Gas vs electric heat

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I'm looking for advice on heating my 100+ year old 3-flat (no tenants, just me and my sister).
It is currently heated by cast iron gas space heaters, 1 or 2 units per floor, approximately 35000 BTU per heater. The brick building, for the most part, has no insulation. It has an unheated glorified crawl space, 3-5 feet in height. New windows and doors, so leaking air is not a problem.
I'm remodeling the place and my contractor has suggested lowering the 10 foot ceilings to install central heat. I don't want to do that, but I'm at a loss for alternatives. I'd like to install radiant floor heat on the first floor, and gas fireplaces or heaters on the other floors. I really like my old space heaters, but my sister doesn't, and we should probably replace them anyway. I have a newer space heater that doesn't work as well, plus it's downright ugly. Direct vent gas firelplaces are being considered, but that requires punching a hole in the wall, which I'm not too keen on.
Vent-free gas heaters are out of the question, as the aggrevate my respiratory problems. Likewise for any heating system with a fan.
I'm afraid to convert to electrical heat completely, as I have no idea what it would cost. Ideally, I would love to have a dual fuel system (gas/electric), to be able to take advantage of whichever fuel is cheaper. I live in Chicago, and electric rates are due to rise around 20% soon.
What are my options? (I plan to stay in this building for another 8-10 years.)
Karen
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

In your neck of the woods, I would imagine gas is cheaper to operate in the long run due to your cold winters in Chicago. The space heaters you have now, are they the ones mounted in the wall and vents outside?
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Radiant heat is labor intensive, but well worth the money. If you've done your homework, you know that radiant floor heat only rises about 5 feet before really disapating, and it keeps the floors, such as floor tiles in the bathroom very warm. It can be installed under the floor joists or if you're remodeling the area between sub floors (putting slats at 12" centers and looping the lines around them). Make sure the installer uses the correct mixing valve, not the type that would be used off a tankless water heater. The reason being is that the temp. would still be to high. Radiant heat through the lines should only be around 120 degrees, depending on the flooring you're going to have. Your boilers typically run a water temp. of 180 degrees.
Just to throw in another option, how expensive is oil in your area? One more thing, have one room isolated (during construction) that you can get away from things (like the mess you're not going to want to deal with after a day at work.
Good luck, Patrick On Nov 24, 6:17 am, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

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Above that, warm air falls? :-)
Nick
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snipped-for-privacy@ece.villanova.edu wrote:

No, he's saying radiant heaters only heat the lower five feet.
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Because warm air falls? :-)
Nick
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I would suggest contacting one or more local contractors and discuss your options. I suspect that sticking with gas heat will be far cheaper for heating than electric.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia \'s Muire duit
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Agreed, at least in ultimate operating expense.
Heck, keep the space heaters, clean 'em up and they will actually appeal to MANY prospective tenants. Is there a separate gas meter for each flat? I'm unsure of the average layout of a "3-flat". We call them apartments or town homes if multi-floored.
The advantages of electric radiant heat CANCEL the increased cost of operation. That is, relative ease-of-installation, metering of use, many individual heating zones, etc. The installation of this type of heating could be less disruptive to the building than other forms of upgrade.
--
:)
JR

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With no insulation, air leaking is much less of a problem, but not eliminated by the new windows and doors.

In the US, a new buyer will want central heat so the resale in 10 years wold be greatly affected. If yo were in Europe, space heaters would be better accepted.

Electric is the cheapest to install, but usually the most costly to operate. Gas and oil are usually fairly close but will vary depending on location. Adding a water heated system will entail running pipes up the wall. This can often be done buy running them inside of closets or in a corner of a room and building a cover over them. Then you have to run the tubing room to room so there will be a baseboard enclosure along the entire perimeter.
If you have respiratory problems, a water heated system maybe one of the best options. If you have gas running to each floor now, you can put a gaze fired heater on each floor, but then you need ducts and blowers. With a HEPA filtration system, your respiratory problems may improve and it wallows you to add air conditioning and to separate utilities if the property goes back to rentals again.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/



