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Need advice regarding heating my home

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itsmyst
itsmyst Member Posts: 5
Hello!

I recently purchased a bungalow that currently uses an all electric baseboard heating system for my entire home. I've checked last years electric bill which was almost at 3300 $ for the year (previous owners also had a ~ 21 foot pool with a pump running 24/7 during the summer months which I suspect really ate into the bill as well).

I live in Montreal, Canada so the winters can get fairly cold over here. My bungalow is ~2640 sq feet split across the main floor and a basement. Some of that space is a garage which gets bloody cold and I haven't been heating. I should add that the house is fully detached and the basement is finished so I wouldn't be too keen on installing duct work for a forced air system. My most recent electricity bill was from Dec. 15 to Feb. 14 and we used 5518 kWh for a total of 515$ including taxes. This is easily going to be our most expensive bill. The previous bill was 280$ and during the summer months I don't expect to go over 100$ per two month period (08-17 to 10-14 we used 851 kWh or 84$ - this was after I turned off the pump for the pool!)

I've also been working on trying to better insulate my home and increase it's "air-tightness" (I have no mechanical ventilation in my home so I'm not even sure how good of an idea that is!). I've been plugging holes in the gyprock, caulked the border of a brick wall fireplace (thinking about getting a chimney balloon), insulated and weatherstripped the doors that lead into my cold room, garage, and small crawl space under my front door/stairs. I know that I have a lot of work to do in the attic but I haven't tackled any of that yet (not even sure yet if I'm going to be needing to add more insulation up there). It also sucks that my water heat tank is sitting in my garage, which once again, is REALLY cold.

Does anyone have any suggestions for what would be the most economical method to improve heating in this home? There is currently a ductless A/C only wall unit mounted above the front entrance (just below the tall ceiling) which can blow air into both the basement and main floor. Would swapping that unit out for one the can also heat be sufficient for the entirety of my home on most winter days? The current A/C unit installed doesn't work very well and would most probably need to be replaced anyway - we didn't even bother running it this summer. I've read that heat pumps are incredibly efficient for both heating and cooling but that the colder it gets the less efficient a heat pump is and considering how cold it is here am not sure how energy efficient it would truly end up being. Even though my electric bill is "expensive" will I even save enough money on future bills for a big upgrade to actually be worth it (I know that increasing my comfort is also worth something!)?

Regarding that fireplace. It's wood burning and the laws have changed here and I'm pretty sure I am not allowed to use it (also the clay liner at the chimney top is cracked and would need to be replaced according to what our home inspector told us). I know there's options regarding different systems we can use in there but my wife and I are somewhat worried about indoor air quality and pollutants etc.

This is a "forever" home so my wife and I aren't against putting money into the home as long as it makes sense and is cost effective down the line.

I appreciate all the help!

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,657
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    Probably the very first thing to do is to analyse the house -- with the revisions and insulation additions you plan to do -- and figure out how much heat you really need on the "design day" -- the lowest temperature you usually get. You need to do that before you start thinking about what kind of heat and how to set it up. There are several calculators on-line which work well; this one: http://www.slantfin.com/slantfin-heat-loss-calculator/ is well regarded.

    Then the next thing: the Montreal area has relatively low electric rates. You may find that your best option will be a heat pump system. It is quite true that heat pumps lose efficiency as it gets colder outside, but for most of the heating system they are very good. However, most of them are intended for forced air systems, and that may be a show stopper. There are some, however, which will work for hot water baseboard heat, such as the Daikin residential high temperature line. If that's available in your area, it might be something to look at.

    If you have natural gas -- I seem to recall that most of the Montreal area does -- that is another great option. Look at a mod/con high efficiency boiler for the heating system (again, baseboards).

    I am suggesting baseboards, as you already effectively have them in the form of your electric baseboards. The hot water heat ones can be zoned for your various spaces, and the plumbing requirements aren't much more difficult than wiring!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,483
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    $515 for 3 months? That is not so unreasonable, do you cook dry clothes and heat DHW with electricity?

    Calculate the load as Jamie indicated, find the best places $$-wise to upgrade the home, maybe have a blower door test performed.

