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Total cost of ownership

DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,181
Let's say you have a client who wants to build a large house. He asks you to design a heating system that would be very reliable (consider storms, power outages, and fuel availability) and have the lowest possible total cost of ownership over the next 50 years. What would you design?
Retired and loving it.
Roohollah

Comments

  • Tom_133
    Tom_133 Member Posts: 839
    Dan, are we handcuffed by upfront costs? Do we factor current incentives? Location of said house, changing possible heat losses and design of equipment? I have more but I assume you are just looking for best overall?
    Tom
    Montpelier Vt
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,181
    Thanks, @Tom_133. No handcuffs. Consider cost of equipment and installation, fuel used over 50 years, and all maintenance. What sort of system would give your client the most reliability and economy over the next half-century?
    Retired and loving it.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,073
    If I were designing it and didnt have to worry about decarbonization and fossil fuels, I would suggest a radiant heating system with a gas fired boiler. According to ASHRAE, the life expectancy for a boiler is 25-30 years.
    If the power availability is questionable, I may choose a standard efficiency boiler and would only need 24 volts for the gas valve and power for the circulator. It will last forever
    When I was first married with kids, we had a one pipe steam steam system with a power pile pilot. The power would often go out in the area and we always had heat because the system needed no power. The neighbors found out about this and would send their kids over to our place because they knew we were always warm
    Respectfully
    Ray


    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Roohollah
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,181
    I'm asking because a friend sent this and it made me think:

    I have done a lot o designs and done a ton of service
    and if I was building a mansion it would install a single pipe steam system
    with an old fashioned millivolt gas valve (i don't even want the electric co involved)
    and a mechanical float driven water feeder with a tank on the upper floor to with reverse osmosis and deionized water for gravity feeding

    the header would of course be a drop header and then go all the way to the roof's ridgeline and feed across and downward so that steam and condensate travel in the same direction - talk about an "a" dimension, cant beat that!!!

    my challenge is this: the 50years TCO(Total Cost of Ownership) that is install, fuel, maintenance after 50years, that system will have a TCO way less than anything else including radiant with geothermal heat pumps!!!

    even stupid old fashioned water heaters are better than the new fangled tankless - i fix them also - i my house I have two high recovery 50's that's 130000btu in the water, i can stand in the shower all day, and i have redundancy - because water heaters seem to know exactly when the holidays are and promptly fail

    its not just the TCO it's also the cost of aggravation - with a my system you can go on vacation and know that the house won't freeze and bust even if there is a power outage - you can't put a price on that kind peace of mind

    i do lots of service and if you have to change a combustion fan in a modcon boiler - the gas savings of ten years is lost, kinda stupid... that's why my challenge is 50yr TCO
    Retired and loving it.
    Roohollah
  • newtonkid88
    newtonkid88 Member Posts: 100
    edited August 2022
    Hard to predict the cost of fuels over a 50 year span. Right now, it can cost $1,000 to fill up a 275 gal oil tank.

    In the history of ever, has electric element heat ever been cheaper than a fossil fuel heat?

    How about a heat pump inverter type system like Mitsubishi? You get AC with that too
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,130
    TCO would be largely dependent on how tight and efficient the house is, and not the heating system imo. Build a passive house where you can heat it with a candle at design and tell me the TCO. If I'm building a house from the ground up and budget isn't a concern that is the route I'm going. High upfront costs but energy and maintenance costs would never be a concern again. 

    Just have to manage that pesky water vapor and condensation. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,769
    ISTR we had a similar discussion in HH.com's early days, but it probably got lost in a software change.

    It involved planning a heating system when electricity and maybe gas and oil supply were unreliable. The consensus was steam, since most of the system drains dry when the system shuts off. This would sharply limit if not eliminate freezing damage to the system.

    If I were doing this, I'd build a Tudor system. Aside from the boiler itself and its controls, in a small house the system would only have two moving parts- air vents on the steam main and dry return.

    I'm asking because a friend sent this and it made me think:

    I have done a lot o designs and done a ton of service
    and if I was building a mansion it would install a single pipe steam system
    with an old fashioned millivolt gas valve (i don't even want the electric co involved)
    and a mechanical float driven water feeder with a tank on the upper floor to with reverse osmosis and deionized water for gravity feeding

    the header would of course be a drop header and then go all the way to the roof's ridgeline and feed across and downward so that steam and condensate travel in the same direction - talk about an "a" dimension, cant beat that!!!

    my challenge is this: the 50years TCO(Total Cost of Ownership) that is install, fuel, maintenance after 50years, that system will have a TCO way less than anything else including radiant with geothermal heat pumps!!!

