currently. A rather bad metaphor to say that cost of additional oil production requires that you sell oil at 100 dollars. If you have to sell it at 75 dollars, you just idle the well, because you are losing money.

    Off my little soap-box and back to my concrete problem. I just got a quote from a local installer which puts the cost of the 4-ton Daikin AltherMa in the same ballpark as a geo-thermal after the rebates. I have requests out to a couple of other guys but the price has to come by at least a third from where it was quoted for this thing to be viable. Similar capacity (4 tons) of air-to-air mini-splits is about half of that quote. And the AltherMa equipment (judging it by what its retail cost in GBP is on the web) is high but not THAT high :)
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2014
  11. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    The projected drop in crude prices is relatively inconsequential- less than 10% below this year's price average. Sure, that's a savings, but not enough to make a difference. WTI Cushing is quoted at $102/bbl right now this second , and the article was projecting $92 maybe by 2017, a 10% drop (big whoopie, let's have a party).

    Don't expect electricity rates to drop, but they can't rise very much. But when PV hits $1.50/watt the lifecycle cost of that power is about 1/3 that of what New Yorkers are paying, and it becomes a no-brainer type of investment for reducing your power bill. At NH prices (and grid mix) it's cheaper still at 17 cent electricity instead of 22 cents in NY, (and even greener)- the ISO New England grid annual averages is about 1/3 nuke, 1/2 cc gas, and a growing slice of renewables, with an ever shrinking sliver of coal fired generation, some of which is scheduled to be retired by Y2017.

    I'm not sure what subsidies are available in NH for PV, but it's pretty clear that un-subsidised the price of PV will be under two bucks before 2020:

    [​IMG]

    And at 17 cents/kwh heating with ductless heat pumps it's still way cheaper than $3 oil, and half what it is $4 oil, in an 80% efficient system, which is how it would cut your heating costs to half what it currently is with your aging 3x oversized Peerless.

    And that's without getting into how soon we'll be seeing $5 heating oil- only a worldwide economic slump or some magical new cheap technology for extraction can get you there in the face of the booming car markets in Asia. (The Asian car market now exceeds that of North America- a couple of years ago China alone bought more cars than all of N.A. combined.)

    The fact that oil sourced in the US doesn't change the price of oil in the US- the world sets the price. It's great for the balance of trade to have oil sourced domestically, but it doesn't much affect how much you're paying for heating oil. A credible scenario for a sustained world price of oil below $50/bbl might be an argument for a new oil-fired boiler, but a hoped-for price of $92 in only 3 years doesn't cut it.

    A 4 ton Altherma with the domestic hot water option should be in the ~$20K range, (unless you're also adding a lot of low-temp panel radiators to be able to use it for everything at high efficiency. Reducing your load and going with cold-climate mini-splits EXCEPT the radiant floors would likely come in cheaper. (At your design temps don't go with Daikin mini-splits, it's Mitsubishi M-series or Fujitsu XLTH only.)

    If there is anybody in your area dealing with pellet boilers that is also a viable option for your heat loads.

    Geothermal is higher risk than air source heat pumps even at the same price, since the amount of design required for hitting the efficiency numbers is considerable with geo, not so much with mini-splits, and somewhere in the middle with the Altherma (which really needs low water temps to deliver both the efficiency and capacity you'd need.) There is no heating system more expensive than a "cheap" ground source heat pump installation designed & installed by a hack. For 4 tons of GSHP drilled in the Granite State you'd likely be looking at something north of $40K to get it right, at which point you'd turn in an average COP of about 4, maybe 4.5 with low-temp panel radiators replacing all of the fin-tube. If you can heat the place with a handful of 3/4-1 ton mini-splits at about $3-4.5K per spending the difference on PV (even at today's ~$3.50-4/watt PV pricing) more than makes up the difference in power use. In central MA I haven't seen a quote over $4.25/watt yet this year, (and that one was for higher-efficiency panels and a 3 phase inverter)- the mid to high $3s seems to be the going rate here- YMMV. But it'll be under $2 everywhere soon enough. Since 2008 the installed price has been dropping fairly linearly, but the price of the hardware has fallen even faster. Once the marketing/permitting/inspection gets streamlined (making a mainstream vanilla project instead of being considered exotic and green) the curve should steepen for awhile.
  12. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

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    Dana, who's selling and installing PV systems? I did a search in my area and came up with zero. I'm not saying that in the future PV will be the norm but it's going to be a few years and, skeptic that I am and having witnessed almost 60 years of broken promises and back room deals between politicians and industry I have never once seen the average guy get a break. IOW the cost of energy, any energy is a direct result of deals made behind closed doors. Somebody is going to make big profits and it ain't going to be any of us.
  13. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

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    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Thank you Dana. I appreciate the advice.

