My bill has never been higher!!

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by BlakeStone, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. BlakeStone

    BlakeStone New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    PA
    Please help me out here. I did TONS of research to see what my equipment puts out in wattage and was even on another forum. I like to get a 2nd opinion here. Here's my scenario:

    I have ONE ROOM that I want to heat. My SMALL living room. I have been using baseboard heating since I got the house 18 years ago. When winter comes, its expensive. So, I decided to try infra-red. Ever since I put it in, my heating bill has been going up and up. But then again - its a very cold winter! So I want to know - if its the new heater causing it, or the cold weather.

    The specs:
    My home is kind of old. Was built in the early 70s. It has a 10 foot baseboard heater. Upon research, I see that the average is 225 watts per foot. So that makes this heater 2250 watts.

    My infra-red heater is 1500 watts. Its only used in the living room, and we have a heavy blanket covering the entrance way into the dining room, so the only room being heated by this device is the living room.

    So - is it more expensive to run this infra-red heater? Or should I keep using the baseboard heater. In the other forum I asked this in they were talking about heat distribution methods, and BTUs, and more. Does this really factor in? I just want a 2nd opinion. Help me save money!

    Thanks!!!!
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,270
    Location:
    IL
    If the baseboard heater is electric, the portable infrared heater should be cheaper to run. The reason is that you can point the infrared heater at you , and the heating that occurs when the IR hits your skin and clothes should make you feel OK at a lower room temperatures.

    So I think it is the temperature, the wind, and maybe the electricity rates that are probably making the difference.

    It could also be that you have other loads that have increased consumption elsewhere in the house.
  3. BlakeStone

    BlakeStone New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    PA
    Reach4--> How would that be a reason? Pointing the heater at you? I'm not talking about warmth, i'm talking about cost. Its comfortable with the infra-red heater going, but our bill is over $100 more than running the electric. So.... I was wondering if it was the weather causing the raise in price, or the new infra-red we put in. Seems the infra-red, when being used, is active 24/7. With baseboard heating, since its also on a thermostat, only comes on when it dips below what the thermostat says.

    So.... Which is cheaper? Not sure.
  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,270
    Location:
    IL
    I presumed both devices are thermostatically controlled and are not simply full-on or full off. So you would set these things according to how you felt. Since you now say "Seems the infra-red, when being used, is active 24/7", then that changes things. That seems just odd to have the heater lit up 24/7. Is that what you really meant?

    I was presuming that you were using one or the other. If you are comparing running both vs just the electric baseboard heaters, then that would be different.

    So as it is, there are too many variables and unknowns.
  5. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,849
    Location:
    01609
    Radiant heaters and baseboard operate at the same efficiency, and if maintaining the room at a specific temp the operational cost will be identical. You can be more comfortable at a lower temp with radiant heaters than with baseboards, but unless you actually run the room at a lower temp, there is no savings.

    A house built in the early 1970s typically leaked gobs of air, and had single-pane windows. It's worth adding tight low-E storm windows over any rooms that you intend to heat, and air-sealing the home. The Larson low-E storm windows sold through box stores at about $180/window are OK, but it's worth the upcharge for the "Silver" series since they're more air tight. Air sealing just one room as opposed the whole house can't be done as piecemeal as with window improvements, since you have convective currents within the whole house affecting things, and you could easily spend a couple of grand on professional air sealing and still only barely affect the heating cost of just one tiny zone.

    The biggest bang/buck in the short term would be to install a high efficiency ductless air source heat pump (aka "mini-split"), which will cut your annual heating bill by about 2/3. A typical 3/4 ton Mitsubishi or Fujitsu will run about $2.5-3K if 100% professional installation, but under $2K as a mostly-DIY with a couple hundred for paying a pro to do the final refrigerant-charge & testing.

    The output of one of these units at +5F is about 11,000 BTU/hr running at it max speed, which is about the same output as 3200 watts of radiant or baseboard, but it'll be using only about 1500W under that outdoor temps (an advantage of about 2:1) if running full speed. But since they automatically modulate their speed and get DRAMATIC efficiency improvements at less than full speed you'll average about 3.5:1 over the course of the heating season in your climate, and more than 4:1 in the shoulder seasons.

