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

  1. #31
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Sounds like good advice to me, but do not bet on us not using the air conditioner. Two long power outages lasting a week or more, both occurring because of Irene and Sandy, convinced us that while summer time outages are more of pain to deal with, rather than an emergency, we do rely heavily on air conditioning normally.

    I did look up several double walled fiberglass oil tanks and tried to call their New England Representatives for a ball park figure but most are still screwed up because of the blizzard (only phone messages that they will be in at later time).

    Always had a cartridge filter next to the oil burner that is very simple to replace the cartridge. Things like electrodes, their adjustment, correct nozzle, and such I have been doing since the service guys in my area seem to lack even these very basic skills (or perhaps they are just lazy).

    Tom, while I am a diy, there has to be pro in the picture for the needed oil burner work. However, at least I now know what has to be requested as to what I want done.

    Since I am an electrical engineer, when it comes to the electrical part of the outside compressor, I am not really scared to get into it. However, there is no schematic anywhere inside the unit which seems strange since the oil burner unit is well documented. There is really not that much in the outside compressor, so I would doubt I would be in over my head if I had a schematic.

    Following this path, there are some other concerns as well. The evaporator coil is obviously still functional, but it has been in there an awfully long time. Just how long can one of these last before they have had it? The metal drip pan is not rusted out but is looking sad although it still feeds the condensate to a small level operated water pump that still does its job. No problem in replacing the pump if needed, but have no intention, license, or skills to get involved with refrigerant lines. Is it a big deal to have a contractor replace the evaporator core if it comes to that? Related question, can the entire outside unit be replaced with a higher SEER unit, without replacing the evaporator, or does that have to be replaced as well? Come to think of it, can the oil burner cabinet remain when just about everything else is being replaced? Since there an electrical tie in between the oil burner cabinet and the compressor outside (i.e. controls like heat, fan only, cool, off,) while simple enough, I have had problems with contractors in my area even getting these simplistic items right as they had the side shot forced furnace blower come on when the air conditioner lighted off. It was very easy for me to rewire it correctly, but have lost much in the way of trusting contractors in my area. The air handler cabinet is simple enough with its single speed belt blower and I could care less about the humidity function or the electrostatic air filter.

    As you mentioned there has to be a point reached in which one has to deal with maintenance or replacement but lets not forget about just who is going to do the maintenance work and what confidence a homeowner has in the contractor who is doing the task. I believe, that in my area, there are very few competent heating/cooling contractors because of their performance in the past. I could be way off base here, but all I know is what happened previously. With the exception of one guy whom I trusted (and unfortunately he died) I am sort a scared to present even routine maintenance tasks to the run of the mill hacks that have been in my home. To be sure, I believe the installation of a complete system would present no problem for them but even the slightest item out of the ordinary just might throw them for a loop.

    Tom, you are the only one that has ever stated and gave reasons why the Williamson five in one Burner is still a viable burner. Not one, again not one, service contractor has ever came into my home and not given me the usual talk about "you are foolish not to replace that dated unit". Like I said in a previous post, I wish we were neighbors!
    Last edited by Scup; 01-22-2014 at 01:01 PM.

  2. #32
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The evaporator must be matched to not only the compressor size but the type of refrigerant used. So, upgrading the compressor would likely require replacing the evaporator as well.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #33
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Thanks Jim, I sort of figured that was the case. I finally got through to a couple of suppliers of dual fiberglass oil tanks. Other than a kid with a 22, they should do their job long after I am gone. None gave me a price, not even a list price. Got the usual are you a licensed heating contractor! I had really thought that conduct went out long ago, but I guess not. I was not even looking for a discount since I am going to have to pay list for it in any event when I hire a contractor. One could go into Home Depot and order out a single wall metal oil tank without any problem whatsoever other than they do not carry the double wall fiberglass ones. There was no way I intended to install an oil tank but I have to have some idea of what ball part they are running in to determine if oil should be scrapped or perhaps it deserves further consideration. Most of the supply houses in my area will sell to a homeowner but have a scaled pricing favoring contractors. I am fine with that but that is not the case concerning oil tanks. Therefore, oil is out, because they do not even wish to talk to me.

