elec heat is cheap? huh?

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On Wed, 07 Oct 2009 11:36:59 -0400, Jim Elbrecht wrote:

Yeah, I keep trying to get the necessary tuits together :-)

I had them come out and trace our line a little while back as it was where I wanted to put a dog fence in - I was surprised that the line was only 6" down and just plain old 3/8" copper pipe; I was expecting something deeper and a bit stronger (possibly even a pipe within a pipe). I know that's all it is within the house, but I'd thought the outdoor stuff would be a bit tougher.
cheers
Jules
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wrote:

Your electric heating is 100% efficient. It ALL turns to heat somewhere in the house and none is lost out the "stack". It CAN be cheaper than propane or oil. Sometimes. I've told many people who converted from electric to gas to leave the electric heat installed - if gas prices spike, use the electric.
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wrote:

Generally, electric heat is 10 times more expensive than fossil fuels. It has to be one hell of a fuel price spike for electric heat to be worth it. The only time electric heat can be remotely reasonable is if only one room is heated.
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On Tue, 06 Oct 2009 22:36:25 -0500, AZ Nomad

You don't have to use resistive elements to have electric heat. There are also heat pumps. If your climate is mild enough for a heat pump they could beat gas and certainly oil or propane. I know a heat pump pool heater is cheaper to run than nat gas in SW Fla because I know people with both types and very similar pools. That is with a fairly warm ambient tho. The country club where my wife works uses heat pumps on all 7 pools they have because they are cheaper to operate..
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On Wed, 07 Oct 2009 02:23:40 -0400, gfretwell wrote:

Well, see other post - we were seeing propane heat costs of about 2x elec. heating cost last season.

I think you can run ground-source pretty much anywhere, can't you? But air-source craps out at about -20F (so no good up here).
I'd like to put a GSHP in one day, but I need to work out where the frost line is first (unless that info's online anywhere, but I've not found it yet). All I know is that the well lines are 8' down and they didn't freeze, so it's somewhere above that ;-)
I can borrow tools and dig trenches / lay the ground loops myself, but that's only if I can find a compnay that'll work with me and handle equipment supply and any bits I can't do; I think a lot of them want to do the whole job, and of course the labor for putting the loops in is $$$.
At the moment I'm probably better off replacing all the old wood-framed windows and saving the GSHP for the next project after that (by which time maybe there'll be more 'public domain' information available on them and a few more folk will have documented their own experiences)
cheers
Jules
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wrote: . A new 500 plus student school here is using 15 bore holes into the ground for ground source heating. Each is, I think 50 feet deep and will contain a vertical loop. But no reason one cannot use use horizontal loops in trenches.
And yes word here is that air exchanger heat pumps although compact and cheaper don't work well at low temps. So then electric heating cuts in and one has in effect, electric heating at low temps. So one has to consider if the extra first capital cost and complexity of a heat pump is worthwhile and economic for the length of time and weather conditions it works well.
As usual there is no 'magic' answer to every situation!
e.g wind power when no wind, solar power with no sun!
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On Wed, 07 Oct 2009 07:37:44 -0700, stan wrote:

Yeah, I always thought the vertical ones were really just for sites with less space - but thinking about it there are probably geological advantages in certain areas too, as different types of soil are going to affect performance and having vertical loops might be better than horizontal there...
Unfortunately I can't imagine installing vertical myself :-) Not sure what the installation cost is like for vertical - I know it's about $3500 for a 90' well as I was talking to an installer last year, and it wouldn't surprise me if it's at least half that for each of those installed 50' loops. Costly stuff with a long-term payback...

For sure.

Or too much wind... :-( There do seem to be some major drawbacks both with wind and solar (at least for electricity generation) - GSHP's seem to be a bit more reliable in terms of performance; it's a shame they're not talked about as much and there are still only a few companies doing installs (and charging a fortune for it). Hopefully that'll change...
cheers
Jules
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wrote:

Where the frost line is in any area is not a subject needing study. Just stop at whatever office issues building permits and they will tell you.
Harry K
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On Wed, 07 Oct 2009 08:16:26 -0700, harry k wrote:

Interesting... I can try that - we don't actually *have* building permits where I am, but they do in the nearby town, so if the info's with all such places there should be an office there somewhere that has it.
thanks
Jules
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On Wed, 07 Oct 2009 02:23:40 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

A good ground source heat pump can be something like 140% efficient. When it gets too cold, which is REAL cold, resistive electric heat can take over - and for the short amount of time it is needed in the average season, it does not hurt the heating budget terribly bad.
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-snip-

Despite the weasel word 'generally', I'd like a cite on that one.
Jim
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Just general experience. A datapoint in the early 80's; $300/mo to heat a vermont vacation house two weekends a month compared to $150/mo to heat the main house in connecticut which was twice the size and occupied all month.
In another situation, About $40/month to heat one room in a northeastern winter vs. $100/mo to heat the whole apartment.
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AZ Nomad wrote:

Generally it is a lot more useful to determine the cost/BTU and then factor in the efficiency of the heating equipment to determine net cost/BTU. Stuff like location A heating one room cost this and location B cost that pretty much tells you nothing without knowing a complete set of details and even then the answer is just a best guess.
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George wrote:

It certainly doesn't make the qualification for the use of the term "generally".
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On Wed, 07 Oct 2009 09:16:42 -0500, AZ Nomad

What you describe is not general experience- it is an isolated [30 yr old] anecdote.

In NY in the early 80's Niagara Mohawk sold electricity cheaper than oil, gas or coal prices-- per BTU. By the end of the decade it was no longer the bargain. Now NY's Public Service Commission does everything in their power to equalize the prices of Nat. Gas, propane, electricity & oil.

