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Thread: Help with choice of Heating/ Cooling equipment for Southern New England

  1. #16
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Code for new construction calls for exhaust ventilation for both kitchen and bath rooms, but there isn't anybody making you use it. In very-tight well insulated house heat recovery ventilators (HRV) operating at a duty-cycle is a common solution to indoor air pollution.


    In those homes it's common to have only exhuast registers in the kitchen & bath areas, and use jump-ducts or door-cuts as the ventilation path for those rooms. That keeps the odors & humidity from being drawn into the other spaces. These are very tiny ducts by heating & cooling stadards- 4-6" trunk lines, with 3-4" branches, and are pressure-balanced when commissioning them so that the HRV neither pressurises or depressurizes the house so that it doesn't drive air infiltration via other paths. Internally they have a counterflow heat exchanger to pre-condition the ventilation air to nearly the same temp as the exhaust air, and are EXREMETLY efficient from a sensible-heat point of view, but they do not preserve the humidity balance. Their close cousin the energy recovery ventilator has a moisture exchange as well as a sensible heat exchange, but the moisture exchange isn't nearly as effective, but still better than nothing in a CT climate given fairly high summertime outdoor dew points.


    Under IRC 2012 houses that test tighter than three air exchanges per hour at 50 pascals pressure (aka " 3ACH/50" a common blower door test pressure) require mechanical ventilation. Under IRC 2012 all new houses in New England need to test no more than 3ACH/50, which means all houses will be required to have some sort of active ventilation that can be run at ASHRAE 62.2 rates or higher (though there is no reason to actually run it that high under normal circumstances- maybe when you have the gang over drinkin' whiskey, playin' cards and smokin' cigars it might make sense. :-) ) While HRV isn't mandated, it's the most energy-efficient. Exhaust only systems can work, but require inlet ports at every room to truly meet spec. A retrofit HRV system could run as much as 4-5 grand, sometimes higher, but in new construction it's usually less than that.

    Tight house or not, the indoor air quality of ALL houses can be improved with ventilation systems. The air leakage into your house isn't guaranteed to be the locations that need it most, and could be coming from some less-great space, like a garage or a fetid crawlspace full of mold.

  2. #17
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    I cannot remember if there is poly or not on the inner side of the rafters. If there is a problem it has not surfaced. However, I do not know what I should be looking for?

    The overhang extends from 4' to 2' since it is tapered. Unless there has been say a failed pex fitting, there never has been any water entering anywhere. Although Sandy did have me concerned; she never even came close to coming inside. Again, it was impossible to get the home dug in as deep as planned because of ledge. The footing area consisted of sand between pretty solid ledges. The footing itself had to be engineered, acting like a girder, to span the sandy areas while being pinned to the ledge area. There are no cracks anywhere in the foundation walls, at least as far as I know. When tests were done for the placement of the septic system it was difficult to measure the rate of how fast the water would exit the test hole. Being mostly sand, no clay whatsoever, I can still remember running down to the cove to get a couple of five gallon pails of water and dumping it into the test hole and the water would disappear pretty fast. The contractor had his watch out but he made me run back and forth to the Cove a half dozen times to keep filling the hole so he could get the measurement for the town hall. Probably why I never had exterior water becoming an interior water problem is because of good drainage. More recently, I helped a neighbor install his leaching field, and his leaching field had to be so enormous one would think it could handle a small motel. The code has changed so dramatically that I am pretty sure my system is grandfathered in.

    The roof is fairly new, so it is unlikely anything is going to be done here.

    I really like the idea of these high efficiency mini splits but the floor plan is fairly open for only the living room, which is not even used much by occupants. The ground level den/dining/kitchen is the most used portion of the house but certainly is not very open. The loft can present another problem as well as it is not driven by heating but cooling. There is a massive return vent at the highest point of the cathedral ceiling, since by natural convection heat just rises up to the ceiling. Once the heat is sucked up, it is returned to the ground level Williamson air conditioning unit where it gets cooled, and then through two insulated ducks running all the way back up to the loft. I am not always a loser, as the contractor I hired who did the duck work seemed to know how to size things up and to be able to provide heating and cooling effectively throughout every room in the house. I really think I am stuck with a centralized heat pump since the existing ductwork appears to be very accommodating for what is probably a very difficult home to size up correctly.

