Home Heating Options for Rural Midwest Residents?

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Currently I heat with heating oil with an old, inefficient furnace and with the massive increase in energy prices I am looking at alternatives. Natural gas is NOT available in my small town. Any thoughts on the various alternatives which are available and which is the best?
Thanks.
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They say that Natural Gas will go up by 71% this year. I guess we will be wearing warm clothes in the house this winter.. I've got a natural gas insert and I've got electric baseboard heaters.
On Tue, 13 Sep 2005 16:25:42 +0000 (UTC), in misc.consumers.frugal-living

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Wood buning stove, or pellet burners would be cheap. I am stuck with propane and propane accessories.
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bry623
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There is talk of a possible pellet shortage due to the increased use.
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If a pellet shortage does develop, and it well may, it won't be from overuse, but rather the US 32% tax on wood products from Canada. The lumber mills create the raw material for the pellet mills (sawdust), and production has been cut way back A large percentage of wood pellets sold in the northern US are from Canada.
I have an acquaintance who sells pellets in New England, and he is now ordering them by the traincar load from west of the Rockies. Even with that, he says pellets this year will cost about 50% more than they did ten years ago, and that's not too shabby when you look at gas and oil prices compared to just a few years ago.
k

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bry623 wrote:

"Wood" came to my mind too. Our old neighborhood was a suburb of Indianapolis, and the house I'm thinking of was probably 2700 - 3000 sf.
He heated it with wood all winter, and I never knew it until he told me. It was nice and cozy.
He did invest in a log splitter of some sort, but most of his wood he got either for free or by offering to remove fallen trees for a small fee after big storms came through.
A
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First- minimize losses. Insulate & seal like it was important. Note that exposed masonry basement, and windows are major avenues of heat loss, via infrared.
Second- invest in efficiency of burner and furnace. You may want to start with a "clean sheet."
Third- install clock-thermostat and learn how best to use it. And how deep a setback your system can recover from.
Fourth- provide reduced heating to rooms that can accomodate it. Can be as simple as closing register or rotating baffles above baseboard heater. Hanging a sheet in a hallway can greatly reduce airflow between sides.
Fifth- consider some "sweat equity" in the limited effort rqd to operate pellet stove or corn stove.
HTH, J
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Jonathan Grobe wrote:

....
What's the definition of "midwest" here? Might change the choices significantly and in particular, the ordering.
Propane is, of course, the "no-pipeline" natural gas. Prices increases will be higher than increases in NG even, I expect in most places.
If efficiency is high on the list at the expense of higher initial cost, one might consider ground or (if available source) water loop geothermal systems. Obviously, there are at least partial if not total solar contributions that could be utilized depending on house, location, desired investment, etc.
In a nutshell, there are more imponderables than data provided to answer... :)
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Johnathan Grobe wrote:

The obvious first choice is to upgrade the whole house to modern energy standards. A complete insulation envelope, U36 or better windows and doors, and a 90% efficient furnace will drop your fuel oil bill back to 1990 levels. Unfortunately, that means a substantial cash outlay up front, with the payback being continual over a number of years. If you can do it, you may as well upgrade the insulation, because energy prices will continue to rise for at least another decade. If you think fuel oil is expensive today, just wait until 2015! Over the long run, try to develop multiple sources of heat. A pellet stove (aka corn stove in the midwest) is a good alternative fuel, but will cost you a couple grand to get one installed.
I know one old codger who salvaged and reconditioned a 1940s sawdust burner hypocaust. He modified one of those big round grain bins as a sawdust bunker, and the grain auger was easy to adapt to feed a small (8'x8'x6') sawdust bin that supplies the sawdust burner auger. You can still get truckloads of dry sawdust dirt cheap around here, because nobody burns the stuff any more. It's not free, but his heat bill runs about $400 a year, and the price hasn't gone up any. He already had the grain bin, the concrete slab and the grain auger to get the sawdust into the bin. If you started out from scratch, the installation would cost $20,000 or more, so his solution is not for everyone.
The point is, there should be under-utilized energy resources in your area. In the midwest, seed corn has been the traditional fuel of preference. Pellet stoves can be modified to burn corn, and most stove stores should be able to fix you right up. As more corn goes into fuel production, prices may change. If there is a ready source of coal in your area, you should look at that too.
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US U36 would be about 36 times less insulative than a single pane window.