    If you take the mini-split approach you'll be able to heat more space, and keep it warmer, and the more space you're heating the more worthwhile it is to tighten up the house and improve the insulation & windows. Replacement windows almost NEVER pay off, but storm windows do, and pay off faster if the storm has a hard-coat low-E coating. And a low-E storm window over a single-pane double hung performs as well or better than a code-min replacement window, at about half the installed price.
  6. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,176
    Location:
    Maine
    1500 watts is 1500 watts no matter how it gets there. Electric heaters, all electric heaters are 100% efficient. The only way one would cost more to run than another is if the fan in the unit uses more electricity than the other one.

    You should try the tea light candle / flower pot heater LOL
  7. jacobsond

    jacobsond DIY Junior Member

    Messages:
    59
    Location:
    ND
    Does it make a difference how cold its been YES. Does it make a difference how many BTUs it takes to heat or cool a room YES. With electric watts is watts. Your base board has more watts so it will run less to maintain your temp. An In-fared heater is harder to control with a thermostat. I personally don't like the in-fared. Now will that make your bill higher or lower hard to figure. Have you checked your electric rates recently have they gone up? A KILL A WATT meter you can plug into your portable in-fared and find out how much your using.You can get your electric rates from your electric bill.You will have to compare average temp and heating days with both types of heat. That will be hard to do. Thats why heating pros do a heat load calculation per room with known averages. That is where all this BTU stuff comes into play. Now if you really want to talk about your bill being higher try 200 gal of propane in one month @ 2.60 per gal when the previous month the price was $1.90 per gal. Now that's sticker shock. I think today's price is still almost 3.00. I have 3 electric baseboards running now with a couple of the portable oil filled rads to make the propane boiler not run so much. Electric rate here .07 its a lot cheaper than propane. Its been more than -10F every night here for more than 16 days in a row. Higher cost of energy colder weather this year makes for a heavy hit in everyone's wallet.
  8. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,167
    Location:
    Houston, TX

    LOL, that is funny but it boils down to comfort level and a tea light candle can help.

    A infra-red will provide a better comfort level than a baseboard heater if you are in front of it.

    A baseboard heater requires the whole room to be heated to get the same comfort level.

    Tom tells it like it is. 1500 watts is 1500 watts. They will both heat the room at 100% efficiency, but the comfort level may let you turn the t-stat down, if the infra-red is pointing / directed at you.


    Have fun.
  9. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,849
    Location:
    01609
    Electric watts in a heat pump are leveraged, all resistance heaters are essentially the same, if you're maintaining the room at the same temperature.

    Radiant cove heaters operated under occupancy sensor control with a line-thermostat limiter can be pretty good at minimizing power used to heat intermittent-use rooms, while still providing comfort as it's coming up to temp.

    jacobsond: I haven't seen local propane prices under $3/gallon in years, but we've seen local spikes north of $5/gallon. If you weren't locating in the midst of the frack you'd be seeing a whole other side of heating with propane. I'd take your average outdoor temps at $2.60/gallon over mine at the current average of $3.80 in my neighborhood, with low-volume users paying well north of $4. Last time we saw $1.90 propane here was in 2005. But even at $4/gallon propane, heating with resistance electricity is still significantly more expensive than heating with propane in most of New England, whereas heating with mini-split heat pumps is comparable to heating with natural gas. Residential electricity rates in most of the NE are about 2x that of ND, and slightly ahead of BlakeStone's PA.

    But even $1.90 propane is more dramatically expensive than heating with ductless air source heat pumps, even in your neighborhood. At ND's ~8 cents/kwh residential rates, heating with resistance heaters is about the same as heating with 85% efficiency propane boilers @ 1.90 gallon anyway. Heating a zone with with a Mitsubishi MSZ-FE18NA (or MSZ-FH18NA, now that they've been released) or a Fujitsu AOU-15RLS2H the operating cost at -10F outdoor temps would be half that. Either of those delivers about 15,000 BTU/hr @ -15F, delivering a COP of 1.8 at full speed at that temp (the -FHxxNA is probably hitting a COP of 2.0 at -15F at full speed), and they will do even better during those heat waves when you're nosing into positive digits .
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Forum Title Date
HVAC Heating & Cooling Need help with high gas bill. May 1, 2007

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