Want a warm cellar

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by capecod12, Oct 13, 2014.

  1. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    We are thinking of replacing our wonderful old King0Heat coal stove, coal on Cape Cod is dramatically going up in price.
    But grandma really hates a cold cellar, and we dont like cold floors on first floor.
    This wonderful old stove kept our cellar in the high 70 degrees F, and if we replace it, what do we need?
    http://www.jcdouglass.net/coal/coal-stove.jpg

    Looking at gas heaters, but we dont need a furnace, as we have a new Metromatic oil hot air furnace which does great for the upstairs 2 floors. But it does not heat the basement, where our laundry room, workshops and book storage, and pantry are.
    Looking at these,
    http://williamscomfortprod.com/product/vented-hearth-heateres/
    Dont want unvented things, direct vent right into our chimney which goes up thru center of our house would be OK, but we have heard that these things dont provide the great heat that a big iron coal stove gives. We have a Mendota gas fireplace and it throws out amazing heat, but they are not for cellars as they are not free standing.
    Need advice, or is nothing like a coal stove, and we should bite the $ bullet and stick with coal.
     
  2. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    The heat loads of even drafty uninsulated basements are pretty low. If it's tight and insulated (recommended) it's even better. The 20,000BTU gas-fired console heater would probably do just fine, but the heat is delivered by air with a fan that cycles on/off, not the cozy radiating heat of a coal stove.

    A smallest-in-class pellet stove or wood stove works pretty well, and may be able to use your existing flue/liner (or not), and would have the radiating heat characteristics.

    A 3/4 ton ductless mini-split heat pump works too. The mini-split can keep it up to any temp you like, but doesn't have that radiating-heat feel, but more of a "mild warm summer breeze" effect. It's not exactly the hot-air blast you might think of with a ducted hot air system- it's not nearly as loud (a good one is quieter than a refrigerator). For a Cape Cod climate not all units will work well- something like the Fujitsu AOU-9RLS or the Mitsubishi MSZ-FH09 NA would do fine though, and would cost less to run than an oil burner or a pellet stove.

    If you have a gas-fired water heater, it's possible to use it along with a l0w-temp flat-panel radiator.

    Propane is far more expensive heat than mini-splits or wood/pellets. If you're not on the gas-grid it's probably worth looking into the latter options. The mini-split is by far the most convenient- no bulk fuels to deal with, cheap to operate, and they all come with air-conditioning and dehumidification modes too.
     
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  4. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Thank you!
    We just had a nat gas line put in last year, bought a Mendota fireplace insert to replace our wood stove. And a Generac too. Its just that we are getting older and would like to not have to cut and split wood and carry coal any more, now that we have nat gas here. Looking at Williams B-vent heaters, cannot share our chimney with 2 other oil burners. Then looked at Direct Vent Rinnai heaters(wall mount, but can free-stand), thats an option, as they vent with double walled pipe thru side of house.

    But I think we are coming back to a real gas furnace such as this one,
    http://www.comfort-aire.com/residential/14-gas-furnaces/202-95-gas-furnace-
    as it is a very efficient, condensing furnace, making the exhaust and intake pipe configuration quite easy. Not dealing with our chimney sharing which would probably create draft issues.

    These furnaces are probably a bit of overkill, but there is always the option of eventually converting over to it exclusively, and discontinuing our oil fired hot air furnace, its a great one but 15 years old. A Metromatic.

    I have enjoyed doing this research, as a month ago, I knew pretty much nothing about nat gas heating. Let me know more as we have plenty of time to make up our minds. Thanks, Jane
     
  5. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    The marginal cost of heating oil per BTU is WAY over the marginal cost of natural gas in most MA markets, and that is likely to continue to be the case. The high price of oil & propane is the only thing keeping the fracking affordable, and natural gas is basically a by-product that doesn't fetch a price high enough to cover the cost of fracking if that's the only resulting product. It would take a deep worldwide recession killing off oil demand to drive the price of oil down, which then takes the already very low profit out of fracking, at which point natural gas prices would have to rise a bit to keep it going.

