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New heating system in RI

Hi All!

I'm in the process of buying a 1978 ranch up here in RI with a view to doing some significant renovations. Current property is 1100 sq ft over an unfinished walk-out basement. My plan is to finish the basement, move the kitchen and living room downstairs and then redo the now 2nd floor as bedrooms and bathrooms.

Currently the propert has a 20 year old ~110K BTU Weil-McClain boiler with a calc'd direct coil supplying baseboard heaters.

As I work through making the renovations I will upgrade/install insulation and air seal. I'm thinking a minimum of R50 in the attic, R6 - 9 across the basement floor, R15 on the basement walls and then at least R20 on the framed walls.

My initial plan was for hydronic radiant floor heat throughout, but as i price the aluminium plates to install the 2nd floor loops I started to consider wall panels instead (I'm from the UK so I'm very familiar with wall radiators).

I'm now pursuing 3 options:

1. Replace with a new oil system, relocating the boiler, installing an external Roth tank and an indirect tank
2. Rip out the oil and replace with a Daikin Altherma system
3. Rip out the oil and replace with a mini-split with HPWH.

I want to make the house as environmentally friendly as possible, and we do plan to install solar PV down the line.

My gut preference is for option 2, but trying to find knowledgable Altherma installers in the area is proving difficult.

I'd appreciate your thoughts/ideas/recommendations!

Thanks in advance,

Ben

Comments

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Do you need a pump to pump the waste/drainage water up from the unfinished basement? Do you have a septic tank/system to get rid of the waste? Municipal sewer? Is it low enough to drain into by gravity or do you need a pump?

    When you get over the sticker shock of all that radiant and radiant wall panels, fin tube baseboard can be a very fine thing. Millions of miles of it can't be ALL wrong.

    I have always found that sticker shock, ROI and reality go a long way in making final decisions.
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Thanks for the response Icesailor, but I'm not sure it provides much insight to my current quandry?

    The property is on a septic so I will need a pump for the kitchen wastewater and half bath sink. We'll be installing composting toilets so there's no sewerage to worry about.

    All of the existing baseboards need to be removed because we are completely re-configuring the existing finished space, and given that I'm starting with a blank canvas in the basement, running the requisite loops of Pex for radiant heat is really not that daunting a proposition.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    "" We'll be installing composting toilets so there's no sewerage to worry about. ""

    Like I said. Financial and practical reality can be a deciding factor. I have personally visited two composting toilet facilities in Massachusetts. One at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, near the Bad Boys camp. The other on Route 2 West of Concord. Neither are back yard DIY installations. The "Earthy Odor" is not anything I want in my house. Earthy Crunchy Tree Huggers are always coming up with new impractical ideas to save the planet. Much of the world still uses chamber pots or waste pits where they collect solids to be recycled for fertilizer on crops. Someone has to dig it out.

    Composting toilets. Sooner or later, someone has to clean them out.

    My wife has done horses most of her life. For the last 40+, she has had many horses and still does. She has personally shoveled TONS of horse bedding. Dog and Cat litter. She never complains about it. She just does it. Its part of her life. She never asks me to do it. I would never ask her to clean out a composting toilet. The blow back would be uncomfortable. Once she knew that it had to be cleaned out.

    The same blowback I would get if I had told a customer to unplug their own toilet or sewer. I don't want to sound like the turd in the punchbowl, but if there is one, and some know it is there and just want to be entertained by watching, shame on them. I will be the one pointing out the existence of turds.
    Rich_49
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    edited April 2015
    As far as the Daikin is concerned , you will want to locate Rob Brown of Rockport Mechanical in Maine . Be aware , if you will require the unit to make water hotter than 131*F the Altherma is not your choice .
    You may very well want to take a look into radiant ceilings . They are just as comfortable and effective , less expensive to install .

    Be careful of your high R wall , ceiling and floor assembly details also . Many end up creating moisture and mold problems in this step without proper assistance . Hint , your local builder is probably not really aware of what is truly needed to accomplish this .

    http://www.buildingscience.com/

    Don't mind Ice , he often strays from the original question . Although , most times his advice on the varying subjects is good . If you are aware of what composting toilets require and are willing , have at it .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
    chiefsilverback
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    edited April 2015
    Again Icesailor, not sure how this addresses my original post asking for opinions or recommendations on the three options I've identified for providing heat and hot water?