    The problem with solar where I am is that I am in the shade of the forest that my house backs up to. The analysis says - I lose 50% of production to shading as things stand. Currently I can take down 4 trees closer to my house and solve the immediate shading problems. However, I back up to preserved town land and in some point in the future the trees on it will grow tall enough to kill the installation. This couples with the fact that I can place about 10 panels on the south facing roof and facade of the house. Which gives me a maximum installed capacity of 3 kW. Realistically speaking probably will get about .7kW of production out of it.

    We are definitely looking at below $3/ watt installed on the work that is currently going up. A friend of mine got a bid at less than $2 on a 5kW system. His maybe a little too good to be true. Not all components are created equal.

    I guess I can try a combination of a small propane combi boiler for the radiant and hot water plus two mini-splits. One small one - one headed one. One bigger - will need four heads or so. I had not thought about it up until now. This probably puts me cheaper than the Altherma. It remains to be seen by how much. It hurts my inner sense of order in the universe but then so do the Kardashians.
  14. onelostsoul

    onelostsoul New Member

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    Location:
    New Hampshire
    In my neck of the woods, business is really brisk on the solar front. I think we have hit the sweet spot in terms of price (coupled with the emergency rate increase the Liberty just managed to get approved).

    We are decisively under the $3 threshold.
  15. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    PV contractors are practically falling out of trees in my neighborhood- probably in part because of the MA state renewable portfolio standard and the higher price of electricity here, and the fact that MA expressly allows third party ownership, whereas that is still a gray area for Maine.

    Under third party ownership a third party (typically a big nationwide solar installer) puts the goods on your roof in a lease arrangement &/or collects any subsidies (like the production credits auctioned off at the NEPOOL GIS ) and gives the homeowner a break on their rates, but there are multiple other options. (Maine participates in the NEPOOL SREC market too.)

    Outright ownership is usually the best deal if you don't plan to move. But in many states if you have the roof for it you can get a no-money down 20% break on your power bill just by letting a big solar company farm your roof for photons for 20 years. Owned outright it could be a greater than 50% break, but you need the cash or credit and run the net-present-value calculations to see if it works.

    In Maine there has been recent pushback by the utilities on solar around net-metering (financed by the Kochs, who not suprisingly would be looking out for their own interests), but in the end it'll either get shoved down their throat, or eventually (when storage gets sufficiently cheap) there will be grid defection and micro-gridding going on.

    I didn't find it too tough to google-up some Maine solar resources/contractors- not sure if any of them are near you:

    http://www.mainesolarenergy.com/contact.html

    http://solar.calfinder.com/rebates/Maine

    http://mainesolarengineering.com/
    \
    http://www.revisionenergy.com/maine-nh-solar-contractors-installers.php

    http://www.mainecontractordirectory.com/contractors/maine-solar-energy-companies

    What is different about PV solar compared to most other forms of power generation is that there is very little economy of scale- a large centralized PV array can't be built by a utility for a heluva lot less than the same amount of generation installed on-site by 100,000 homeowners or businesses. As long as some amount of net-metering is allowed without egregious fees for staying hooked up for the grid it's a cheaper/better way of providing generating capacity, since it solves grid-congestion and loading issues for the grid operator, and is cheaper power for the PV owner. Building a nuke or high-efficiency gas fired generator sized for a single-home's load is way beyond affordable, but with PV it's already affordable without subsidy in high-electricity price locations like Hawaii & Puerto Rico, and will be soon enough in the cheap-hydro locations like the Pacific Northwest. It's cheap enough now in Texas and Arizona too- in part due to the higher insolation, but also due to the competitiveness of the local markets driving the prices under three bucks (allegedly in the two-buck range in parts of Texas.)

    It's not quite there across New England, but in VT & MA (where it's subsidized) it's quite popular and booming. In VT the biggest utility did the math and decided that net metering was CHEAPER for them than upgrading the grid to accommodate more capacity- they will reevaluate when PV exceeds 15% of all kwh going onto their local utility grid, (eventually there will be point there might be some hardware cost to the grid operator to regulate that non-dispatchable variable power) but it won't be possible to push the genie back in the bottle and cork it. The 15% number is really the very low "no brainer" end of what the grid will tolerate without adding smarts, and even a small amount of storage on the PV owners side of the meter could make the output & load to the grid automatically more predictable. The Iowa experience with wind power says 25-30% and beyond is still probably going to be OK. PV is easier to deal with than wind power which can max out overnight when the grid loads are low, unlike PV which puts out during the traditional daylight demand (and peak demand) hours. It would be hard to imagine PV exceeding the mid-day load in any New England state, unlike CA where the utilities,regulators & grid operators are planning for it, with recently mandated grid storage targets. We'll probably be able to just burn that bridge when we come to it, but it isn't in the near future for us.