    I think some folks in Montreal use dual fuel systems taking advantage of the low electricity cost, then switching to NG when the rate structure bumps up.

    If the fireplace flue is not tightly sealed a bit of your energy is going out the roof.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited March 2017
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    I agree with @hot rod 515 for actually 2 months. Of course this depends on what other things are on the electric side. Lights for sure. .09 a kilowatt hour after fees is not terrible. I pay 11.5 cents.

    A pointer on the pool pump. Running it 24/7 will keep the pool cleaner, and use less chemicals. I had a 24' I ran it 24/7. shock every other week, and couple chlorine tabs every three days or more. Running the pump on a timer for 8-12 hours proved to be a chemical pit trying to keep pool balanced, and clear plus my time.
  • itsmyst
    itsmyst Member Posts: 5
    edited March 2017
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    Thank you everyone with all of the information you have provided!

    I will take a look at and play around with the heat loss calculator. Also as was mentioned (and I forgot to add to my OP) is that electricity costs are very low here in Quebec, which I suppose is probably why most homes I see have heat pumps sitting outside.

    Unfortunately I looked at NG but I do not think our home is near a main line and I would have to ask the company if they are planning on extending it anytime soon near our area. I had forgotten about this option but will try contacting the company - who knows.

    I have the chimney flue closed. When I inspected it it's extremely dirty and full of soot so I'm not sure how tight of a seal it is forming. There are decorative glass panes that seal up the fireplace as well - maybe I can try weatherstripping them to make them airtight and the flue as well if I ever get around to trying to clean it. I looked into a chimney balloon and they seem to be hard to find here in Canada unless someone is willing to pay a rather exorbitant shipping fee.

    Regarding the hot water baseboard heating systems (mod/con and Daikin) would that mean having to run additional PEX or copper tubes around that house? I definitely have to read about them as you indicate that plumbing should be easy enough but for some reason in my mind sounds complicated.

    Thanks for the tip regarding the pool pump. I forgot about the other side of the equation, sure there's electric costs involved in running the pump, but saving there may mean more $$ spent on chemicals and shocking it as you mentioned.

    Edit: 515$ was for two months. Yes I cook, and heat my DHW with electricity (and once again it's a tank system sitting in my cold garage). We have a clothes dryer (runs on electricity) but use it sparingly.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,389
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    Hello, A nifty tool you might want to look into is the Flir One. It turns a smart phone into a thermal imager, which would help you see just how your house is behaving on cold days. It will help you find voids in the insulation and air leaks. It's also is a fun way to people watch! ;)

    Yours, Larry
  • itsmyst
    itsmyst Member Posts: 5
    edited March 2017
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    I am suggesting baseboards, as you already effectively have them in the form of your electric baseboards. The hot water heat ones can be zoned for your various spaces, and the plumbing requirements aren't much more difficult than wiring!

    I took a look at the heat loss calculator. I started fiddling around with it but haven't finished yet, It's going to take a while to add in all the rooms and appropriate information.

    I was curious as to the baseboard suggestion. Yes I do already have electric baseboards installed in the home, but moving to a hydronic based system would entail changing them all correct? Is there a marked advantage or disadvantage between a hydronic baseboard system VS a ductless system (assuming they're both being fed with a heat pump). The ductless system would seem to be a less "invasive" approach if you will (in my mind anyway). I know that with a ductless system If I wouldn't have enough heads I may not be able to get the heat evenly distributed throughout the house and would have less control than baseboards "zoned" for every room. Is it more a question of comfort and convenience to go with a hydronic baseboard system?

    I also had a question for you regarding the plumbing requirements. Are you implying that it's something that could be undertaken as DIY project, or simple for a contractor to do without the need to smash too much in an already finished home?

    Edit: My previous comment seems to have been deleted?
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
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    @itsmyst, based on your location and energy costs I would leave your electric baseboard alone and look at a mini-split (or 2 depending on the layout of your home) for supplemental heating and cooling. I definitely wouldn't rip out the electric to replace with hydronic or radiant.
    Canucker
  • itsmyst
    itsmyst Member Posts: 5
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    @itsmyst, based on your location and energy costs I would leave your electric baseboard alone and look at a mini-split (or 2 depending on the layout of your home) for supplemental heating and cooling. I definitely wouldn't rip out the electric to replace with hydronic or radiant.

