View Full Version : RE: Heating Redux



firefighterjake
07-18-2008, 09:43 AM
So it's the middle of July, it was in the 90s yesterday and humid . . . and I'm now really thinking about the long heating season ahead of us (as opposed to before where it was a fleeting thought) . . . namely because my oil/propane company sent me my usual budget contract and this year they're not even giving me an option of locking in a set price per gallon -- only says they will charge me 5 cents below the current cash price of the day.

With prices now around $4.70 or so I am giving some serious thought to alternative heating (as I suspect a lot of folks are doing.) I know this topic has been bandied about before, but I figured I would bring it back up and see if anyone has any new views or input . . . plus I have some questions. Here's a few of the options I'm exploring.

Solar Heat: I haven't done much with this since it seems fairly expensive and limiting.

Coal: I haven't explored this option much since I've read that coal can be hard to start (but burns well once going) . . . plus it seems as though the shipping costs may negate any potential savings.

Woodstove: I've looked some at this, but I'm not too crazy about having to build a chimney, don't really have a lot of space in my house for this and don't particularly care for the mess.

Wood boiler (old tech): I'm giving this some serious consideration since it seems as though the price of hooking on a woodboiler to my existing oil boiler wouldn't be too bad and I would get central heat out of the deal. However, due to the aforementioned lack of space in the house I would have to house this boiler in a nearby, insulated shed and run the pipes to the house (another added cost.) Has anyone done this . . . and/or does anyone know of a good, solid add-on wood boiler? Another issue is that I believe this will require a good charge of wood which means cutting, splitting, storage, etc. and time is getting short (incidentally I'm not worried about supply since I have access to a wood lot.)

Wood boiler (gassification-style): I like these boilers, but they're pretty expensive, would require an insulated shed, require well seasoned firewood and they seem to work best with a heated water/storage tank. Anyone have any experience with these -- i.e. Tarm Solos, Garns, Ekos, Econoburns?

"Hallowell Air Conditioner": I explored the heat exchangers made by the company in Hallowell . . . but it seems as though this is still fairly new for Maine and I wonder about the costs of electricity. I know folks in the south use these . . . and by south I mean Haffy-south not Hiram-south (i.e. Haffy-south = Carolinas, Hiram-south = Portland.)

Geo-thermal Heat Sinks: Haven't explored this option much.

Propane space heater/fireplace: Seems as though the price is right up there alongside the price of heating oil.

Wood/corn pellet stove: I'm giving this option some serious consideration since I think I could put an insert into my living room (with the bulk of the backside of the stove jutting into my den wall) and it should effectively heat our main living space. Installation seems to be a mite easier . . . but the cons would include the fan noise, finding a stove and pellets (forget about Harmans now . . . at least until March) and the potential problems with the added mechanical features found in the pellet stove. While I like the convenience and cleanliness that is purported with these stoves, it does rankle me a bit to know that I have access to "free" wood and would end up buying pellets. Anyone have any experience with pellet stoves . . . other pros/cons, recommended brands?

Oil boiler: This is what I have currently. Last year we updated to a newer, more efficient boiler. It definitely helped as we burned about 100-125 gallons less of fuel from the previous year . . . however I'm looking for ways to reduce the usage even less.

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On other heating fronts . . . My wife and I have insulated/replaced several windows in our 70's vintage house and we are planning on doing some more insulating of the crawlspace/basement (it's a basement with cinderblock walls, but only about 4 1/2 feet high), fixing some windows and insulating the attic a bit more. I believe this is one area that should pay back fairly quickly.

I also have a propane gas heater . . . I'm considering an on-demand Rinnai system. Would this save me much in propane gas costs? Currently using about 200 gallons each year. Anyone have one of these?

Thanks to any and all inputs.

Sudonim
07-18-2008, 10:42 AM
As I am typing this, the Home Depot guy is loading 9 tons of pellets in our "spare" work bay out back. I looked at Harmon and Quadrafire stoves, couldn't get a Harmon, so we got a Quadrafire for the house and my store. The fan noise is a non-issue, you can stand right next to it and not hear noise. Other than that, we'll see how it works this winter!
I like the fact that I locked in my price now and used my 6 months-same as cash Home Depot card so I don't have to pay until after Xmas.

FuddsGirls
07-18-2008, 10:59 AM
and by south I mean Haffy-south not Hiram-south (i.e. Haffy-south = Carolinas, Hiram-south = Portland.)
.

