New York home purchase - Advice on converting existing elctric hot water system?

Old 05-18-14, 02:36 PM
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New York home purchase - Advice on converting electric hot water system?

I am considering the purchase of a home in NY. I have some slight negotiating room based on my desire to change from electric to heat to some other source.
I need opinions / help with the TYPE of system I should look at as well as an estimated price to have it completely installed.

This is a small single level ranch - 1050 SF. It has 2 beds / 2 baths total of 5 rooms. Unfinished basement (Mason foundation with concrete slab) and attic space.
Home was built in 1975 but totally re-built 6 months ago. (new roof / windows / siding / electric / insulation / kitchen / baths) Everything is basically new.
Will be just me in house for foreseeable future.

The home is 100% electric. Heat is (new) hot water heater / (new) baseboard and has 4 zones / thermostats (MBR, Guest BR, Kitchen, Living Room)
There is currently no chimney / fireplace / wood stove (no heat alternative).

The basement has a LOT of clean / neat / available space for new mechanical systems.

This area does not have natural gas - so that is not an option.

Electricity cost: Avg kWh = $0.22 here... 2nd highest in nation I think
Heating Oil: Avg price is $4.04 per gallon (was as high as $4.49 Feb / Mar)
Even so, if I did my calculations rights oil would have to climb to $5.70 per gallon for electric to be same cost or cheaper.

Assuming I can use 100% of existing newly installed plumbing and baseboard units, what should I be budgeting for a installed boiler to provide heat and domestic hot water? Remember too that I either need a chimney OR a "Direct Vent" system as well.

Not sure if I should consider geothermal options living in this area? (Lower Hudson Valley region in NY) I dont even know if I could afford the option.

NY has interesting solar options available. You can "lease" and get a portion of the monthly kWh savings or go full-in ($35K - $40K) and own a system. I could only afford the leased system which can actually be installed and serviced for free but you only reap about 1/5 to 1/4 of the kWh generated savings.

Edit: Sorry to add to an already long post
-If it was not obvious, there is no duct-work installed. There is no central A/C. There is only hot-water baseboard heating.

-The other thing is that I prefer cooking with gas flame and plan on replacing electric stove / oven with propane gas cook top / electric oven. I only mention this because I know there are propane heating options out there as well. I think fuel cost is high but they are supposed to be efficient and might work for this small house?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance.

Last edited by doninny; 05-18-14 at 03:12 PM.
Old 05-18-14, 05:29 PM
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When you did your calculations, what did you assume for the efficiency of electric vs. oil? Electric is 100%, and oil maybe 85%. What do you think the future cost escalation will be for the two fuels?

What would it cost to install a new oil-fired boiler? Maybe $5-10,000? Plus for hot-water radiators and distribution piping? What would be your annual cost savings and what would be your payback period?

Personally, I would hesitate to buy a house that I needed or wanted to change the heating system. - unless the price was very low.
Old 05-18-14, 07:03 PM
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Hi gilmorrie and thanks for your reply.

Since I posted this I've talked to a couple people like yourself who are much smarter than me on this topic. While everyone seems to agree that electric would be more costly (by quite a bit) based on BTU output compared to heating oil, they also think I am too worried about the cost of heating this modest sized house. The bottom line is that I would need to go at least a winter to track it to be sure.

I still feel the sting of owning a CT home in the mid 80's that had radiant electric heat... man-o-man... did I pay for that! $1000.00 plus was pretty common in cold months. I guess that is what I am worried about.

I used this heat-calc worksheet: (I think there are others available that are similar) Based on this electric hot water heater is considered to be 98% efficient and oil fired boiler 78% efficient. There are also links in that sheet to energy futures. estimates that electricity rates for my area will increase approximately $0.01 / kWh next year and about 0.4% through 2040 in the mid-Atlantic sector. estimates that #2 heating oil will increase approximately $0.65 per gallon in the next year (nationally) and increase about 0.7% through 2040 in the mid-Atlantic sector.

The piping and baseboard elements in the house are already hot-water. I assume no change would be needed? Today, a hot-water heater feeds the baseboard - tomorrow it could be a oil fired boiler yes? I'm going to talk to a plumber HVAC person tomorrow to confirm this.

I was thinking (hoping) that I could budget 10K or less to do a conversion to heating oil with a higher-end boiler with very good efficiency rating. The ROI would probably be 8-9 years.

Another suggestion I got was to install a pellet stove with direct venting to supplement in cold months. Something to consider.

This particular house seems to be value-priced to me. Every other home I've seen in this price range has several thousands of dollars for structural, mechanical and cosmetic updates. This one has none that I can see yet - except the hangup I have with being held hostage to electricity rates.
Old 05-18-14, 07:32 PM
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It sounds like you have narrowed down your own options to oil or propane. In my area propane is rediculous.
First let's start with the baseboard units. They are strictly for electric and cannot be used for hot water.
You are now talking about warm air or hot water. Both installed from scratch.
If you go with hot water you can zone and get your hot water also, completely eliminating all electrical.
If you go warm air you still need your hot water heater.

You said it's a small ranch. The upside of having it recently rebuilt for electric heat it is well insulated so that alone will contribute to big savings.
That being said warm air heat is the fastest heat you can get plus with warm air you can add central air easily if installed at the same time through the same ductwork.
With a small ranch you probably wouldn't have the need to zone unless you wanted to do the bedrooms but living alone probably not.

Hot water is more costly to install and then you would still AC, most likely window units.
If warm air is sized right and installed properly in my opinion it's a nice system and that would be my choice in your case plus you are not taking up all the wall space with baseboards. One 10 or 12 x 4 register in each room and your return air would do it plus you can install a quality air filter, you can add a humidifier if you fell the need.
It is so much more versatile that hot water. Especially in a small ranch where you don't have to figure out how to get upstairs and all the runs are fairly close. By putting in dampers you can isolate rooms and balance the system.

I realize this is long but I hope this helps a little. This is just my opinion.

Good Luck,
Old 05-18-14, 07:53 PM
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Spott, did you even read Doninny's posts or did you just make assumptions? I'll admit that when I read the initial post I, too, though he had electric baseboards but in his follow-up post he makes it plain that he has hydronic baseboards and an electric water heater to supply the hot water.

Swapping an oil-fired boiler for the electric water heater should be a fairly easy tank with one exception, that is the need for a chimney. I am not up on all the boiler options available for residential but it may be possible to get a condensing boiler that utilizes PVC (plastic) piping for flue gas exhaust and these can be run horizontally out the side of the house. Even if this is not an option there ARE solutions that utilize an additional blower in the exhaust piping that allows for sidewall venting.

Most domestic water heaters are NOT "listed" for use in a space heating application and those that are often use a combined space heating and domestic water system.

If you could post a couple of dozen pictures of the current installation it might help us to help you. Pictures need to be in focus and well lit. No need for close-ups at this point but long shots and wide angles to see all the equipment and how it is connected. Pictures are best uploaded to a free photo-hosting site and the public URLs posted here.
Old 05-19-14, 05:35 PM
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When I reread his post I did see the hot water baseboards but had already posted.
You are right about a fairly simple change of a boiler for a hot water heater and there are options for direct vent boilers so no chimney would be needed. It would still probably mean a relocation of the units if the hot water heater is no on an outside wall, which would mean some changing of the supply and return but probably nothing major.

I'm working off of a tablet and it's a real pain if I have to edit. It's not the same as a desk top so it was just being a little lazy once I reread to go back and edit.
You are right though, it's not that big a deal to install a boiler now.

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