    Would you recommend a particular company? I know both Fujitsu and Mitsubishi make ductless mini splits, among many others I'm sure.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469
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    @Gordy
    I'd suggest that something was seriously wrong with the balance of your pool, if not running the filter 24/7 required you to spend a lot of money on chemicals. I have the worst possible place for a pool....partially under a tree. I run the filter approx., 8 hrs a day, and you can read the date on a quarter on the bottom. I don't use any of the exotic chemical systems that are out there, either.
    Canucker
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
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    itsmyst said:

    @itsmyst, based on your location and energy costs I would leave your electric baseboard alone and look at a mini-split (or 2 depending on the layout of your home) for supplemental heating and cooling. I definitely wouldn't rip out the electric to replace with hydronic or radiant.

    Would you recommend a particular company? I know both Fujitsu and Mitsubishi make ductless mini splits, among many others I'm sure.
    I wouldn't recommend one over the other no, but that's because I honestly think you should look at whichever brand has the best support in your area. I am having a Mitsubishi system installed later this spring and I went with the brand my contractor recommended based on their own level of experience and availability of service parts.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited March 2017
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    > @Paul48 said:
    > @Gordy
    > I'd suggest that something was seriously wrong with the balance of your pool, if not running the filter 24/7 required you to spend a lot of money on chemicals. I have the worst possible place for a pool....partially under a tree. I run the filter approx., 8 hrs a day, and you can read the date on a quarter on the bottom. I don't use any of the exotic chemical systems that are out there, either.

    No there was never a problem with balance Paul. Your eye site isn't that good. Did you ever get in the pool.

    I had trees too. I found more success with less intervention with chemicals, and my time by running the pump as stated.
    Circulation is all about getting organics to the skimmer, and filter before they hit the bottom. Organics, and UV rays burn off chlorine.

    I also had a heater so the pool stayed 85 degrees per wifey's request :) heater doesn't run unless pump runs.
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
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    Gordy said:

    > @Paul48 said:

    > @Gordy

    > I'd suggest that something was seriously wrong with the balance of your pool, if not running the filter 24/7 required you to spend a lot of money on chemicals. I have the worst possible place for a pool....partially under a tree. I run the filter approx., 8 hrs a day, and you can read the date on a quarter on the bottom. I don't use any of the exotic chemical systems that are out there, either.



    No there was never a problem with balance Paul. Your eye site isn't that good. Did you ever get in the pool.



    I had trees too. I found more success with less intervention with chemicals, and my time by running the pump as stated.

    Circulation is all about getting organics to the skimmer, and filter before they hit the bottom. Organics, and UV rays burn off chlorine.



    I also had a heater so the pool stayed 85 degrees per wifey's request :) heater doesn't run unless pump runs.

    I'm willing to bet between the heater and those chlorine tabs that your CYA level was too high. No need to shock every other week unless the free chlorine level gets too low and you start growing stuff because you can't get enough in to offset the CYA level.
    Sorry, off topic, I'll stop now :smile:
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
    Gordy
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    My cynauric acid was always in range. When I shocked depended on a range of variables. When I said every other week it was on average. Usually as you say when free chlorine levels get low. However I never waited for things to grow.

    get the organics to the filter while they are on top of the water makes for an easier life. That only happens when you pump.
    Canucker
  • itsmyst
    itsmyst Member Posts: 5
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    itsmyst said:

    @itsmyst, based on your location and energy costs I would leave your electric baseboard alone and look at a mini-split (or 2 depending on the layout of your home) for supplemental heating and cooling. I definitely wouldn't rip out the electric to replace with hydronic or radiant.

    Would you recommend a particular company? I know both Fujitsu and Mitsubishi make ductless mini splits, among many others I'm sure.
    I wouldn't recommend one over the other no, but that's because I honestly think you should look at whichever brand has the best support in your area. I am having a Mitsubishi system installed later this spring and I went with the brand my contractor recommended based on their own level of experience and availability of service parts.
    Makes sense, time to look around for a well reputed contractor then :)