    It may be worth replacing the oil burner and getting rid of the tank sooner than later if you are actually using the oil furnace.

    Basements have very different heat loss characteristics than above-grade floors, and really want to be their own zone. A small wall-furnace or gas-fired woodstove could give you that nice radiating heat down there, but they aren't much cheaper than a 3/4 ton mini-split to install and operate. (I have a friend in Worcester who had a 3-family rental property heated with the small Rinnai units. They're nice, but not as quiet or even-temperature as a 3/4 ton Fujitsu or Mitsubishi.) I've seen a ski-condo heated with a direct-vented Hearthstone Tribute gas-stove that was pretty cozy-nice too, and probably about the right size, not ridiculously oversized for the heating load.

    [​IMG]

    (they come in different colors than that, if you like.)
     
  6. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Had a local contractor come today and look at the cellar and give us advice. He went for the furnace too, a Lennox EL296V. He has an excellent reputation, and will do the entire installation, my husband and son in law can do a lot of it, but I think its worth having this guy do everything. He just put a furnace in a neighbor's house last week.
    Very efficient, will not add much to the gas bill, and the coal expense will stop dead in its tracks. Its gotten extremely expensive here.
     
  7. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    What a nice looking stove! But we dont need anything as nice as that, and at some point we will indeed get rid of the oil and move the gas furnace right over to its position and hook it up there.

    Having alternate fuels is not a bad idea, as we can use more of the cheaper fuel.
    Stock market is tanking right now, so wonder what energy stocks will do. Might be a time to buy some?
     
  8. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    A 2-stage variable speed unit like the Lennox EL296V is pretty nice on comfort if it's sized correctly to the load. Hopefully the contractor will do something better than a back-of-napkin heat load calc on the place, but even if he doesn't YOU should.

    Energy stocks are more volatile than the fuel prices, and highly speculative on a long term basis. The oil majors are kind of stuck- they can make some money on tight-oil fracking at $95-100/bbl, but they sure can't at $75/bbl, and their financial backers know it. Tight-oil and even more expensive deep-water or arctic plays are all they have left- they keep figuring out ways to slurp harder on existing conventional oil fields, but even there the pumping rates are going down, and the marginal cost for that pumping is rising. If oil drops to fifty bucks and dwells there for very long some of these name-brand companies will be in very serious financial trouble, since the capital they invested in shale or deep water is in danger of becoming stranded assets- too expensive to operate profitably, but with much of the sunk costs still sitting there as debt that needs to be serviced. It might be worth a bit of speculation- the world economy may not tank, and oil demand may rise above current projections in a year or two which would send the stock prices upward, but it's a crap-shoot at best.

    Long term it's hard to see how the oil majors are going to make out. At $100/bbl there is a lot of incentive to move uses to other fuels, and even the personal automotive paradigm is poised to steer toward electric cars within 15 years, which could be enough to sink them. In a falling oil-demand lower-price scenario OPEC can still make money, but not the major oil companies. In a high-price scenario demand erosion can happen pretty fast. Even solar electricity (let alone grid-electricity from other sources) at 2014 costs are a cheaper way to drive than products refined from $100/bbl oil, and the electric vehicle battery costs are falling at a fairly good clip. At the rate that solar costs are falling solar power will be cheaper than other grid sources within 10-15 years. The risk of asset stranding seems pretty real for the oil companies long term.

    With China and India both curtailing coal imports it's probably not a safe bet to buy coal stocks at their current bargain basement prices. India can't afford the stuff with the devalued rupee, and is turning toward solar & wind (which don't require ongoing imports to run) for further grid expansion. China is running out of breathable air, and cutting back on coal, redoubling nukes and renewables. Domestically coal is under pressure from a number of fronts.