    We'll see what's available on the scalable storage end when solar in VT & MA hits 15-20% grid share. It won't be next week or even next year, but it might happen before 2025, but by then there may be a winner amongst the gaggle of cheap storage techology start-ups currently vying for market share in CA and HI against the lithium ion and flow-battery crowd. (I'd put some money on AMBRI having a good shot at a slice- they'll probably get bought up by a big storage company like ABB or a big technology company like Wanxiang, who has bought and sold lithium ion battery companies in recent years.)
  16. BadgerBoilerMN

    BadgerBoilerMN Master Hot Water Mpls,MN

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    OK, where do you buy pellet boilers? Who will install them? Who will feed them?

    I think the OP would do well with a combination system, Kardashians aside, employing mini-splits and given the loads, a combination propane condensing water heater and subsystem for potable isolation.

    I would not be without my radiant floors, but that is a different kettle of fish. The next best option would be to upgrade the pedestrian fin-tube with the high output and comfort afforded by a panel wall radiator.

    We design many heating systems in rural areas using solid fuel with propane or electric backup. I am currently working on my own office/shop and intend to use PV to power some lighting and all circulator--so I don't have to use the anti-freeze everybody insists on...
  17. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

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    Location:
    The granite state
    He's already running a couple of wood stoves so he might be open to a pellet boiler or a wood fired boiler as the primary source but the issue there are the high temperatures that wood boilers generally run at which in addition to low temperature radiation for a condensing back up....... Seems like a lot of expense and trouble. I would steer well clear of propane for anything other than running a cook stove or a grill. The price of LP is high and likely to go much higher along with shortages and distribution problems that have plagued that industry for the past couple of years. Add the lower heat content derived from LP and I just don't see any advantage, especially in New Hampshire. Same goes for electric costs. We have some of the highest rates in the country and I doubt like hell they will ever go down. They may stabilize but they will never lower significantly. I have no issue with mini-splits either except they require a pretty open concept or you need to install either multiples or one's that can service multiple outlets. You can duct them too but you need a wad o cash to afford that installation. especially in an older home. PV sounds good on paper but I'm not seeing a whole lot of action there, especially on the residential front. A lot of folks object to having their roof covered with panels. The installation cost is high and the technology is constantly improving and changing which makes making that investment somewhat dicey especially if your system is going to be obsolete in five years. Despite the nay sayer's, fuel oil will be around for at least another 30 years or so and while the price is likely to go up, the price of everything also will rise. Run the numbers. Last year he burned up $ 5,500.00 in oil. A System 2000, oil fired will run about 8 grand installed and save him about 30%. That's about a 5 year ROA which is pretty damn good. Everything else proposed here is at least 20 grand and probably twice that with an ROA of a couple of decades and depreciation and maintenance. We recently did an annual service on a System 2000 that I personally installed 32 years ago and it looks and runs like it was installed yesterday. Still has all of the original components and is still cranking at 87% combustion efficiency. The money those folks have saved over the years is now in the thousands compared to the old Weil McLain that I replaced.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
  18. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    01609
    Valid questions both.

    In woodsy New England there is a thriving timber industry, and pellet fuel has been generally available in this region for decades. Some people getting caught short this year by the unusually cool weather (just like the gas-grid operators and propane vendors did), since the big box store home centers (a common source for many) stopped ordering & stocking pellets before the end of the cold weather. There are many pellet dealers who will deliver in multi-ton loads if you have the storage space. Pellet stoves have been flying off the shelves ever since the first time heating oil hit four bucks and propane broke three- the fuel is around, and it's a growing business here.

    The pellet boiler sales & support are the critical question here, which is why I posited as "iIf there is anybody in your area dealing with pellet boilers ...". There are stable companies handling pellet boilers in New England, but it's not so mainstream that I would assume any random location in NH would have a suitable vendor nearby.