As in "radiant floor"? :-)
Nick
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Nick the Twit wrote:

So put the decimal point in if you want, I don't care. Nobody but a total idiot would get confused by the spec.

As in "radiant floor"? :-)
Haven't been around long, have you? A hypocaust is a convection furnace. It has at least one duct to every room, sometimes two or three. It looks like a huge octopus sitting in the basement.
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How arrogant. Nobody but a total idiot would leave the decimal out :-)

The Romans built hypocaust radiant floors. There's one in Bath, England.
Nick
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best in terms of what - Convienience and up front costs are a factor.
If it were me, I would probably just look at upgrading the oil system to a more efficient unit. Everything else remains the same. next - I would would compare that to propane. I would not go with electric although it may be cheaper this year it certainly wont be in the long run IMO. I would not use pellet, wood or any other similar devices as a primary heat source. Too much work IMO.

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An efficient furnace with hot water base boards is my recommendation. Oil is high, but so is any other fossil fuel derivative. The more processing (eg, propane vs natural gas) the higher the price. So, oil still gets my vote.
I like base board heat, especially for the extreme cold, because if the bottoms edges and corner are warm the whole house will be warm. My husband, whose house was smaller, liked the Monitor 91 oil stove with thermostat, partly for its simplicity.
We have "emergency, back up" wood heat in our/my house, per our insurance policy, which we will use as our primary heat source. But we're not buying the wood (except for gas for the truck and saws, etc, and a little help). Keep in mind that there is a cost to wood heat in labor, and especially time and attention. The time to care acquire the wood, stack and care for the wood, and also the time to attend the fire. Wood heat is not as care-free as oil heating and requires much more attention, monitoring, thinking. It's easier to get the house (and all your clothes and furnishings) smelly from smoke, for example.
No matter what the electric rates are, they are usually based on fossil fuel (oil, coal, etc) costs to produce the electricity. As such, the rates are generally higher than the cost of power that's one step less processed (ie, the oil costs).
Unless you live where you can get thermal, solar, wind, or other less standard power, or natural gas, we're pretty much stuck with some variation of oil. We're not going to be able to stop using it soon, so we need to use it the most efficient way we can. And of course the same is true for coal, wood, etc.
There are furnaces that use multi-fuels (eg, McDonalds' old french fries oil, waste oil from car motors, etc), but I don't know much about them.
(Is there a difference between boilers and furnaces?)
Tina
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Not true of electricity from coal. And there is very little electricity generated from oil in the first world anymore.

Nope, most obviously with electricity.

Nope, because coal wont be running out any century soon.
And is trivially replaceable with nukes even when it does.

Boilers basically heat water, furnaces heat air.
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Electric heat exchanger? Propane furnace plus blown insulation and new windows?
Wooly Who grew up in an 1812 Illinois farmhouse...BRRRRR!
On Tue, 13 Sep 2005 16:25:42 +0000 (UTC), Jonathan Grobe

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Reply to the list as I do not publish an email address to USENET. This practice has cut my spam by more than 95%. Of course, I did have to abandon a perfectly good email account...
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corncobs?
spewed forth :

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Charles Spitzer wrote:

Actually, burning corn in a pellet stove is more common than one would think.

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One of the terminal stupiditys produced by subsidising agriculture in the first world.

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It might be a good idea to have multiple alternatives so that you are not freezing your ass off, if, for example, the power goes down in one of those Midwest blizzards...
Alternatives are propane, wood furnace, lots of fireplaces, pellet stoves, air exchange heat pump, ground source heat pump, electric baseboard radiant heating, your existing heating oil furnace (as a backup). There are various tradeoff's, for example, an air exchange heat pump may not be much more complex than installing an air conditioner, and might work just fine when it's 45 F outside. But it will be pretty much useless at -10 F.
What's best depends on local conditions and prices in your area. For example, do you have a cheap and readily available source of firewood?}
Where I live (in Oregon), there are many small towns along the Pacific Coast that are too small to have a gas utility. In most cases, the fuel of choice is propane. YMMV...
Beachcomber
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