    Is it possible to obtain a decent single centralized heat pump that can be tied into the existing duck work? I understand this is likely not the most efficient solution but it just might be the most practical one. I do not ever plan to use the wood furnace while the heat pump is operating. Obviously one would not need the furnace during the summer, nor would there be a need for a heat pump to be operating in the winter should the wood furnace be putting out. There is a need, however, for the main distribution blower within the heat pump to be independently turned on via a single set of contacts to distribute the hot air (just under 90 degrees) throughout the house.

    The contractor I spoke with seemed totally lost and obviously wanted to do things his way avoiding the simple auxiliary tie in. I assumed that your modulated DC motor, if used in a centralized heat pump, would be the compressor's prime mover since this is the workhorse, and the air distribution would be a simple squirrel cage blower/motor? If not, then I really have to get some schematics to figure out just what is happening in these units.

    Dana, if I am pressing you too hard for information, let me know and I will quickly correct such. I am consolidating your posts and placing them in a folder for my children. At least they will have an instruction booklet of what they should know and be doing. Thank you very much for the help you have already provided.

  3. #18
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Not a question for Dana, as I have already been picking his brain far greater than is polite, to say the least. This post is for readers like me, who never even heard the term HRV. I Google it and got 10,000,000 hits. There are ample descriptions as to how they work, why you should have them, and what they can do for you. I noted the street price can range from under $1000 to the heavens. In particular I watched a professionally made YouTube flick, part 1 and part 2, (total time around 25 minutes) of such a system being installed in a high end New Hampshire home under construction. The flick was not intended for the do it yourselfer but rather aimed at what is involved in a professional installation. Very clear video with a well spoken contractor explaining every step of the installation process. No price of the unit being installed was given, but I would expect it would parallel the overall construction quality of the home being built. The system requires 240 VAC for operation. It also became clear that this new home installation could become far more difficult to install in an existing home.

    I would give my eye teeth up if I was forty years younger, rich, and building a new home. Somehow, I would also expect that very few homes on my block, mostly a mixed assortment of home styles being fairly old, would have a HRV installed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJXBNrkUUYQ
    Last edited by Scup; 01-15-2014 at 07:37 PM.

  4. #19
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    As long as you have the vent chutes between the insulation and the roof deck, having poly on the interior surface doesn't matter. But going forward, if you fill the ventilation gap and add exterior rigid foam above the roof deck THEN interior-side poly would be a problem, since it would put the roof deck inside a "moisture trap" between the water vapor-impermeable polyethylene, and the barely vapor permeable roofing felt + shingles.

    But it sounds like you have another 20 years before re-roofing to figure that out, eh? ;-)

    There are fairly few central heat pumps using modulating compressors & variable speed air handlers, but a few. The most well known is probably the Carrier Greenspeed, but Daikin has coupled their mini-split compressors to a Goodman variable speed air handler for at least a few models with some success. (Daikin bought Goodman a year or so ago- I expect to see more of these hybrid systems in the near future.)

    My strong suspicion (without actually measuring or calculating the heat load) is that after a round of blower-door & infra-red imaging directed air sealing you would likely be able to drop in a 3-ton Carrier Greenspeed (25VNA036) using your existing ducts, and that it would keep up with both the heating & cooling loads, at roughly half the operating cost of heating with oil or propane. If you click on the "Heating Capacities" tab on THIS WEBTOOL and play around with the different compressor & air handler options at the lower left you'll find that with the bigger air handlers it can deliver a bit over 25,000BTU/hr @ +10F outdoor temps, and over 30,000BTU/hr @ +25F. With a "set and forget" approach to the thermostat it will modulate, keeping up on it's own except for the very coldest nights. With a modest amount of resistance heating using heat strips inside the air handler or auxilliary heaters in the rooms you actually care about (radiant cove heaters are preferable to baseboards, at a comparable price) you would always have some comfortable living space even when it's -5F out (rare, but it happens in Stonington.)

  5. #20
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Thanks again Dana, although I was up all last night playing around with the Webtool calculator. I still do not have its proper use down pat. One thing about being an engineer trying to understand an area quite removed from his field of expertise is I am quickly learning HVAC is far more complex than I had ever imagined. I am in way over my head and now know it. To even try to mate my wood furnace with the 25VNA036 is likely folly.