    I looked up on the CTDEEP web site as to what contractors have to go through, including oil delivery men, and I do find it very scary. What a mess if an oil delivery is made to a wrong house with a full tank and a small spill occurs. Sorry Tom, but after reconsidering that I am living in CT, with the liability of having any kind of oil products stored on my property, including anyone even changing out his car's engine oil, makes me scared to go your route even though it makes a lot of sense to me.

    I have had a run in with the CT authorities concerning a British made underwater transducer that contained four ounces of oil sealed within its housing. I was tasked to help the Brits out by allowing them to have their sonar equipment tested at a Naval facility since the brits simply do not have the capabilities we have. It was sort of a good will scenario between two friendly nations. I got stopped dead in my tracks by the environmental crowd. Was not allowed to place the sealed transducer in the water to be tested because of the four ounces of oil it contained. I asked the Brits is it critical as to the type of oil used; they maintained just about any oil would work including castor oil. Flushed out the oil in the transducer and replaced it with four ounces of castor oil I purchased at a drug store. Resealed the unit and still could not gain permission to test the transducer. If I am living in a state that considers four ounces of castor oil in a sealed housing to be dangerous, then an oil fired heater is no longer a viable option for me.

    Stonington is a coastal commercial fishing town, and commercial fishing is rapidly ebbing away. When boarded, the very first thing checked is always the bilge as they look for any trace of diesel oil.

    I might still end up being the only one in CT having a tankless Williamson 5 in 1 oil unit, as I still need the air conditioning, the air handler for the wood furnace, and its air filters. There could be some resistance base board wall heaters included to satisfy code living requirements as even that would not be that costly considering the amount of time they would be in use. Besides, it is about time I did something to lower the tax assessment of my property as going from oil heat to electrical resistance heating has got to lower it.

    I am definitely not upset with all the time you guys spent on me, as I really appreciated it, but I suspect I am probably getting upset in realizing that Connecticut is a very poor choice for those wishing to retire.
    Last edited by Scup; 01-22-2014 at 02:40 PM.

  4. #34
    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scup View Post
    I am fine with that but that is not the case concerning oil tanks. Therefore, oil is out, because they do not even wish to talk to me.
    1. I would ask your local oil supplier.

    2. You can put an above-ground tank in cheaper. Because it is above ground, the requirements are not as stringent. You could have a 200 gallon high aspect ratio tank in the garage with fill pipes through the garage wall. I know somebody who did that in CT. She had to have the the below-ground tank filled with dirt. She anticipated that that method of taking the underground tank out of service might not be allowed in the future, so she did it sooner. I don't know if that was based on then-future regulations coming into force on a schedule or whether it was more proactive than that. Anyway, she was planning to sell, and somehow the sales process might have been harder with the in-ground oil tank.

  5. #35
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    The first tank I had was an in ground tank. It never leaked, but like the lady you mentioned, I did not wish to fool around with it.

    The professionals came and did do a good job in getting it out of there. Actually they got it out in less than hour and a couple strong men just carried it out to their truck. There was not an option to leave the tank in the ground and fill it with sand. The tank was carted away and there were additional, but expected, charges to get rid of the remaining sludge contained within the tank. Another requirement was to have several soil samples taken and then tested for oil. A building inspector was called to witness how the testing was performed. Everything came back negative, and I filed the results with the town's hall of records. If the soil samples had come back positive, i.e. that there had been an oil leak, I have no idea of what would have then happen nor would I even like to think about it.

    The garage idea is a good one, but my garage is detached and around 75 feet away from the house. Really do not care for the idea of buried oil lines either!

    The use of oil heat had its time and it served me well in the past, but living now in CT, any oil storage is now a liability. I do understand the mental state of the woman you mentioned in your thread.

  6. #36
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Sawyer View Post
    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.
    1.5-2-ton mini-split, $4.5-5K, 80% efficiency propane wall-furnace $2-3K, sounds about right to me.

    Not all mini-splits are created equal, especially at 0F or lower outdoor temps- what model was quoted?

    Even the smallest wood stoves have well over 10,000BTU/hr of output- most of the tiny ones are good for 25K, so don't underestimate them as a no-power backup.