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Have a friend who installed radiant floor heat cost megabucks to retrofit.
his observation the air in the rooms stagnate, he is now looking at reinstalling some air ducts for air circulation.........
smells and such linger forever....
Gas heat will be the cheapest to operate. electric always costs far more per BTU of heat.
I suggest if your remodeling you INSUATE WELL!! all walls cielings etc. sales feature at resale time, and saves big bucks while you live there.
with such a large home you might consider making it 2 units or 2 unit capable during remodel/
subdivinding with the right tenant can help pay the long term bills and permit a nicer reovation too.
example do attic apartment first, live in attic apartment while remainder of work is being done
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Andy writes:
While combustion heaters ( gas/oil/kerosene) usually cost less in fuel for each BTU generated, it must be remembered that the combustion products MUST be vented from the house. In "ventless" heaters, the safety feature is an "oxygen depletion sensor" that cuts off the fuel when the air becomes dangerous. Therefore, the house must be "leaky" enough to get rid of the hot gasses on it's own.... Many houses are.
Vented heaters send the hot gasses up a chimney to the outside.... But, in either case, the hot gasses leaving the house must be replaced by air coming INTO the house from the outside. So, if you are runnin 100 degree gasses up the chimney, and replacing it with 25 degree air in thru the cracks, the efficiency isn't very high. For instance, a good roaring fire in a chimney may heat the immediate vicinity, but the rooms where the draft air comes in at will be COLDER....
Electric heat does not require any re-circulation. And it is 100% efficient as every watt-hour you pay for is converted into about 3 BTUs of heat, without combustion products..... However, Electric heat costs more per BTU generated that fuel heaters..., generally.
So, it depends on how well insulated, and draft free your house is. The tighter your house, the less "cold" can come in from the outside. In fact, some houses have been built so "tight" that combustion heaters must have a special "intake air" pipe to provide the "draft air" for the gas flow......
Personally, I like electric heat. I can heat the bedroom at night without wasting power on the kitchen. And vice versa in the daytime..... In the summer I use fluorescent lights ( the edison base screw-in kind) in my fixtures, since they produce less heat for the same light and saves on air conditioning. In the winter, I put in 100 watt bulbs in all the fixtures, since all 100 watts for each bulb ends up as heat in the room, the same as dedicated electric heaters....
But the choice of electric is not shared by my wife. She wants the entire house warm or cool ALL THE TIME. and doesn't want to bother with efficiency or lower bills..... You may have this preference also. But the ability to "zone" the heat can halve your bill if you get into the habit of it....
Just some observations that I haven't seen posted here yet.
Andy in Eureka Texas (licensed PE)
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electric can zone easily, but you must keep the entire home above freezing with electric thats costly, my in laws convereted from all electri to gas for this reason
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The gas space heaters that she'd be likely to use, if she goes that route, would be direct vented. Thus they'd bring in the combustion air through a chambered vent pipe. The outer chamber or channel generally brings in the combustion air. The inner channel houses the exhaust and also preheats the incoming air. Thus losses from cold incoming air are minimized.
I see that you live in Texas. That's probably why you like electric heat. Your winters are not as severe.
A flat that might cost $300/month to heat by gas in Chicago could easily cost $1000/month to heat via electricity. It just isn't feasible to use electric heat in the northern tier of the USA or Canada except for spot heating, small spaces or emergencies.
Doug
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I really don't like electric heat (unless it's forced air) because there's no air circulation ... rooms get smelly, too humid, you name it, without some sort of really good air exchange system ... which does not sound reasonable for you ... or, you might as well put in central heat/cooling. I do like easy zone control ... I have 2 forced air gas furnaces ... one for each side of the house ... it's an older home with a "granny flat" built on. We live in the "granny flat", I have boarders in the other part of the house. And what would be ideal would be to further zone that other part of the house into upstairs/downstairs zones ... the upstairs gets hot in the summer so needs ac, the downstairs does not, so does not need ac.
The (zone) arrangement you have sounds ideal to me ... just needs some refurbishing. Sure, direct vent gas fireplaces require a hole in the wall, but imo it would be well worth it ... especially since you've already got the gas lines installed.
If it was me, I'd stick with the gas ...
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snipped-for-privacy@rogers.com says...

How does a house get too humid in the Winter?? I've had a hydronic system in the houses/apartments I've lived in for the last 25 years. There is no such thing as "too humid" during heating season.

Certainly!
--
Keith

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Here in Canada, with current codes, and high efficiency furnaces or electric, houses are so well sealed that in winter, and with all the windows closed, there is very little air exchange (and so air exchangers are a health necessity). We've got plants, and aquariums, and pets, and people breathing ... anon anon anon. Or, it can get humid to the point that the condensation on windows begets black mold/mildew. Now, in an older leaky home, like my last one, this doesn't happen. And so by too humid, I mean considerable condensation gets dumped on e.g. windows causing in turn mold/mildew.
There is such a thing as "too humid" during the heating season.
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bowgus wrote:

HVAC south of Canada tends to leave out the V part.
Homes recently built in Canada are indeed so tight that controlled ventilation is needed, almost required, for health of people and pets.
A thoughtful home buyer south of Canada with the funds to make it happen can get her/himself a home built that has the same issues with ventilation that our neighbors to the north have. That is, we must PLAN for the introduction of fresh air to replace the air we exhaust when we
1. Turn on a Bathroom light/exhaust 2. Turn on a gas/oil furnace 3. Turn on a gas water heater 4. Operate a clothes dryer 5. Operate a range hood
And we want to maintain a positive pressure inside so that when we open a door, outside air is pushed away from the opening, at least briefly, so that pollen/dust/mold spores stay outside.
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snipped-for-privacy@rogers.com says...

If your house is that well sealed I hate to think about your indoor air quality (out gassing of the carpet, furniture, etc.) I likely live North of you (North of most Canucks, anyway) and my house gets incredibly dry in the Winter.

Not around here!
--
Keith

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Electric heat sucks regardless of the price of electricity. In Chicago, gas is your best option, then oil, then propane.
I would NEVER buy a house with electric heat or an electric stove.
Dick
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says...

NEVER is a long time. There are situations I'd go for electric heat (in moderate temperatures and low electric rates heat pumps look pretty good - even with the occasional resistive heat needs). In NE, never!
Electric stoves, always (long story).
--
Keith

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