    I believe Carrier always had a good reputation and the 25VNA036 seems like a good starting point, but there is going to have to be a Carrier Dealership somewhere in the picture this coming cooling season. First things first, however, the oil burner has got to go.

    Next, a Carrier dealership in my area has to be selected, the Carrier's dealership finder indicated there are only two: Sears and Bartol. For me that does not seem to be a very big choice due to my having an almost comical but disastrous experience at least forty years ago just trying to purchase a working refrigerator from Sears on one occasion, and then just a few years later another comical experience (this time it had a positive ending) trying to purchase a replacement element for a built-in Sears oven. The store is no longer in its original location, all the old sales and management personnel are probably dead or retired, and likely my concerns are silly; but unless someone convinces me my worries are way off the mark, my recollection of the very distant past is still very clear in my mind.
    Last edited by Scup; 01-17-2014 at 02:16 PM.

  6. #21
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Understand that the equipment you are talking about and installaton is going to run to the strong side of 20 grand and it may save you 50% but thats 50% of the oil cost and since you are running the wood furnace..............At any rate you will be dead and burried long before you see any payback dollars in your pocket.

    IIRC the Williamson 5 in one (I used to be a Williamson dealer) used a Beckett AF oil burner which is still the top selling oil burner of all time, still manufactured, still capable of turning out good efficiency numbers and anything but obsolete. The furnace itself is fairly effecient for an oil fired forced warm air unit and as a package, properly set up and tuned, capable of 82% combustion efficiency. Even at 37 years old, if the heat exchanger is still in good shape, modern oil fired furnaces are not going to give you too much more in the way of efficiency. The air conditioning components may possibly need to be updated because modern compressors and motors run more efficiently but not enough so to justify replacement if they are in good running order. In short, at 75 years old, your best bet is to have someone that is proficient in set-up come in and go through the system. You will never recover the cost of replacement in your lifetime.
    Last edited by Tom Sawyer; 01-17-2014 at 08:14 AM.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  7. #22
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Tom, there is something about your writings and honesty that makes me wish we were neighbors. I did not understand the installation would run on the strong side of 20 grand as the contractor I spoke to quote a figure of around 8 grand, but I am sure we are comparing apples and oranges. He did mentioned a ductless system initially, but when he saw the duck work I was asking him to tie into, it was never was clear, at least to me, what had happened, what the cost would be, or even what I would be getting. Understand, that I never knew that Saints like You, Dana, and Jim even existed (I apologize if I left anyone out).

    One thing is for sure is I am trying to get up to speed as fast as I can and I now know a lot more than when I first talked with a HVAC contractor.

    I never did expect to live long enough to get any payback from a new installation. My family wants to continue to live in our home, and I would really like to help them out even if it is from the grave, but since that is not possible, I do wish at least to leave something behind that is not falling apart.

    There is a certain worry factor as well for this old man: I just do not trust an outside oil tank. Not sure of the replacement costs either but I expect it to be at least 3 grand now just for starters and considering what it might cost should I ever have an oil leak, 20 grand just might be a low ball figure for clean up. The last time around it was around $1500 for removal.

    I know the outside air conditioning compressor unit is on its last legs as mice got into the wiring. When I got into it several components were corroded away, no wiring diagram in the inside panel (never could obtain one), but I knew enough to get it operating as a single speed compressor. It still does cool the house off very quickly as I suspect it was oversized from the beginning.

    You are right on concerning my wood fired furnace, as that has been one of the most reliable appliances I own requiring only periodic replacement of a small blower/motor (have no idea why the original blower lasted 20 years and the Chinese made replacements last only 2 or 3 years but that is still a minor cost and of course a couple of chimney cleanings per year. Right now my heating bill is probably around one tenth the cost of cooling although this is really hard to accurately estimate considering other high electrical use items like a hot water tank.

    Being a Maine guy, I know you know what it means to heat with wood. I suspect that what my wife and I have done in heating with wood over the years, will never be duplicated by our children. Even now it is getting difficult for my wife and me to be getting up out of bed and taking turns during those near zero nights to feed the wood furnace. Therefore, either oil, propane, a heat pump, or some combination of, is now mandatory especially when we are feeling low or tired. It is tough to get old, but now a complicated decision has to be made to select reliable source/s of heat/cooling even if we shudder at its cost and you have given us much to think about.