Ha, Hiram in southern Maine, that's funny. See Bowdoinham is in Maine afterall.:D
Home Depot delivered our 5 ton of wood pellets last week. I plan on burning more pellets and turning the heaters right off. In the past we used the oil for morning back up if I didn't load the stove at night but I'll just be more careful. We have an Englander stove from Home Depot also that we bought 3 yrs ago. The fan is quiet but the auger was a bit loud. The company sent us a new one with a differnt design and it is quieter now. Its a good stove at a good price. Ours is in the basement so it heats the house through the floors and vents. In the past we had a wood stove but we were using the same chimney as the furnace, and Fudd didn't like that, being a fireman. Ther was also that black dust coating everything in the basement from the smoke. The pellet stove is vented out a basement window and they have a kit to do it. T2H just told that Hancock lumber has a better deal on pellets now. But if you are going that route, don't wait till the stove actually comes in. Get your pellets while you can because the demand is huge

Hiram357
07-18-2008, 11:24 AM
but it seems as though this is still fairly new for Maine and I wonder about the costs of electricity. I know folks in the south use these . . . and by south I mean Haffy-south not Hiram-south (i.e. Haffy-south = Carolinas, Hiram-south = Portland.)

wait a minute jake... we live further north than you! :p

now who lives in northern mass!!! ;):rolleyes::D

firefighterjake
07-18-2008, 01:28 PM
As I am typing this, the Home Depot guy is loading 9 tons of pellets in our "spare" work bay out back. I looked at Harmon and Quadrafire stoves, couldn't get a Harmon, so we got a Quadrafire for the house and my store. The fan noise is a non-issue, you can stand right next to it and not hear noise. Other than that, we'll see how it works this winter!
I like the fact that I locked in my price now and used my 6 months-same as cash Home Depot card so I don't have to pay until after Xmas.

If you don't mind me asking . . . and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't . . . where did you get the Quadrafire and was it available right away or in a few weeks/months time.

firefighterjake
07-18-2008, 01:30 PM
wait a minute jake... we live further north than you! :p

now who lives in northern mass!!! ;):rolleyes::D

I'm still north of Augusta!!!

firefighterjake
07-18-2008, 01:32 PM
Ha, Hiram in southern Maine, that's funny. See Bowdoinham is in Maine afterall.:D
Home Depot delivered our 5 ton of wood pellets last week. I plan on burning more pellets and turning the heaters right off. In the past we used the oil for morning back up if I didn't load the stove at night but I'll just be more careful. We have an Englander stove from Home Depot also that we bought 3 yrs ago. The fan is quiet but the auger was a bit loud. The company sent us a new one with a differnt design and it is quieter now. Its a good stove at a good price. Ours is in the basement so it heats the house through the floors and vents. In the past we had a wood stove but we were using the same chimney as the furnace, and Fudd didn't like that, being a fireman. Ther was also that black dust coating everything in the basement from the smoke. The pellet stove is vented out a basement window and they have a kit to do it. T2H just told that Hancock lumber has a better deal on pellets now. But if you are going that route, don't wait till the stove actually comes in. Get your pellets while you can because the demand is huge

Other than the loud auger motor no other issues with the Englander? From what I've read at Hearth.com (I like to research things) the Englander is well-built and sold at Home Depots, hardware stores, etc. . . . my only concern is if it needs servicing . . . is it pretty easy to clean/service?

Sudonim
07-18-2008, 02:05 PM
If you don't mind me asking . . . and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't . . . where did you get the Quadrafire and was it available right away or in a few weeks/months time.

We got two, one for the shop and one for the house. 8 week ordering time from Finest Home and Hearth, next to Applebee's in Bangor. They gave us 10%off the smaller one for ordering 2.

Team U.S.Eh?
07-18-2008, 04:06 PM
We put an insert in last December. We got a napoleon and we hardly notice the noise....no louder than our air conditioner anyway. We have had no trouble and it heats our main living area. We did not use our oil furnace hardly at all after we got it. Saved a lot of money last year! Glad we got it when we did though.

Sudonim
07-18-2008, 05:52 PM
Jake, I think as far as the noise concern, my oil furnace, even in the basement, can be pretty loud. And you can ask pedalchick, when I get my oil bills, there is kind of a whining noise too!

Mainiac1957
07-19-2008, 03:57 AM
Our house was actually quite stingy on oil. 500 to 600 gal a year. We also bought a Quadrafire pellet stove. Their rating were quite good. I'm hoping to use around 3 to 4 tons of pellets and very little oil such as when we go away for a weekend. The model we got holds 80 pounds so I'm figuring a day and a half to two days on a fill. I am making a few other modifications to the house to help move the warmed air around. Such as a through the wall fan to bring air into the front room where Kathie works.

Hiram357
07-20-2008, 10:21 PM
I'm still north of Augusta!!!

blah blah blah quit tryin to put a positive spin on it!! :p:p:p

firefighterjake
07-21-2008, 08:13 AM
At this point it doesn't look good if I want to go for one of the top brands for pellet stoves . . . Harmons are pretty much non-existent until March 2009 and the Quadrafires aren't available for install until December . . . and while I am positive that I could do the install the insurance company states that any heating appliance needs to be installed by a professional -- no DIY. :( Leaning now towards woodstoves or a wood boiler perhaps . . . seems as though folks aren't as crazy when it comes to installing these (perhaps too much work or folks don't have as easy access to a woodlot.)

firefighterjake
07-21-2008, 08:14 AM
blah blah blah quit tryin to put a positive spin on it!! :p:p:p

Is the BIG MOVE still on for this coming weekend? Let me know when and where to meet . . . and if you would like me to bring the trailer.