    Solar & wind stocks are highly volatile- not much security there, but in the intermediate to long run solar will likely be king. Which solar COMPANIES make it may not be clear for awhile- the industry is growing insanely fast, but with lots of casualties along the way. In the US SolarCity has been scary-prescient about innovations in the financing of solar, but they are still running in high-growth/negative profit territory and will likely be doing that for awhile. They currently own 25% of the residential rooftop market though- the top dog in the top-five pack, but that doesn't mean they can't hit a wall. First Solar has a large share of the commercial market, but again, it's a competitive low-margin fast moving business, with everyone fighting for market share, swallowing competitors, etc. But solar is becoming mainstream in high electricity cost states, and will be pretty much a commodity in most states within 10 years. Investors with iron stomachs might do OK developing a portfolio of several of the larger players that have already gone public, or buy into the IPOs of some of the rest as they come up. (Vivint is in the pack of five, and went public a couple weeks ago.)
     
  9. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Im not sure how to do the heat calculation, but he said that we had opted for more BTUs than our house would ever use. So he recommended a smaller furnace. This is the link to it below.
    We do have a big garage as part of our cellar(used to put our motorboat in it). And we added a nice big Brady sunroom, an all glass one, That thing goes up to 80 degrees on warm days in the winter if its sunny of course. In the summer, the deciduous trees shade it, so we dont bother with AC.

    With the coal stove running hot on an unusual cold day, I would turn on the oil furnace blower, and that would circulate even more heat. Im going to miss the lovely coal heat from the big stove, but at the price coal is now, its stupid to continue to burn it.

    http://www.lennox.com/products/furnaces/EL296V/

    I will show you the estimate soon as he gives it to us.

    I know I get too excited to invest when the market goes down. And understand the great information that you have brought up.
    But at my age, I try to stick with the mutual fund scene. But the good stocks I have, they have done extremely well over the years. Apple is the one I got back at day one.
    Will be careful of energy stocks, everything is so volatile nowadays.

    Thanks again,
    Jane
     
  10. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    This fairly dumb easy-to-use online load calculator is probably good enough for sizing a hot-air furnace:

    http://loadcalc.net/

    It will at least ball-park it for you.

    Don't be surprised if the high-fire output of 2-stage furnace is well above your actual heat load. As long as the lowest-fire output is something like 0.5-0.75x the heat load it's pretty good on both comfort and efficiency. If the low-fire output is 2x your heat load the efficiency is still there, but the comfort suffers a bit. (It's not terrible- no worse than your oil-fired furnace, but it's nice if you can size it to where most burns are low & long.)
     
  11. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Rather have too much heat than too little, as we are used to a nice toasty house.

    Very interesting today,,,,found out that Lennox will not let you buy parts from anybody other then them.
    So what happens when the 5 year warrantee is gone and my son in law needs to get a blower, fan, computer board, whatever, and install it. But if he cannot buy it? What is that going to do? Pay somebody labor plus the part at retail? Im not sure about this. Dont like it, if we have a part needed for our Ford or GMC, we buy it at AutoZone and put it in. We certainly do NOT go to a Ford dealer and get stung?

    This is what is holding us back at the moment, and its not addressed on the internet. But I did find this,,,,,which is also not to my liking,,,,,
    http://www.furnacecompare.com/furnaces/lennox/reviews/
    And here is the model we are thinking to buy.
    http://www.furnacecompare.com/furnaces/lennox/elite.html

    This is getting to be a difficult purchase, I see Goodman and Ducane are Lennox cheapo brands, and notes to steer clear of these. Egads, go back to coal?
     
  12. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    You don't want 2x too much heat. You don't want anything withoutput more than 1.5 x the design heat load. At 1.5x oversizing on Cape Cod it will still keep up at -20F with no problem. That is a temperature not seen on Cape Cod since record keeping began. At 2x oversizing you'd be good to go at -50F or colder (in case Cape Cod were magically transported to Fairbanks AK.) Most furnaces out there are oversized by more than 2x, out of anxieties about being warm enough.

    Oversizing leads to bigger room temperature swings, more wind-chill (from the bigger air handler), more noise, and less comfort. If you want "nice 'n' toasty" you need something that runs long warming cycles. The biggest comfort complaints surrounding hot-air furnaces are usually related to their being 3, 4 even 5x oversized. Those who don't fully grasp the problem tend to always err on the oversizing side, and end up paying in comfort "just in case" it ever got down to -183F or whatever their oversizing factor would indicate.

