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Looking for alternatives to heating my old, large house

tblue
tblue Member Posts: 1
We currently have oil heat (forced air) in the old part of my home (19th cent farmhouse, 3 floors). We keep the thermostat all the way down (50 degrees) except for about 2 hrs in the evening and the oil is still costing us $5000/year. There is an addition that we spend most time in all winter with a large efficient woodstove that cranks, but the heat can't reach all the around to the "old" side of the house (L shape, see attachment).



I am desperately trying to figure out the best way to manage our outrageous heating bills. House does not have great insulation but we did install almost all new windows (The estimate for insulation was $15000 and we can't afford that!) We considered adding a pellet stove to the far side of the old house but even that seemed prohibitively expensive, including pellets. Need any advice!!! Will have to put house on the market in spring if I can't find a solution. Thank you!

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,011
    How big is this place?

    That is, footprint?  And where are you located?  Both of those numbers are needed to check on whether your heating bill is way out of line -- although it may well be.



    New windows were possibly a nice idea, although it has been my experience that storm windows on the existing windows, unless the old ones were really rotted, have a much better payback.  In spite of the new windows, though, the first thing I would tackle would be infiltration, as that could be half your heat load particularly on a windy day.  The next thing I would tackle, if it isn't there, would be insulating any attic space.  Depending on how things are set up in the attic, one can sometimes make a really big difference that way -- but it depends on accessibility and what's up there.  Still, like a hat, that's the place to start.



    Where does your forced air system draw return air (not combustion air -- that should come from the outdoors, or the basement if it is leaky enoough)  from?  And are all the ducts insulated, or at least the ones you can reach?  If the return air is coming from a basement or crawl space -- or worse yet, the great out of doors -- your burning a fair amount of oil you don't need to burn.



    Do you have access to natural gas?  At least at the moment natural gas is cheaper.  In some areas, even LP gas is cheaper than oil -- but there would be the cost of a new furnace.  Speaking of which, how old is the existing furnace?  If it's more than say 10 years old, you might be able to save some just by replacing it with a new higher efficiency unit.  In any event, it should be cleaned and tuned up by someone who really knows oil burners.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,507
    Expensive oil heat

    I have no experience with oil heat, but something seems as if it could be improved.

    First determine the heat loss of the 2 parts, by using the program from the slant fin boiler website. Then play around with the insulation factors, and see how much reduction in total heating load can be achieved by adding batts of insulation. Post the results here as far as the house is now, and some old "oiler" could perhaps see if your oil consumption is excessive.--NBC
  • eclark
    eclark Member Posts: 33
    Try an Energy Audit

    There are companies out there that will take a look around your house, do some blower door tests, etc and make recommendations for improvements to lower heating & cooling costs.  Some do ballpark estimating for the recommended upgrades too.  Shouldn't be too expensive (few hundred $) but depending where you are, the government may reimburse that cost or pay the auditor directly.



    The most often quoted recommendation is to seal around cracks.  I hear it makes quite a difference.
  • eclark
    eclark Member Posts: 33
    Try an Energy Audit

    There are companies out there that will take a look around your house, do some blower door tests, etc and make recommendations for improvements to lower heating & cooling costs.  Some do ballpark estimating for the recommended upgrades too.  Shouldn't be too expensive (few hundred $) but depending where you are, the government may reimburse that cost or pay the auditor directly.



    The most often quoted recommendation is to seal around cracks.  I hear it makes quite a difference.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    edited October 2013
    Ditto Jamie

    As he pointed out on the envelope.



    The only way you can cut your heating bill if you leave the envelope

    "as is" is by using a cheaper fuel NG. Usually.



    Pay for proper sealing, and insulation once, and you will be much happier than revamping the whole heating system, and switching fuels. That is a short term solution NG will not be cheap forever.





    After the envelope is fixed then visit a new heating system that is more efficient.



    P.S the pellet suppliers ruined the whole attractiveness of the pellet stove market in my opinion.



    That I
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 3,815
    Not sure what....

    the plan on insulation you figured for but I also have an old house(1800) and did a less conventional way. Since I really did not want to deal w/ siding pull off and repair I had a insulation contractor drill holes through the plaster and blow in rockwool. The balloon framing made it easier and it filled nicely. I then patched the outside holes as I was redoing the walls anyways.

    When they did windows make sure they pulled out the window weights and stuffed them w/ batts. The previous owner  had new windows installed and they never did them...so I had to do it.
  • bill_105
    bill_105 Member Posts: 429
    Curios

    Gordy-Just what did the pellet suppliers do?
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    Pellet suppliers

    Bill



    Its the supply and demand thing of course.



    But I remember when pellet, and corn burners first came out the fuels were cheap compared to other energy sources NG LP OIL etc. Then those pellet burners took off, and so did the corn, and pellet prices to where NG is cheaper than burning pellets. Corn has other factors I understand. Who would a thoght a guy could make a killing in saw dust..



    My buddy bought a pellet BBQ 1K quite nice to cook on, but the assorted wood species pellets are not cheap.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    edited November 2013
    According to this

    A pellet burner is cheaper than fuel oil.



    http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/heatcalc.xls



    Insert foot in mouth.



    But I will say that fuel type has gone up a lot from its infancy.
  • Dave Yates (GrandPAH)
    Dave Yates (GrandPAH) Member Posts: 281
    edited November 2013
    fuel choices?

    Sounds like you have three: fuel oil; propane; or electricity.



    Hands down the least expensive to operate are inverter mini-split heat pumps. They will work without a back-up heat source down to -15F outdoor air temps. The best ROI for ECV (energy conservation value) is investing in the best most efficient models, which are eligible for tax credits and incentives. Check dsire.org for what's available in your state and with your utility for any rebates.



    In situations like yours, we suggest picking one to three rooms/areas where you really want to have comfort on demand and start there.



    The higher efficiency models are whisper quiet, far less expensive to operate, and sip only the energy required to meet your comfort-setting. Total comfort in the area you want while the beast in the basement can be placed in hibernation.
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