    If you, Jim or Dana are passing through Stonington, shoot me an email as I know of pretty good Greek restaurant in New London (typical plate is only around $15) that does a pretty good job on fried seafood and of course, it would be on me.
    Last edited by Scup; 01-18-2014 at 03:49 PM.

  8. #23
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Eight grand you could buy a couple of decent mini-splits, but at CT contractor pricing you'll be lucky to buy ANY modulating central heating for less than $15K. I'd be surprised if the smaller 2-ton GreenSpeed was north of $20K, but it won't be anywhere near $8K.

    As a value proposition mini-splits are usually pretty good, if you can make them work with your floor plan, and being completely separate from the wood furnace, they'll always "play nice". With mini-splits sized correctly for their zones you'd always have at least some comfortable spaces when it's knocking on 0F outside, but doored off rooms could lag by 10 or more unless you added some resistance heaters like radiant cove heaters or electric baseboards, and managed them carefully to keep their duty-cycles low.

    My wife works with someone who recently installed a 4 ton Lennox modulating ducted heat pump similar to (but not as efficient as) the GreenSpeed- I'm sure it was well over $20K, but probably less than $30K. (I don't know them well enough to ask.) They're in central MA, and have about 8-10 kilowatts of grid tied solar- this heat pump is surely going to solve their excess power production issue (and then some), but it's not as if $4/gallon oil was being very kind to them either, living in a barely insulated 18th century antique. (Last summer I had suggested they go with mini-splits, and spend the real money on air sealing and insulation since they close off half the house in the winter and keep that half at 50F anyway.)

  9. #24
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    I am really getting at odds with what I would like to have and what I can afford. As Dana seemed to guess, my home is probably not all that bad for a 35 year old home as it was originally designed for electric (resistance) heating, which was never installed since at that time, oil could deliver three times the BUTs per hour than resistance heating for the same buck. While I expect electric rates to climb, right now at $4 per gallon, oil is not the bargain it once was. Even worse, the potential liability if an outdoor tank should ever leak is quite scary. No option here since I have a finished ground level basement, things have become so cramped that my water heater is in a what should have been a clothes closet.

    Do not see how a couple of mini-splits can possibly work out because of three living levels consisting of quite a few small to moderate sized rooms with the loft being exempted. They are all fed by what I would considered to be more than adequate ducking.

    So far, nobody mentioned propane heating. I have not ruled propane out for the following reasons: yes it is very expensive in my area, but the bulk of my heating bill will not be propane but wood. My wood furnace has the same problem all wood furnaces have in that one has to be there to feed it. If we have to take a trip, or we get ill, we need a reliable heating backup that will keep the house warm while unattended. I saw the size of a propane heater and it would lend itself to being installed in a cramped location, and an outdoor propane tank is not a DEEP liability (at least I hope not).

    Not sure if the propane tank could even fuel an emergency whole house emergency electrical generator. I have lived through two hurricanes Irene and Sandy, that has knocked out electric power for around two weeks combined, existing only on a small gasoline generator. We have always lost power here and there throughout the decades we lived here, but now something very different seems to be happening. I do not recall even losing power for more 12 hours the first 25 years I have lived here. The problem seems to be not the number of times we lose power, but the time it takes to get back on line. I suspect power companies simply do not have enough linemen on call to handle emergency situations, probably because of budgeting considerations. Repair men have to be called in from all parts of the country so it seems that now one could find himself in a real situation especially if it happens during a nasty winter cold snap.

    Would appreciate any comments on the above as to my reasoning: please tell me if I am way off base. For example could the main propane air handler present any problems to be tied into the existing duct work, and perhaps be nice with the wood furnace. There still is a need for air conditioning! Does that push me back to the point of considering a heat pump once again, or should I consider a hybrid propane/air conditioner.

    I really think I know far more now than before I started this post, but for some reason it seems I am now hopelessly lost in the woods as I do not see an obvious solution/s.
    Last edited by Scup; 01-21-2014 at 06:33 AM.