    Do you have any thoughts on oil vs heat pump, air to air vs air to water etc..?
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Thanks Rich. I'm sure I'd seen some literature on a high temp version of the Altherma, but it doesn't appear to be available in the US.

    For DHW 130 is fine, I'll have to do more research on the heating side.

    Re. moisture I will install a whole house dehumidifier and heat exchange ventilator.
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    edited April 2015
    The moisture I was referring to was in the assemblies themselves . The DOAS system will not help with that moisture and you will not know about it's presence till you are ill and / or the house is rotting .

    http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/energy-upgrades-beginners
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Sure. I have a lot of opinions on one Vs. the other. Sales persons are always glowing with unrealistic claims of their equipment. I've experienced that first hand.

    One experience I have had many times over is that people start out on a project with great ideas and intentions. When the numbers start to come in, decisions are made.

    Its not any different than going to the Supermarket with a $100.00 bill. When it comes to way over $100.00, you start putting the snacks back. The $7.99 per pound steak gets replaced with $3.99 Hamburger on sale.

    Some people who wanted Cast Iron Baseboard at $20.00 per foot were just as happy with $5.00 per foot copper baseboard when it came to deciding what was most important to them.

    In my experience, I always gave multiple prices, but there was always a bottom line, low price that was basic. Which then including all the other things wanted as an addition. I never started with the highest and deducted down. The top price will be so high that someone would think I was a crook. It takes time to do that.

    I personally built 3 of the four houses I owned and lived in. They always cost more than I anticipated. And you can't deduct sweat equity labor from the sale. Just pay taxes on it. Its always the hidden costs that you don't consider that makes problems. You're talking about a major renovation that could cost more than the house will ever be worth. Just consider that.

    I don't care what you do. I'm just giving you my experience. Both personally and Professionally. Anything I have ever read or seminar

    Another unfinished comment from a HH.com lock-up.

    It seems like after a "Save", the Post Comment gets light but still records everything you have typed. You just can't post it. Anything before the "Save" is saved, anything after the "Save" is lost. Re-Boot the computer and it is still there. Whatever was "Saved".

  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Icesailor, I'm not sure what has created the apparent chip on your shoulder, but your posts are entirely unhelpful!

    I'd certainly welcome your thoughts on the various pros and cons of the different options I've listed, or you might suggest something I haven't thought about. If you can't answer the question I asked then please save your time and mine by not filling up the thread with off topic posts.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    I have no "chip" on my shoulders. If you came here looking for answers, I gave you a lot of them from my 70+ years and 50+ years of personal experience in the building trades.

    Plumbing & Heating companies are considered "Sub Contractors". The red Haired step children of "Contractors", who promise the world, make promises that can't be done, and blame us behind our back for their mistakes. Then, want us to share the loss. Most all professional contractors have war stories. Seen simple jobs run way over budget, and WE often cut way back.

    All I was saying is that if you have $50,000 to spend, see what you can get for $50,000. Unless you have another spare $50,000 in a sack under the bed to bail you out. When the bills start coming in and there are way more to come before completion.

    The last house, I built on Cape Cod. I hired the whole thing done. The engineer made a mistake on grades. I told the GC and excavator that the house was too high. "How do you know that? Do you have a Transit"? No, I answered, I put my 6' level in that pile of sand, made a story pole out of a piece of strapping, and measured the difference from that Bound Marker over there by the fence that the engineer used as a bench mark for grade. He said that houses belonged high on hills. I told him that it wasn't a castle, and I didn't want a hill in front of my 2 car garage where I would need stop blocks behind my cars to keep them from rolling down the driveway. And that all the dirt he was charging me to take away would ne needed to grade around the house. The front entrance was 4' above grade, the septic system leach field was 6' below grade, and it cost me $10,000 to have boulders and fill in front of the house so it looked half decent. I said "Half Decent". When I changed the oil in my van, and drove the front up on metal ramps like you buy at the auto parts store for cheap, the inside of the truck was still a half bubble out of level.

    I had to pay them to bring back the fill they claimed they didn't take away and more.

    We never budgeted for anything like that. Fortunately, we had the money to pay for it.