    A 2 stage furnace at 1.5x oversizing would typically still be close to right-sized for the design load even at the low-fire output, which is higher than ideal, but would allow you to use overnight setback strategies for saving fuel, since the high-fire stage will allow a faster warm-up ramp. Something like 1.25x would be better for comfort, and it would still cover you well into negative single-digits F. That's pretty rare on Cape Cod, but it might happen once or twice within the lifecycle of a furnace, and on those days you may want to sleep in, turn on an electric space heater, or wear a sweater. That's trading a potential for mild discomfort maybe once or twice in 25 years, rather than 50-100 days/year for 25 years with a 3x oversized air-scorcher.

    And that's why you want to run a fairly careful heat load calculation, and buying the right sized equipment.

    With open floor plans ductless heat pumps are pretty nice solutions since they modulate their output to match the load. If sized correctly they will run nearly constantly (at super high efficiency) most of the winter, with VERY stable room temperatures, and they're dead quiet (quieter than your refrigerator.) And in summer they provide similarly quiet efficient air conditioning. If you have a bunch of doored-off rooms there are mini-ducted versions with a tiny air handler that you position centrally to the rooms you intend to heat/cool with it, with very short duct runs. (They are designed to fit between floor/ceiling joists.) If your heat load comes in low enough these are a superior option to the traditional ducted systems both on comfort & efficiency. You won't heat a McMansion with those, but they can work with a lot of 1000-1800' cape style houses. (The Mitsubishi SUZ/SEZ mini-ducted series may be appropriate for a doored-off floor plan situation. With open floor plans there are many pretty-good options from Fujitsu, Daikin, and Mitsubishi.) I don't install or sell these systems, but I've been pretty impressed with how well they have worked for several friends & relatives. In MA the operating cost is comparable to a mid-efficiency gas furnace.
     
  13. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Thats interesting, never thought of a heat pump, tho we dont ever use our portable/window mounted AC any more. Just used it when our other dog was sick and needed it.

    I talked with a friend who I'm buying some Pex plumbing stuff from this morning and he spoke of another contractor in our area. Called him, he deals with Carrier, and no problem with parts, my son in law can get them if we need them. This guy is coming to give us an estimate Tuesday. He sounded more knowledgeable than any other person we have talked with so far.

    This is the one that looks good so far, but I dont like the part availability issue. Though the new company I spoke with this morning, was a Lennox dealer and still has an account and can get parts for us if we go that route.
    http://www.lennox.com/products/furnaces/EL296V/

    Im certainly getting an education! Thank you! Will post the info from the estimates when they arrive. I will try to do the calculations too, its an older house.
     
  14. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Trying the load calc, do we need to do that? I have no idea of how much insulation we have, its an older house.
    Perhaps the people who are going to give us estimates will do this when they come on Tuesday? Or dont they bother.
     
  15. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    If you can drill a few tiny holes to see what's in the walls, and go up in the attic and measure the insulation depths you can make a pretty good guess.

    Most HVAC contractors don't bother to do a formal load calculation (sadly, most don't even don't know how.) You have to ask for (and sometimes even pay for) a "Manual-J load calculation" to go along with it. Most HVAC contractors I've run into in MA are rule-of-thumb guys, and they have big thumbs. A typical load calculation from one of those guys goes along the lines of "lessee, ya got 2400 square feet o' house, times 25 BTU per foot comes to 60,000 BTU/hr, let's call it 75K just to be sure."

    That approach will reliably oversize it by 2x or more- you'll never be cold, but it's not the way to max out comfort or optimize anything. Most reasonably tight homes with some type of wall insulation and some attic insulation with clear-storm windows over wood-sash single-panes will come in about 15 BTU give or take. It's the GIVE that the over-done rules of thumb make damned sure they never hit. Tight code-min NEW houses in MA typically come in around 9-12 BTU/ft^2. (The lossier ones are those with big picture windows, maxing out the views.) I've seen contractors in Worcester using 35 BTU/ft^2 rules of thumb, which oversized equipment even for houses with NO wall insulation, and little to no attic insulation.