  10. #25
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    I'm not a fan of Propane. Besides it being expensive, it also delevers less BTU/hr than fuel oil. The other problem that has surfaced is the propane shortage with supplies being limited. The outside oil tank could be an issue but, there are a couple of companies that make fiberglass, double walled tanks designed for outside applications. They are a little pricey but certainly not out of reach. If it were mine I would have a qualified professional go through the furnace and replace and upgrade whatever needs to be upgraded. I would probably spring for a new A coil and condensing unit also. BTW, Williamson is still in business and they would have the AC equipment you need that would match your furnace.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  11. #26
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    The long term prospects on both oil and propane pricing aren't very good, and buying a system that uses either is a 20+ year investment in those fuels. Oil production worldwide isn't likely to keep up with the "rise of the rest" despite the frack, as more and more people in India/China/Africa start driving. The cost of all of that "new oil" and gas production puts a very high floor on the prices, the current low cost of natural gas notwithstanding. (Shale gas is a net-loss for the producers at recent pricing unless there is sufficient liquid fractions like propane and butane in a particular well to make it worthwhile. At $4/gallon retail propane they're making out OK, but most would go broke or shut down the wells at $2.50 gallon propane.)

    If you get off the fossil liquids and onto the power grid leveraged with heat pumps, the grid sources aren't price-locked to fossil sources, so there are natural economic upper bounds, as well as state regulated pricing structures. Even rooftop photovoltaics have a lifecycle cost of about 8 cents/kwh at current small-scale solar prices, and expected to fall under a nickel by 2020 according to many analysts. The rise of wind & PV are already cutting into the amount of fossil-fired power in states with big wind & solar resources, such as Iowa, South Dakota and Texas, all of which already enjoy much lower power rates than New England. But at current New England power prices even the sub-optimal wind resources here are cheaper than nukes, and would be competitive with combined cycle gas if/when the price of natural gas rise by ~50%. If/when electricity prices double due to higher gas/oil pricing even grid-storage and massive offshore wind (of which there is plenty in CT) become cheap enough to really matter. (At the moment offshore wind is comparable in cost to single cycle peak-power in CT, but far more expensive than combined-cycle gas baseload power. But things can change- and often do.)

    Bottom line, you can't stop folks in India & China from driving cars or farming with diesel tractors, but you don't have to compete with them for the fossil liquids if you go with a heat pump solution.

    Without a room-by-room heat load analysis I can't say if there's likely to be a mini-split solution or not. I know folks living in homes less well insulated than yours heating with mini-splits, and can stay comfortable with the doors of the doored off rooms down to ~25-30F, under which they opt to use some amount of resistance-heating for temperature balance in the rooms they really care about. The room losses are most likely to be dominated by window area, and you can improve the performance of a 1980s double-pane substantially with low-E storm windows, if temperature balance becomes a problem. I also know folks in higher-R houses in climates colder than yours heating with a single mini-split for the whole house, with no auxilliary space heating.

  12. #27
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Some of the minisplits support a fair number of head units...I do not know how they stack up to the more conventional ones, but some also support ducting.
    Jim DeBruycker
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  13. #28
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Adding a bunch of heads, each oversized for the respective load of the rooms they are in is a HUGE cost-adder, and a big step down in efficiency as well. If a room doesn't have a design heating load over 5000 BTU/hr, it should NOT have it's own ductless head.

    This house can probably cut it just fine with 1-2 mini-splits and a few radiant cove heaters, but it's possible that a case can be made for a 3-head 3-ton, where two of the heads are mini-duct cassettes splitting output between two adjacent rooms. (Say a couple of bedrooms, where the cassette can be installed at the top of a closet between the rooms, and ducted both ways.) Mini-duct cassettes on most models I've looked at don't have extended range output charts below -15C/+5F, but that might be good enough here. It's possible for a good tin-man to split the output of a mini-duct cassette to as many as three spaces, but most of the time figure on two.

    But this is way beyond something that is doable as a "design by web forum". A pro who is up on ductless solutions (and isn't insane or greedy, putting a ductless head in every room) might be able to come up with a couple of scenarios that make sense. Mitsubishi has a Training and Design Center in Southborough MA- you might be able to get a reference for somebody near they can recommend who is fresh-up on training about sizing the correctly zone-for-zone.