  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Again, completely off-topic! Please do not post long rambling messages that are unrelated to the question I asked.
    ChrisJBob Bona_4
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Panel rads (enough off them to run at low temps) and an Altherma will work well together. A mini-split will certainly be the least expensive. Radiant walls and ceilings will work well also. You did state that plates for floor heat would be outside your budget so radiant wall and ceiling would also fall outside the budget. It seems that the mini-split wins the race. On a side note, will the composting toilets affect the resale value? I would go with an ejector pit and a grinder pump.
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Thanks Rob. It's not so much that the plates would be outside my budget it's more a question of which gives a better heating solution?

    All things being equal which gives better heat on a second floor where you don't have a big lump of concrete to serve as a thermal mass?

    Radiant plates and pex to heat 1100 sq ft on 16" centers is probably going to run me $3500 which would probably cover the costs for wall rads in a 3 bed + study 2nd floor layout. Which is the better solution?

    From an install perspective I know which is easier, the one that doesn't need me to drill every joist, thread ~1600' of pex and attach hundreds of plates to the underside of the subfloor!

    Re. the composting toilets, I'm installing them on the second floor too as it's something we want to do. Over all we're looking to establish a sustainable, eco-friendly homestead. Come resale time we will be selling a lifestyle and not a house, so I don't foresee the toilets being an issue. At some future stage I'll investigate grey water harvesting from the bath/shower/laundry.
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Thanks Rich. Out of interest would you recommend rads and TRVs in the first floor (basement)? My plan was still to run pex over the top of rigid foam insulation and then pour maybe 2" of fibre reinforced concrete...
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    Depends on conditions in the basement . You would need to pay attention to zoning for comfort reasons . Panel rads would do little to heat that mass . Radiant is a good option for basements when done properly , either will work to heat the space , I guess budget would be a factor although as you stated , it is not too daunting of a task . If you intend on walking on that floor in stocking feet however you will want to go tighter than 16" spacing . This will also require lower average water temps
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
    chiefsilverback
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    What's your goal on the first floor- warm or neutral floors and slower response time or neutral or likely cooler floors to bare foot feel with panel rads and quicker response?

    invisible heat or ubiquitous panel rads play an aesthetic part too.

    Generally, in sleeping areas, the panel rads might be preferable for the usage pattern/response time and use spot floor radiant in the baths for that ahhh factor.

    I would suggest gas as a heat fuel source and the PV plan is nice for supplementing some ductless AC.
    chiefsilverback
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Rich/Bob, thanks for the responses. Assuming we go the hydronic route then I'm inclined to go with radiant on the first floor. And that brings us full circle to the type of system and the fuel, oil fired water, air to air heat pump or air to water heat pump.

    Unfortunately gas is not an option and based on my research thus far I don't want to go the propane route. Having lived with forced air for 6 years now, albeit the cheap type of system preferred by newer home builders, my wife and I would really prefer to go the hydronic route, but I have no experience with mini splits and whether the do a better job of providing that 'residual heat' feeling that you get with radiators or radiant?

    My guess is a the Daikin Altherma will be the most expensive option by some margin, but depending on what the margin is, the prospect of reaching net zero consumption through PV, not being held hostage to fluctating oil prices and having the 'comfort' of radiant heat is very appealing!

    If I do go the oil route, is their mileage in looking to reuse the existing Weil-McClain, maybe with a new burner and relocated with stainless all fuel chimney? Can you reliably 'decommission' the direct coil? I know a new unit might net me a couple of % of efficiency, but looking at the big picture it would take an awfully long time of running at the new efficiency to offset the environmental impact of manufacturing a new boiler and disposing of the old one!
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    I hear you on the goal of net zero, it's a very satisfying feeling. As nice as the ductless are, they won't give you that "glow" that makes radiant panel or floor so comfortable. Your WM may be just fine with its current burner, the tankless coil can be abandoned for a more efficient indirect storage tank operating as another zone. I have also installed Steibel Etron electric tankless in PV homes with great results. Lifestyle and usage may vary of course. Good voice on the B vent idea.
    chiefsilverback
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    I've just run a rudimentary heat loss calf using the Slant Fin app and I'm coming in around the 30K BTH/Hr mark on the finished property, but I do need to do some research to ensure my proposed insulation levels are accurately reflected in the calculation. I used a design temps of 5F external and 68F internal which is where we keep our current house.

    Assuming I'm in the right ball park, 110K BTU boilers would be massively oversized, so too (to a lesser extent) would be the 3.5 tons of mini split one guy is quoting me on.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Nice that you did a heat loss. Even if you assume it's wrong, it's not going to be off by 100+%.