That's the kind of twisted reasoning that makes all these reports and predictions so unreliable. No mention is made of the Heating Degree Days- heat loss of the dwelling, or type of system installed.
If you really care to compare fuels, you need to do real world calculations.
Figure 123000 BTUs of heat from a gallon of oil. Propane makes 91600 BTU's per gallon. Electricity is 3412/kWh.
Right now- in NY [National grid] I can buy 3412 BTU's of electric resistance heat for 16cents. [I don't know anything about heat pumps anymore-- but I'll bet a ground exchange heat pump would be a lot less this time of year]
16 cents worth of oil [.149375gallons] will produce 18373 BTU's. But 20% goes up the chimney so I'm left with 14698. There are other losses- like not have room by room zones-- But you could say that electricity is roughly 4 times as expensive as oil *right now*, where I live.
16 cents worth of propane will buy 14827 BTU's. My propane heater is un-vented so it is 100% efficient- so it is also about 1/4 the cost of electricity *right now*.
Next week, next month. . .next year those numbers will change & need to be recalculated. There is no "generally electricity is 'x' times the cost of other fuels"
Jim
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AZ Nomad wrote:

What locales have that sort of ratio?

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.

.
That blanket statement is not true everywhere.
It must be very much a case of where one is located. How cold the climate and how much wind.
Here in the most eastern area of Canada it is a short summer; we do not need or use AC (although a few have heat pumps that can be reversed to provide cooling). We are less than a kilometre (that's 0.6 miles) from the North Atlantic and it CAN be windy!
The heating season started in September and will go through to at least May.
In fact when electric heating first started to be popular in the late 1950s one observation was 'Every month of the year, in this climate, requires some heating'.
Apart from the advantages of no initial costs for chimney, no oil storage tank, no annual furnace maintenance etc. we have been all electric since 1970. Our total electric maintenance during that time has been less than $100 comprising one circuit breaker, and three thermostats. Electric heating is also very safe and each room can be it's own zone. It's also very useful for an area such as a garage or workshop where it can be turned on for a few hours to work on something such as the car.
Electricity cost here, at the moment, is just over ten cents per kilowatt hour (inclusive of all sales taxes and a per customer account charge of around $17 per month).
All electricity that comes into the home gets turned into warmth in some form or other. Either as lighting, cooking, TV or other appliance usage etc. Including the heat from our two computers. Where heat is wasted is by the clothes dryer which, as it has to, chucks warm damp air outside and if/when warm bath or shower water goes straight down the drain rather than being allowed to cool to room temperature. For an estimated heat saving of somewhere around 12 to 15 cents per shower. Also dish washer that is run couple of times a week.
Several electric bulbs that are on when bathroom is in use pretty well heat it during most of the year; so the 500 watt thermostatically controlled baseboard in that room rarely cuts in. There is also a 50 watt bulb outside over front door which is on about 8 - 10 hours per nightly all year round for insurance purposes; the electricity consumed by that item is a bit less than $20 per year. Not converted to a CFL because so far they haven't worked well in cold weather! If/ when a suitable CFL is found; probably at a cost of say $3 to $5 the annual consumption of that one outside light can probably be reduced to $5 or less?
Cost: On an equal monthly payments budget plan (no interest charges) cost is now approx. $230 (Canadian) = roughly $196 US) per month for all energy consumed by the home. So average annual energy cost in US dollars is a bit less than $2400.
In view of oil costs and tight new regulations about improperly installed and protected oil tanks (only expensive delivered propane is available) many people have and are converting to 'electric furnaces' (either hot water or air, depending on what sytem they have). Since most** (but not all) of the electrcity is generated by hydro it is also considered more ecologically viable. Also with very reliable electricity sytem and fast repairs there are no fuel delivery problems.
When the wind is not blowing there is definitely a reduction during the winter in the pall of haze and smoke hanging over the downtown and harbour area of our major provincial city. Old style 'oil heaters' with tin chimneys have been long gone for many years and the use of domestic oil furnaces in the many newer homes constructed during the last twenty-thirty years pretty well unheard of.
The local electricity supplier reduced electricity rates due to lower oil** consumption at the one an only standby thermal generating station using Bunker C, but is proposing an approx 5 to 6 per cent increase next year. So our per hour kilowatt cost 'may' rise to around 11 cents (Canadian) = approx 9 cents US. As other sources become available the the thermal generating will be phased out.
Eventually the huge proposed hydro expansion at Lower Churchill, in addition to the existing Churchill Falls, in Newfoundland-Labrador which will be partly for export to other parts of Canada and the northern USA may reduce rates once again.
Trust this of interest.
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If you're talking about resistance electric heating, which apparently you are, then the climate and wind have zippo to do with how much either fuel costs. The house needs X BTUs to achieve a certain temperature. That is determined by the climate and wind. But how much it costs to supply those X BTUs is determined by the fuel costs and efficiencies, not the climate.

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AZ Nomad wrote:

I figure natural gas costs about half of electric here in Seattle.
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"AZ Nomad" wrote

I think you meant more like 10% there ;-) Your version would take a 900$ natural gas and make it 9,000$ for electric.
I think the big difference really though in the end is 'how cold does it get' where a person is. In Georgia for example, the mere cost to install a natural gas heat system wouldnt make sense compared to just going electric at need. A person in Vermont, would have a different view since it runs probably 1/2 the year or near it.
I'm the mid-zone. Gas for most of my heat needs and one room off the 'grid' gets electric. Also, Garage gets heat augment from 2 space heaters designed to have a setting just about 6C where they kick in at that temp.
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