  14. #29
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Being stuck inside, as of right now a blizzard is just finishing up most if its nasty stuff and is starting to taper down, I have read very carefully all the previous posts. My old wood furnace has been keeping us quite comfortable, even though it was/is blizzard like conditions outside. The temperature in the room where we are is 68 degrees, with a small space heater (1000 watts) being directed at close range at my wife's left leg because of an arthritis/joint problem (she likes a cool room, but her leg feels better if heated either with a heating pad or a direct source of heat and she does not like a heating pad).

    My three favorite consultants, all just joined in, to provide Web site advice, which really is confusing to say the least. Not really sure how to go about explaining my problem but let me give it a try: Suppose each of you, imagine yourselves to be totally removed from your area of specialization. In other words, put yourself in my shoes and try to absorb the information provided in this thread. No two threads even come close to matching up, yet all the advice provided seems to be right on the mark.

    Typically I burn well less than 50 gallons of oil per year. Even if I double that in the future, and the price rose to $5 per gallon, that would amount to less than $250 per year and not even be worth considering. I am more concerned about the condition of the oil in the tank and have to add a biocide and another expensive chemical just to keep it flowing right when the temperatures drops to near zero.

    The only common point presented is I am going to need to find a honest (not insane or greedy either) professionals to come into my home and provide what he believes to be my best option. This could be harder for me to do than if I just threw my arms up in the air and announced "we are going to sell the house and move to Texas". I know, as I have suggested that, and would have been tossed into the doghouse if there was not a blizzard blowing outside.

    My thinking has now been altered to follow the common theme of getting contractors in here this spring to tell me what I should be doing. Then I plan on presenting what they propose, after I glean out the obvious left field proposals, and place their comments back on this post.

    To really understand my concerns right now (blizzard conditions) is if the lights go out. Yes, I do have a small wood stove upstairs that might supply something short of 10,000 BTUs per hour in an emergency without a need for electric power, but since heat rises, that will not be able to provide heat downstairs where things like frozen pipes could occur. The down stairs wood furnace can be operated as a gravity furnace (no electric power) but the instructions only stated at a greatly reduced output. I think that means I would have keep the output to well below 10,000 BTUs per hour. I do have a small gasoline generator on hand that could power blowers and such, but being operated only once or less per year, there is always the question (yes I do use fuel stabilizer and burn all the gasoline off before storage and always change the oil out after each use) that it might not start. Since heating with electricity does require ELECTRIC POWER of considerable amounts, if I go it alone with heat pumps, and/or some resistance heating, a reliable and sizable propane electric generator will be needed (doable).

    What really bothers me the most is if what the professionals advise this coming spring (and unlike this form where professionals provide their best advice without any incentive in it for themselves) will vary all over the place and result in even more confusion.

    So far, the only contractor that came into my home, proposed a single split mini with a propane backup for 8k and then I am not even sure his estimate included the propane backup. This seemed like too simple a solution for a complex problem but it is the only starting point I have so far.

  15. #30
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Well I doubt the mini split included the propane back up for that price but then again that backup might have been a direct vented, through the wall el-cheepo unit. It always comes down to money though. Given a large budget and little concern for return on investment, anyone's needs can be met but most times there has to be a balance between cost and practicality. If it were mine and knowing what I know the 1st thing I would do is thoroughly clean and inspect the oil furnace. Pull the oil burner and front plate and inspect the chamber and the heat exchanger for any cracks or weakness. If the exchanger passes muster I'm going to put new gaskets in, replace the firebox if it needs to be and then go through the oil burner to make sure it is properly adjusted and in good working order. Next is blowing out and flushing the oil lines. Installing a Wix or similar cartridge type oil filter at the furnace, not outside. Then I do a complete and thorough combustion test. I would then run a sonic test on the oil tank to determine whether or not it is worth saving. If it is, I give it a fresh coat of automotive underseal (rubberized) paint and let it go for another few years. If not I replace it with a fiberglass, double walled tank. The AC depends. You said rodents chewed the wires which can be replaced/repaired and no doubt the new equipment runs more efficiently and has a higher SEER but do you use it enough to justify the expense of changing it all out? I'm betting, probably not and AC equipment is pretty bullet proof. You might go through a contactor or even a compressor but still, maintaining is going to be less expensive than replacing.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

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