    If your basement walls and band joist are not insulated & air sealed it could easily be 25% of the whole house load, and is a worthwhile project to take on even though it's not super cheap to do (except as a DIY.)

    With the exception of radiant heat, the heating system provides less comfort than bumping up the thermal performance of the walls/attic/basement, since even in a room with 75F air a cold wall is perceptible to bare skin. The average radiant temperature of the room is key to comfort, and insulation will improve the interior surfaces of the walls & ceiling. That's why wood/coal stoves and big old fashioned radiators are so-cozy- they are radiating a lot of heat, raising the temperature of the humans directly rather than merely heating the air.

    Standing outside in direct sun on a 40F calm day can feel pretty comfortable due to the direct-heating of the solar radiation, whereas standing outside on a very-clear 65F night can fill pretty chilly, radiating your body heat into a cold sky. The same principles are at work indoors.
     
  16. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Yes, indeed, so true. Radiant heat is my favorite kind of heat. But our wood stove and coal stove are things of the past, so we will go with our our new gas appliances, and our older oil furnace(Metromatic).
    It is wonderful just doesn't do the cellar much.
    I am not cold tolerant, as I grew up in the South and lived on Bermuda for many years. So Im a wuss when it comes to cold weather now that Im in my 70s. Very heat tolerant however, so I dont need or want AC.

    I am going to turn my husband onto the load calculations, we have done improvements to the house, added a dormer, added a bath, added a Brady sunroom(all glass which goes up to 90 degrees a lot), so we will have to guess for some of it. The (forced hot air) oil furnace is 120,000 input, I think, and it does its job. Doesn't stay on very long at all, so heats things up quickly.

    I plan to balance them both, as when we 'drove' the coal stove hard in windy cold weather, the furnace would come on, but not if it was just chilly and no wind. Cape Cod does get a lot of wind, but our house is somewhat sheltered from the wind, as we are about half mile from the beach. While my brother's house is on a bluff over the harbor, and the wind over there will blow the hair off our dog on the SW trades.
     
  17. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    You want to spoil the Wine ?
     
  18. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    ?
     
  19. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    I am a old timer and a Wine Cellar should be cool year round. Or the Wine can Spoil.

    We had a incinerator in the Cellar where I grew up.

    You could Fire it up, Get Warm and drink chilled Wine.

    A 750 watt Space Heater is safe and will keep a person warm.


    Have Fun, I like Heat, That is why I am in Texas. No Cellar here, darn the bad luck.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014
  20. capecod12

    capecod12 Member

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    Oh, I get it. With the coal stove, it was 80 a lot of the time. So there was never an option for a wine cellar. We dont drink wine very often, except for holidays, and we keep it in the fridge. The kids will bring some special wine from Boston. I have not a clue of what to buy, so I cook the turkey, stuffing, and veggies, and let them bring the goodies and the pies.
    Texas, a great state!
     
  21. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    "The (forced hot air) oil furnace is 120,000 input, I think, and it does its job. Doesn't stay on very long at all, so heats things up quickly."

    Sure it does it's job, but it is not optimizing your comfort by any means: It's louder and breezier than it needs to be when operating, and it probably overshoots the thermostat a bit, leading to bigger overall temperature swings between cycles. A furnace with an input of 40,000-50,000 BTU/hr would probably do the job more quietly and with greater comfort. It might run 15 minute cycles instead of 5, but you won't particularly care, the room temps will be more stable, there will be less air movement for a less-drafty feel, and it'll be a lot quieter.

    An oil furnace with 120,000BTU/hr input has an output of about 100,000BTU/hr. That is about 3x the heat load @ +5F of my current house ( a ~2400' antique 1923 bungalow in Worcester. ) On the cape outside design temp is about 12-15F, so if I transported my house to Chatham it's heat load would be about 30K.

    If your house on the cape is 4000', has no insulation, and leaks air like a sieve, it might actually need that much burner on the windiest night in mid-winter, but I've yet to see an occupied single-family residence anywhere in MA that needed 120KBTU/hr of burner (including some houses that have no wall insulation whatsoever.)
     
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