    In MA (which had a rebate program for pellet boilers up until last year) there are several places to buy pellet boilers, and even conversion systems for oil boilers. Many of these companies are also in the oil & propane boiler biz, and sell the all fuels too.

    http://www.ecoheatsolutions.com/contact.html

    http://www.crowleyfuel.com/wood-pellets/pellergy/
    http://www.crowleyfuel.com/blog/bid/289600/Windhager-Pellet-Boilers

    http://www.sandri.com/renewable-energy/wood-pellet-equipment/
    http://www.sandri.com/renewable-energy/wood-pellet-boilers/

    Most of the pellet boilers selling in MA are European imports, and definitely not cheap- figure on $10K-12K min for just the hardware, but probably not more than $20K (installed) in an oil-boiler swap-out. You can buy a lot o' mini-split for $20K, but a mini-split won't heat your floors.

    nhmaster3015: "We have some of the highest rates in the country and I doubt like hell they will ever go down."

    So what?

    I showed the math in a prior post- even at New York's 22 cent electricity (a nickel higher than the Granite State average) a mini-split in that climate is like heating with $2.64 oil in an 87% burner, not even counting the electricity cost for the oil burner OR the distribution losses.

    At the NH average price of 17 cents/kwh it's like heating with $2/gallon oil in an 87% burner.

    That's a half-price heating energy deal. What is the narrative that shows electricity hitting 34 cents, or oil droppping to $2 on a sustained basis?

    If you simply don't believe a ductless air source heat pump actually delivers a COP of 3 in this climate I can point you to third party in-situ test data on 10 prior-generation (and lower efficiency than current model) Mitsubishi that averaged a seasonal COP of 2.96 in a climate comparably cool as northern VT. (It's a 200+ page document though.) Even a COP of 2 at 17 cents /kwh would beat 87% oil at $3.50.
  19. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,167
    Location:
    Maine
    I do believe but selling them is a whole different ball of wax. A lot of folks don't want the air handler hanging off the living room wall and a lot don't like the noise or the air movement and, a lot of homes in this area are capes and ranches and not very open in concept so getting the heat evenly distributed is an issue. Let's not forget that they all come with air conditioning too which while some may be thrilled with the cooling aspect, others neither need or want cooling. I sell a lot of Fujitsu units but most go in commercial buildings. Low ceilings also make the air handler stand out like a sore thumb and don't even get me started on the cost and hassle of installing the ducts units in an older home. Good idea if you can sell it and live with it but I'm not seeing a rush of folks knocking my door down to have one installed. I think you tend to cater to folks with a whole lot of money in their pockets or lots of credit. I find the average customer isn't willing to lay out 20 thousand plus for a retrofit heating system. Like I said, oil may be on its way out but for many in the northeast it is pretty much the only viable option. He would pay off a system 2000 in 5 years or less. Hard to beat that.
  20. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,831
    Location:
    01609
    I get that there's a number of marketing issue with ductless heat pumps. It's not as if fin-tube baseboards or fat old radiators are things of beauty either- it's a matter of what you're used to. But I'd hazard that most folks in New England have no clue what a mini-split is- there are reasons beyond mere aesthetics that they aren't breaking down your door to buy them.

    Ceiling & mini-duct cassettes work for some (albeit at a slight efficiency & capacity hit compared to the wall mounted coils.) The Mitsubishi M-series multi-splits have lots of options, but not the highest-efficiency MSZ- FHxxNA single heads. You'd have to settle for a seasonal COP of only 2.7-2.8 if going with only ceiling & mini duct cassettes, compared to the ~3.2 you'd get with an MSZ-FH12NA, but it doesn't have to be a surface-mounted head-banger type ceiling cassette- there are flush mounted versions that can fit between 2x10 joists.

    The better class mini-splits are quieter than your refrigerator these days- the noise issue is overblown. Even the older mini-splits are quieter than most ducted hot air furnace systems. The air movement when running at max can be a issue if the head isn't optimally placed, and optimal placement isn't always feasible.

    Badger's tiny propane mod-con (or condensing propane hot water heater) + mini-splits solution wouldn't be too bad. If he's on a cheaper municipal lighting company with lower rates (not sure if those exist in NH anymore) a combination of electric boiler + mini-splits might even work. Depends on the actual (rather than the state average) price of electricity. (In MA there are people paying 12 cents, others paying 22- it varies a lot here, not sure about NH.) Alternatively controlling a radiant floor temp with floor thermostats and an electric boiler while controlling the room temp with a mini-split can be a lot cheaper than heating with 87% efficiency oil too, but not as cheap to run as a ductless-only solution. (The higher the floor temp the more expensive it is- you'd be able to choose your efficiency/cost point.)
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