FuddsGirls
07-21-2008, 09:28 AM
Other than the loud auger motor no other issues with the Englander? From what I've read at Hearth.com (I like to research things) the Englander is well-built and sold at Home Depots, hardware stores, etc. . . . my only concern is if it needs servicing . . . is it pretty easy to clean/service?
We bought a small shop van to clean it out , easy enough. As far as servicing, we haven't needed any. The issue it had was taken care of by us. The web sight is supportive and the piece needed was sent within a few days.

Hiram357
07-21-2008, 12:09 PM
Is the BIG MOVE still on for this coming weekend? Let me know when and where to meet . . . and if you would like me to bring the trailer.

Too late Dave1976 beat ya too it. He said he would bring his trailer down, and I thought to myself, "that'd be great, we can move a couple peices of furniture up..." hah! He moved the whole apartment single handedly with both arms tied behind his back! (well, ok so it wasn't that easy) but we made two trips and magically everyting just ended up in bangor! Dave kinda spoiled the fun for everyone else that wanted to help us move... (I think everyone wanted to help so they could justify trailer purchases to their wives...) :rolleyes::D

firefighterjake
07-21-2008, 12:28 PM
Too late Dave1976 beat ya too it. He said he would bring his trailer down, and I thought to myself, "that'd be great, we can move a couple peices of furniture up..." hah! He moved the whole apartment single handedly with both arms tied behind his back! (well, ok so it wasn't that easy) but we made two trips and magically everyting just ended up in bangor! Dave kinda spoiled the fun for everyone else that wanted to help us move... (I think everyone wanted to help so they could justify trailer purchases to their wives...) :rolleyes::D

Man . . . I just wanted to cash in on the RR Square pizza offer that Steph mentioned. ;):D

So does this mean you're now an official Bangor-ite? Should I warn anyone?

And most importantly . . . what does this mean for this weekend's plans? If I remember correctly Steph was doing some conference or meeting or something?

Hiram357
07-21-2008, 12:31 PM
Man . . . I just wanted to cash in on the RR Square pizza offer that Steph mentioned. ;):D

So does this mean you're now an official Bangor-ite? Should I warn anyone?

And most importantly . . . what does this mean for this weekend's plans? If I remember correctly Steph was doing some conference or meeting or something?

sorry jake, dave and connie beat ya to the RR square pizza too... :rolleyes:

and I think were officiallay bangorians now... and don't warn anyone, I like the elemement of suprise... :eek::D:cool:

and the 8ball has not yet made plans for this weekend, I'll shake it up tomorrow and see what it says... :D

dí76
07-22-2008, 08:53 PM
Connie and I where happy to help. It was fun. What are friends for? Dinner was awesome aswell. After making that bed fit upstairs I hope you stay for awhile. LOL:D

firefighterjake
07-23-2008, 06:55 AM
I'm now leaning more towards buying a woodstove due to the cost, availability and installation time (i.e. I can get a brand I want and have it installed before the Spring of 2009) and I kind of like the idea that I more or less control the cost of the fuel source (i.e. wood from the woodlot) vs. someone raising the price of the fuel.

Any particular recommendations on brands and/or types? I've been doing quite a bit of research at hearth.com . . . but I'm always open to folk's opinions.

darterkitfox
07-23-2008, 07:24 AM
I would recommend a Harmon hot air furnace. I won't even begin to tell you how little amount of wood we burn because no one would believe it and I know a couple on the list would actually outright call me a liar. In the winter we keep our house 78 degrees day and night. It is partly because we like it at that temperature and partly because the stove cannot burn any slower and still stay lit. We put in a few floor ducts and I used 6 inch stove pipe to make a few hot air ducts. If you don't mind all the heat coming out of one spot (where the woodstove is located) you won't need to duct. It is fan driven but when power went out, it still put out plenty of radiant heat. It also burns coal if you wanted but our house is so small, I would have to keep most of the windows open in the winter to get rid of excess heat. I am perfectly willing to put wood into it and heat it up this summer if you are ever in the area and are interested in seeing it work. Zero degrees out and it will raise temperature 15 degrees in 10 minutes. O.K. I can hear the doubters starting to reply already so I won't say any more.

pjpreb
07-27-2008, 06:42 PM
There is a control you can have installed on your oil boiler that will regulate the temperature of the water you're heating with relative to the outdoor temperature. The controls work on the premise that you don't need 180 degree water for heat if it is 40 degrees outside (vs. 0 degrees). The manufacturers have money back guarantee savings. Mfr's include Intellicon, Beckett, and Tekmar (and probably some others).

mainesurveyor
07-28-2008, 09:43 AM
I've been using an outdoor wood boiler by Heatmor for about 10 years now. It's tied into my existing hot water baseboard oil boiler using a heat exchanger (because the outdoor boiler is much lower than the house). I heat an old farmhouse (about 33% redone with new windows and insulation) and a new in-law apartment add-on, total area 3000+ sq. ft. on about 12 cord a year. I expect that to drop to about 8 cord when I get the rest of the house remodeled.

--Mike.