  7. #37
    DIY Member Scup's Avatar
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    Thanks Dana,

    Actually, maybe I was really unfair to the contractor who visited me, since when he looked over my existing heating system, he threw in so many options at me, which I suspected was just suggestions, with ball park figures and with no mention of specific named products. The contractor probably correctly read exactly what I really wanted, rough estimates as to what options may exist for me. I never mentioned my budget (not sure why since in my field, SONAR, I would be at a lost to even provide rough estimates without specific funding availability).

    Since, after having read and adsorbed all the informational threads provided on this post, I have to admit I probably should not have wasted the contractor's time until I had become more gelled in my mind as to what I wanted and what I could afford. Basically, I have become overwhelmed at the number of heating/cooling options possibilities, and I am still not completely firmed up yet as to which way to proceed.

    There was even another option thrown out by the contractor that I dismissed because of its very high initial cost that I have never even mentioned on this post. Cannot recall the ball park estimate but it was somewhere around 28K, for a geothermal heat pump. I did ask "why so high" and he replied you would require a dedicated drilled well, and piping to and from such. Still remember going outside and pointing to a drilled well 75 feet from my home that came up with a recovery rate of around a gallon per HOUR, so it was capped off 35 years ago as a worthless 180 foot drilled hole. He seemed to think the well would be fine, but cannot recall how much that would reduce the estimate by or even if this type of installation is really practical in the northeast since I know of no one who has ever had one installed.

    There is also a problem with acid water in CT as other than stainless fittings or plastic piping, metals simply do not seem to hold up very well. My home's water supply required a PH tank to reduced the acidic affects or my plumbing would have been in shambles by now. Even with the PH tank, any copper piping prior to the tank (high acid water), including some high Zinc content PEX fittings have had problems. Not sure even if my concerns are valid concerning a geothermal heat pump, as I have no idea of what goes down into the well or if water with a PH level of 6.2 would play havoc with such a system. I did wonder about if things could ever freeze up, having a failure in which such a system could flood out the house, and if I would need a plumber on call, in addition to HVAC guy to repair/maintain the system.

    In any event, when the contractor departed, I was definitely confused and I am sure he knew it. Still we departed on good terms. I definitely could pay him a visit this time around as he knows about what I have, and with the heating/cooling workup sheet provided by the power company in hand, get some specific specs as to suitable systems, types, makes, models, ball park costs, and exactly what is to be done (i.e. removal of old units, as the Williamson is really one massive two part unit) etc. I am sure the costs have risen somewhat since the old estimates, and there would have to be some miner ductwork needed to tie it into the existing system. The low ball system he mentioned, a single mini split coupled with propane was actually a turn off for me since even then I knew a single mini split unit could have never fulfilled either the cooling or heating required. However, he did cover quite a large range of options of which now some of them seemed to have been more reasonable than originally thought.

    Dana, I was surprised at your comment of the BTUs per hour rating of a small wood stove. I looked up the specs of an old Energy Harvester I purchased from a friend that was made the early eighties. It's rating is 4,000 to 50,000 BTUs! I only installed in a fireplace because I did not want to soot up the new fireplace that never been fired off. The stove came with a screen that would fit where the door was so we could look at the flames. Probably a horrible efficiency being operated that way but when ready for bed, the screen came off and the door was closed.

    To install it, I just removed the legs, and set it inside of a fireplace on four bricks (it was too tall to fit otherwise), removed the damper, and shot a 6" metal flue right up through the existing masonry flue and out the very top of the outside chimney. The stove is sort of half in and half out of the fireplace but level with its front resting on the hearth. I insulated the damper area as best as I could, and again only used it as a functional decorative item.

    One of my concerns in heating my home is what would happen during a power outage, say like the non blizzard we had a couple of days ago where the outside temperature dropped into the single digits. I was shying away from a heat pump because of the hefty emergency electric generator requirements operating under these conditions. As you pointed out, I already have a passive emergency heater in place that I never really considered viable. I also noted that directly above the wood stove at the highest point in the cathedral ceiling is a massive return vent which means that by just powering up the air handler some of the wood stove's heat could be ducted to the entire house. I never dreamed that the small Energy Harvester would have the same rating as my wood furnace. Even without any electrical backup power, I now think by using the downstairs furnace as a gravity unit, with upstairs harvester fired off, I am probably far better off in an emergency than I have ever imagined.
    Last edited by Scup; 01-24-2014 at 02:34 PM.

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