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Small 4-Plex super insullated - Best cost-effective way to heat units

Jerlit Member Posts: 1
Hi there,

I am a small general contractor and we are now going into building and owning our own rental unit division.  We have plans for dozens of apartments building in the nest 10 years and have decided to start building a "pilot project" this year to see if we want to continue on with the business. 

Our plan is to build super-insulated buildings with r-40 in walls and r 60 in ceilings.  The buildings will all be very similar and stack-able.  We have plans for a modular design.  The units will be 2 story at the most will be up to 12 units total.  They all have exterior entrances and no hallway's will be required.  I have attached a few pages of the plans for anyone to view.  You will see the design is simple. 

My question is this.  I have been interested in the Yukon Housing corporation and watching how they build for cold environments such as i live in.  They often heat their homes with some form of radiant or even electric heat.  Apparently if your home requires very little to heat as it is super-insulated then electric works well.  One thing about electric that i like is its super inexpensive installation cost.  But i am afraid of fire.  I really like radiant heat but it cost so much more in the initial setup.  I would also like to keep the system isolated so i can charge each tenant based on their energy usage.  I have also come across units such as the rinnai units, but not sure if it would work with my design. 

The most important aspects are ease of installation, costs, and efficiency.  If there is anyone that could comment on this project it would be much appreciated.  Just not to sure what to do here. 

I have meetings next month with my local trades to discuss this but i am always open to hearing any advice from others.

Thank-you so very much


  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,293
    What sort of...

    ... water heater are you planning on?  It's likely that your water heating load will be bigger than the space heating load, so you could use the water heater do do both.  A fan coil or other hydronic approach could work.

    A side note:  I'd consider flipping the bath plumbing walls so they are back to back.  This would move pipes off of cold walls and reduce plumbing length, possibly giving hot water faster.

    Yours,  Larry

    ps. if you can get to one of Affordable Comfort's conferences, it will be worth your time.  http://www.affordablecomfort.org/

    pps.  Separate metering will encourage conservation by your tenants.  Not doing it will encourage waste.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
    edited July 2012

    In structures that tight you have to provide for exchange of fresh air. Only one means of egress from the second floor units?
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,569
    Long or short term?

    In the short term I think you would be better off with electric. Have you checked out comfort cove? www.radiantsystemsinc.com They put out less watts per foot than electric baseboard. They provide radiant heat where you need it and present no real fire risk.For domestic water a gas demand heater would do the trick.


    Long term I would consider a central boiler and domestic hot water system. You could use BTU meters for billing. I would be careful with in floor radiant as, unless you plan carefully your floor will never "feel" warm because you have very little heat loss in the building.

    You may need an air exchange system.Panasonic makes a nice hrv.

    It looks like you have appropriate egress windows.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Layouts.....

    I agree with the comments already made.  However, I have another.  Are the units going to be built using solar orientation as an input?   Passive solar can eliminate nearly all space heating needs, with little or no increase in costs. Or, you can reduce the r-value of the walls, etc. to reduce construction costs and still achieve the same energy usage.  Basic rule of thumb is to put all spaces that human comfort is highest priority toward the south..providing large window areas for both solar gain and lighting, and then place utility areas such as storage, closets, kitchens, baths against the north with only enough windows for ventilation.

    I'd do some research in this field before moving further.  A book called "Design with Climate"  by Olgav ? would be a simple start.  Passive solar has been the most ignored aspect of building design in most housing in the past 50 years. 

    BTW I also hold a degree in Architecture, with a speciality in City and Regional Planning,  so I have seen alot of climate based design.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert

    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
  • Kevin_in_Denver_2
    Kevin_in_Denver_2 Member Posts: 588

    The newer, high efficiency minisplit ductless heat pumps are the way to go.

    They operate efficiently down to -5F.

    Even with natural gas being super cheap, no one needs gas or hydronics in a superinsulated well built house.

    Everything you need to know and more:

    Superinsulated Passive solar house, Buderus in floor backup heat by Mark Eatherton, 3KW grid-tied PV system, various solar thermal experiments
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