    even stupid old fashioned water heaters are better than the new fangled tankless - i fix them also - i my house I have two high recovery 50's that's 130000btu in the water, i can stand in the shower all day, and i have redundancy - because water heaters seem to know exactly when the holidays are and promptly fail

    its not just the TCO it's also the cost of aggravation - with a my system you can go on vacation and know that the house won't freeze and bust even if there is a power outage - you can't put a price on that kind peace of mind

    i do lots of service and if you have to change a combustion fan in a modcon boiler - the gas savings of ten years is lost, kinda stupid... that's why my challenge is 50yr TCO

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,983
    I can do it for free...if I built the mansion somewhere tropical.
    Who doesn't love the steam idea? As long as they can still get a gas hook up. But B100 could also be better than natural gas, but no millivolt, so you'd need backup power for an outage.
    steve
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,338
    I've been thinking that a two pipe naturally-induced vacuum steamer with a millivolt gas valve would be fun to have. Especially now that I know that someone else will end up with my electricity of we run short.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,332
    I agree with Jamie on the passive solar heated house.

    But also point out passive cooling, that is not needing the AC until we hit the 90's.

    Simply having south windows and doors with corresponding north openings allows the wind to pass thru, (something we are seldom short of in Nebr.)

    Of course you need some land to do this, we have a 2 acre lot in town and get plenty of breeze passing thru the house.
    PC7060
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,054
    I think I would do a millivolt gravity hot water job.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,592
    If Client wants AC, we’re probably talking Geothermal. If he she wants a nice new big house, I’m sure s-he wants to be cool too
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,999
    edited August 2022
    There is a house in the New Jersey Pinelands that has a well that reaches a methane pocket. There was about 2"WC pressure coming from that well over 80 years ago. I think it is down to about 1.2" WC now. I wonder what that gas pressure will be down to in 50 years? I know they use it for cooking and heating. There is your lowest cost of ownership. Drilling for water and get Natural gas by accident.

    That and a millivolt gas valve on a gravity water or @DanHolohan's steam system might be all you need for the next 50 years. Just keep enlarging the gas burner orifices every 10 years as needed!
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    CLamb
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,027
    A huge part of TCO is resale because plans change. Insulation, air sealing with a hybrid furnace/air source heat pump gets the AC future buyers want with the fuel flexibility. Tight and insulated should let you ride out short outages, while the furnace can run with minor power. 
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,913
    edited August 2022
    Very reliable and able to run easily during storms and power outages.

    Either steam or gravity hot water with cast iron radiators and a simple atmospheric cast iron boiler.

    Millivolt would be preferred and is technically possible if doing your own work. If someone made a DC gas valve both systems could easily be run for weeks on battery power. Worse case. both can be run by battery using an inverter. Probably depends on your location too though, can you use LPG in areas that see -40F?

    On a similar note I'd love to know what the original cost of the 80% 120K input Mueller Climatrol furnace that was in the house I grew up in. Even though I can't stand forced air, that furnace ran basically untouched other than filters for 45 years and even then just needed a new gas valve. Something tells me that blower and cast iron heat exchanger wasn't exactly cheap. If it was affordable, that might be the bottom of total cost of ownership.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    reggi
  • george_42
    george_42 Member Posts: 116
    I did this at my house 4 years ago. Foan insulation with dround sourse geothermal . 3500 sq ft home takes about 80 dollars a month with 11 cents per kw
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,913
    george_42 said:

    I did this at my house 4 years ago. Foan insulation with dround sourse geothermal . 3500 sq ft home takes about 80 dollars a month with 11 cents per kw


    Where are you located and what's the design temp?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,332
    ChrisJ, FWIW, I did see some gas valves rated for 24 VAC/12 VDC on furnaces from 50's-early 60's.
    Standing pilot with standard thermcouple.

    I believe the intent of these was battery operation for power failure. Burner could cycle on high limit.
    Blower door removal could permit some gravity air flow......not safe to do.....

    And LPG is in use in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
    Often the tank is buried to keep the it slightly warmer than ambient.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,913
    edited August 2022
    JUGHNE said:

    ChrisJ, FWIW, I did see some gas valves rated for 24 VAC/12 VDC on furnaces from 50's-early 60's.
    Standing pilot with standard thermcouple.

    I believe the intent of these was battery operation for power failure. Burner could cycle on high limit.
    Blower door removal could permit some gravity air flow......not safe to do.....

    And LPG is in use in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
    Often the tank is buried to keep the it slightly warmer than ambient.