    Properly sizing any heatpump requires careful scrutiny of the performance data The specifics typically lie in some kind of technical data manual that is rarely available to the public. Minor version changes (one digit of a 15+ character model number) can significantly alter low temp performance numbers.
    chiefsilverback
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    It sounds like you trying to build a very tight home. Have you thought about ventilation?
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Yes, I'll run an HRV system to provide good air exchange.
    Bob Bona_4
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    I don't know if you have said it before but where is the home located?
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    We're in Rhode Island.
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    Chief ,
    If you are building a house that tight with an HRV you may want to get rid of all the ducts except for what is required for ventilation .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,309
    If you decide on using mini splits for heat in the dead of winter be prepared to shovel snow. I live just south of Boston and in 2 of the last 3 years I have had 4 ft of snow drifting against the house after storms, that means you will be out there shoveling snow and unclogging the outside units if you want them to work correctly.

    I would not depend on mini's for heat in the dead of winter in this area, they would be fine in the late fall and the spring when the chance of a bad snow storm is remote.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    Rich_49
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    Were you lucky enough to have had them oversized when they started to produce less as it got colder ? Awesome stuff , when you need them most they are getting less efficient .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    I had a contractor come over this morning to look and propose options. No experience with the Daikin Altherma, but he's going to research it and also provide a couple of solutions using air-to-air mini splits and/or a propane tankless system.

    I'm not 100% sure about propane, but if I buy my own tank at least I'm then free to shop around and not be tied to a single supplier.

    I'd still appreciate any thoughts on the various merits of the options available.

    Given that we're striving for a very tight envelope with high R values and the long term plan is to install solar PV, would anybody recommend skipping an expensive installed system and opting for a HPWH and appropriately sized standalone electric heaters in the various rooms? If the electricity is free and green does it matter how much you use?

  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Rich said:

    Chief ,
    If you are building a house that tight with an HRV you may want to get rid of all the ducts except for what is required for ventilation .

    The house has baseboard today so there is no ducting to worry about.

  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    I've been doing my own research on mini-splits over the weekend. Does anyone have any experience with the Fuji slim ducted units?

    I'm wondering if one of those built into the wall between two rooms with vents on both sides, top and bottom, would suffice to heat/cool the area?
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    Do some more research and you'll find more than a few New Englanders that installed these as part of the fad only to find themselves outdoors shoveling drifting snow from the outdoor unit . Another thing about these units is that as temps go lower outdoors so goes the efficiency and output .

    What rates are you paying for electric per Kw and gas per therm ?
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • chiefsilverback
    chiefsilverback Member Posts: 16
    Gas isn't an option at this new property but we will be under the same electricity supplier and our last bill came in at $0.192/KWh.

    Looks like the local price for oil is $2.45/gallon at the moment, and the propane companies don't seem to publish their prices.
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,692
    Chief ,

    I will respect your anonymity and not address you by your name as seen at GBA .
    Here's what everyone needs to know when choosing these things .
    Oil = 140,000 BTU per gallon
    NG =100,000 BTU per therm N/A
    Propane = 93,000 BTU per gallon
    Electric = 3,414 BTU per Kw = 29.3 Kw = 100,000

    The water based system you were originally inquiring about can receive energy from numerous sources , such as any of the above and more . With the mini splits or any heat pump for that matter if the power is out or the sun is not up you are done . Having PV that is grid tied does you no real good for a large enough percentage of the time to be a risk . One that can possibly cause property damage and discomfort .

    You asked about radiant , Floors can be expensive as you have already discovered I believe . Have you ever heard of radiant ceilings ? They are just as if not more comfortable than radiant floors and can run at similar temperatures and higher if needed since you are not in contact with them . The install can be much less costly and in the future or now you can run chilled water if you have a means of removing latent through a ventilation system . This water is around 3 degrees above dewpoint to avoid condensation on the surfaces .
    Water can receive energy from electric , any gas , oil , solar .
    I understand you may be having difficulty locating competent people to assist you in achieving your goals for your new residence . Maybe I can help you locate assistance or even help you personally . There are many folks capable of assisting you in accomplishing your goal of efficiency and COMFORT along with having a heating medium that can get you through difficult times should an extended power outage happen .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833