RE: Heating Redux
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.
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.
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