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New Twist on HeatingHelp?

That is the question. $5,000? $10,000? Also, are there other renovations planned?

When it comes to heating systems we do not discuss price here for a number of good reasons.

Regardless of your heating system, unless it is failing you or is about to, I would tighten up your envelope. Even old windows with good storms (ones with caulking under the flanges, square and properly applied) do about 85% of what modern full replacement windows at about 1/5th the price from what I have seen.

The biggest heat loss you have, the biggest single component, is air leakage. It can be 25 to 50 percent of your heat loss. If you can arrange a blower door test, it can open your eyes.

Sealing around the perimeter (rim joist) with expanding foam is almost always a good investment. An inch or two of insulation there where none exists, takes care of both conduction and infiltration.

You say your attic is insulated but is it batts laid down or blown cellulose? Was it done after air sealing around plumbing and wiring penetrations? Batt insulation is not good at blocking air, but it filters what leaves, quite nicely :)

Insulating the walls can raise their inside temperature five, sometimes ten or more degrees when it is say zero outside. Insulating with the newer foams or dense-packed cellulose, can also stop diffuse air leaks through the fabric of the wall itself, not to mention around electrical outlets.

Say your area has a design cold outdoor temperature of 0 degrees and 68F indoors. If insulating 1000 SF of wall knocks the heat loss down from 22,600 BTUH to 4,760 BTUH, you will save 17,840 BTUH. If your area has 6,000 degree-days (I really do not know, just saying), and you burn about 250 gallons oil at 65% efficiency, at $3.00 a gallon you will save about $750 per year. That is transmission savings not counting any infiltration bonus.

If your insulation costs you $2.50 per SF ($2,500), the payback is a little over three years.


  • ctjomac
    ctjomac Member Posts: 52
    If You Want Big Bang 4 Your Buck

    Would You Spend Your Money On? We have a house built in 1933, boiler is 1950's, one pipe steam connected load is 384 sq. ft., boiler is rated at 405 sq. ft. works :) no insulation in walls, just the attic, single pane windows with double track storms (i have to put the bottom storm in each fall) 1: WOULD YOU change up the boiler for more efficiency. I currently go thru 200 gal. oil every 4 weeks when winter finally hits us. 2: Change the windows. 3: Insulate the walls. We just had a baby and I want to get the BIGGEST BANG I can considering our comfort and the cost of fuel. Which do you think would show the BIGGEST improvement? Thanks, Joe
  • Couderay
    Couderay Member Posts: 314
    The envelope

    Personaly I would concentrate on the envelope first and a tune up on your system.
  • David Nadle
    David Nadle Member Posts: 624
    Do the tighten up

    Everything I've read indicates you should focus on stopping air infiltration, starting with leaks into the attic, before any of the things you mentioned.
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,094
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Plumbing in NYC or in NJ.
    Take his class.
  • Michael_38
    Michael_38 Member Posts: 5

    get a home energy audit done, my guess would be walls and more R in the attic for bang for buck.
  • kpc_40
    kpc_40 Member Posts: 62
    insulate,insulate, insulate...

    single panes w/ storms actually do a decent job.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,573
    new twist

    don't forget to check if the boiler needs some "tightening" up.it may have been badly installed in the 50's.take some pix and post them here ,especially of the near boiler piping.
    keep your pressure low.
    check your thermostat for bad location and faulty anticipation.
    have a pro check your burner and see if your pressure relief valve is correct.
    many time when fuel was cheap people put up with bad installations ,but now is the time to put everything right; and here's the new twist: it is possible that your old boiler has life left in her, and may not be much less efficient than some new ones assuming correct installation.good luck--nbc
  • jp_2
    jp_2 Member Posts: 1,935
    don't forget the foundatiion

    big heat lost at the foundation of old houses. often 20-30% of entire house.
  • Ken Field
    Ken Field Member Posts: 127
    Go logical

    Have an energy audit done with infrared scan. Take notes or ask the auditor to itemize all areas of less that optimal performance. Then stop as much infiltration as possible by using professional products. Fiberglass (no matter how tight you stuff it) does not stop air movement. Make sure that you have at least 25% more insulation in the attic than code calls for code is bare minimum).

    Ken F

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • Norm Harvey
    Norm Harvey Member Posts: 684

    A energy audit is a good idea, but I would NOT pay for one that did not include at least a blower door test, and at best that, and a thermal imaging camera.

    If you can find a company that can do a blower door test and thermal imaging that would be the best first step in my opinion.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Brad White_203
    Brad White_203 Member Posts: 506
    \"Free Energy Audits\"

    in my experience, are worth every penny. But if you think that they are free, see your utility bill.

    I had one done two years ago and they told me to insulate (done already), use CFL lamps (done already but for what it does for my skin tones), weatherstrip the doors (done already, you walked right by it), use a setback thermostat (hey, what is that on the wall?), seal the wall outlets, (done already), replace the heating system (three years old at the time, condensing boiler, done...)

    Check-list mentality with no sense of independent thought.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,837
    Brad's first post

    is, as usual, excellent. A few additional comments. First, windows: if you have decent storm windows, just make sure that the inner sashes are in decent shape and closed. Good new windows are not cheap, and it would be very hard to get a payback on the cost; as someone said, old ones, properly maintained, are about 85% as good.

    Infiltration is the real biggy. Find it and fix it -- a nice cold windy day is ideal for this. Along the sills in the foundation is often overlooked. There are some spray-on foams (Icynene comes to mind, and I've spec'ed it very successfully in some historic house renovations) which really seal tight, and don't need an extra vapour barrier or draft barrier. Any of the spray-ons, however, is problematic in a wall, unless you plan to open either the inside or the outside: they can expand enough to pop plaster or dry wall, and it can be difficult in a wall to make sure that all the spaces get filled.

    Have fun!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,250

    Windows are said to be the least effective return for your money of any up grade. Insulation depends on what you add and how many R's you can increase the system. A new boiler starts saving the first day it fires and with a proper installation has the fastes return if you system is as old as a 1950's model. Just my 2 cents. Have fun with the new baby mine are 5 and 8 now and it is a fun and wild ride.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
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