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?
Jonathan Grobe Books
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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
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.
"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.
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
Fifth- consider some "sweat equity" in the limited effort rqd to
operate pellet stove or corn stove.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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?)
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
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...
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