    I was thinking battery operation with steam or gravity HW obviously not forced hot air.
    I guess you could also do it with gravity air (Is that what the octopus duct systems are called?) if there's any of them left.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • george_42
    george_42 Member Posts: 116
    I am in central pa with geothermal and keep house in the 60`s summer and 70`s winter
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 18,279
    Would you design just a heating system in this day and age? Or make the buyer aware of the bigger picture, a comfort system. A system that heats, cools, adds or removes humidity and filters the air.

     It the home is tightly constructed, then ventilation recovery would also be part of the system. A system that follows ASHRAE guidelines perhaps.




    Or just a simple wood stove centrally located for the other end of the spectrum😉
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    CLambrick in Alaska
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 738
    Having built and rebuilt a number of houses and odd building I don't see how anything can match the cost of a duel fuel ducted system with modern construction.

    Insulate properly w/ good windows. Add zoning -- I always zone and the new VS equipment is perfect for zoning.

    My last odd project was a church and I had some challenges with ductwork -- since I planned on owning it for a long time and only had one shot to get it all right -- I did full radiant as well as ducted. The radiant was about 3x the cost of the ducted. That blew the total cost of ownership.

    I'm in the mid-atlantic. My beach house is on the water with a lot of glass and my primary is an historic stone structure from the 1870's that I rebuilt and updated w/ foam and good windows. Both get close to having too low a heat load ...

    People did hot water for comfort in big old leaky houses

    Hot_water_fan
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,913
    edited August 2022
    hot_rod said:

    Would you design just a heating system in this day and age? Or make the buyer aware of the bigger picture, a comfort system. A system that heats, cools, adds or removes humidity and filters the air.

     It the home is tightly constructed, then ventilation recovery would also be part of the system. A system that follows ASHRAE guidelines perhaps.




    Or just a simple wood stove centrally located for the other end of the spectrum😉


    Well.
    If I was building a house for my self, yes, I would do cast iron radiators and probably steam and then a ducted system for cooling and a dehumidification. Filtering the air doesn't seem to do anything really as far as dust removal at least that's been my experience.



    However,
    Dan's question was "He asks you to design a heating system"
    So what I would do, or anyone else here for that matter isn't relevant.

    I remember some school tests where that would've been a fail because you didn't follow instructions. :D

    But the wood stove......
    Build a two story house with a large open center and a 2nd floor that wraps around the center over looking everything and put a wood / coal stove in the center. That's probably by far the cheapest and most reliable and most certainly works during storms. I think you win on that one.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    rick in Alaska
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,027
    Having built and rebuilt a number of houses and odd building I don't see how anything can match the cost of a duel fuel ducted system with modern construction. 
    Agreed - and the market reflects this. If steam/geothermal/passive solar/solar thermal/hamsters/whatever added value, new homes would have it. Since the vast majority do not, we can safely assume on day one the additional costs will not be recouped at sale. That really sinks TCO! 
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 18,279
    ChrisJ said:

    hot_rod said:

    Would you design just a heating system in this day and age? Or make the buyer aware of the bigger picture, a comfort system. A system that heats, cools, adds or removes humidity and filters the air.

     It the home is tightly constructed, then ventilation recovery would also be part of the system. A system that follows ASHRAE guidelines perhaps.




    Or just a simple wood stove centrally located for the other end of the spectrum😉


    Well.
    If I was building a house for my self, yes, I would do cast iron radiators and probably steam and then a ducted system for cooling and a dehumidification. Filtering the air doesn't seem to do anything really as far as dust removal at least that's been my experience.



    However,
    Dan's question was "He asks you to design a heating system"
    So what I would do, or anyone else here for that matter isn't relevant.

    I remember some school tests where that would've been a fail because you didn't follow instructions. :D

    But the wood stove......
    Build a two story house with a large open center and a 2nd floor that wraps around the center over looking everything and put a wood / coal stove in the center. That's probably by far the cheapest and most reliable and most certainly works during storms. I think you win on that one.
    I'd say no thanks, especially not knowing where the home was to be built :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 690
    edited August 2022
    If I were to do this, I would have a top fed gravity hot water system with an open to air steel expansion tank and cast iron radiators.
    The boiler would be plugged into a 110-volt electrical outlet and the boiler could be powered by a small generator if there was a black out and natural gas, propane, oil or stoker coal was the fuel source.
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,498
    If no a/c then I would go with cast iron radiators , thermostatic radiator valves, std efficiency cast iron boiler, od reset. Sizing for as low of temp as I could get away with. Solar pv on roof with Battery storage and small emergency generator for heating system and other mandatory loads.
    I love high efficiency boilers but I see the 10-12 yr tco washing good portion of the savings pretty much. Sometimes there is plus savings but I do track maintenance/repair costs vs savings and its what I am seeing. With that said, I still promote high efficiency for the ecological reasons and when energy prices do rise then the benefit will be there more so.