Electric versus oil

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Old 10-24-15, 12:19 PM
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Electric versus oil

I should say up front, this is a query about how to balance two different heating offerings and not about anything that's broken or not working properly...warning, long post.

I have a rent house with an old oil furnace, above ground tank, treated oil. The furnace is from the 60's and during a cold period in November like five yrs ago it broke down. The landlord tried to get me natural gas installed, but elected to repair the old furnace instead. Local HVAC company came out and spent the entire winter fixing this unit off & on. They wound up putting in a whole new Beckett gun assembly and never got it fine tuned. First they blamed the oil, so I had a oil company rep come out and test it in front of them...oil was fine. But, they argued that they could go get five gals of diesel from a station and rig it to run fine in this furnace. Hook it back up to my line and it wouldn't run properly without tripping the relay at some point in operation. I suggested it was probably a supply issue, they ignored me. So I crawled around and found a line valve that was bad and not opening fully.

Got that fixed and it took off, but of course had to be readjusted. I write all this because it has to do with choices and being sour on this old system. Now to the point;heating oil got so high that I went with two electric units in this small house the last three winters. One Eden Pure and one Duraflame. Both work great, although the Eden Pure is grossly overrated and has some idiosyncrasies. However, my electric bill was staggering;un-insulated walls, plaster inside and no furnace working downstairs to keep things from freezing down there(used a cheap quart heater down there on low for the winter).

OK so this yr, oil came down, I filled the tank and fired up the furnace. Lots of drama there because it hadn't run for yrs, but it's cookin' now OK like it used to do. So here is my dilemma...I want to use both these systems to my best advantage. The Eden Pure et al folks are saying to set both systems to the temp you are comfortable in and then back off the furnace five degrees. Theory there being your furnace will run less if at all during the season. This may be true, but it just makes the electric heaters do more of the work and $$$. And it doesn't help me downstairs keeping things from freezing. I really think that 1500 watt quartz heater running full-time down there contributed greatly to my electric bill.

How would you balance both systems to gain the advantage of using the cheaper oil and keeping the downstairs from throwing cold air up at my floor all the time? And BTW, no "improvements" to the house itself are going to happen with the landlord. I thought about putting another Eden Pure-isk type heater downstairs, but they say they have to be off the cement a couple of ft and there's the cost of yet another electric heater.:-(

Kevin
 
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Old 10-24-15, 01:30 PM
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The electric heaters should only be supplemental, to the oil heat not the other way around. Even when oil was at it's highest cost, it was never more expensive than electric. If the landlord won't do any improvements, consider things such as shrink wrap plastic around windows that won't be used during the winter. Also look at the doors. There might be some inexpensive weather stripping that you can install.
 
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Old 10-24-15, 05:05 PM
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OK, well that makes more sense, since I'm not trying to 'sell' electric, high dollar heaters. So how would you set the bunch....put the wall thermostat at my comfort level and then set the electric heaters the same, or a few degrees lower?

Actually when the oil was around $4/gal it was a toss-up with the electric. I think the deal breaker with the electric was the downstairs.....it would super cool the floor on really cold days and made the upstairs heaters work harder. I don't know how to do the downstairs effectively without adding another 'thinking' heater like the Eden Pure. And it's not necessary now with the furnace going.

160 gal oil tank. It takes two tanks to make it to Feb and then a partial to finish the season(I've never run the oil and electric together).

Kevin
 
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Old 10-24-15, 05:25 PM
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I would set the oil at the lowest possible comfort level and not use the electric at all..... or just in an area of the house if a pipe freezing issue could occur and then set it low so it only came on if needed.
 
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Old 10-24-15, 06:10 PM
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First of all, what is your comfort level? If you set the oil burner at 70F & part of the house is cold & the rest is okay, something else is wrong. Is it a steam or hot water system? What type of radiators are there? Is it a colonial, ranch, split level, etc...? What did you mean by "super cool the downstairs"?
 
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Old 10-24-15, 06:29 PM
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Don't give up on improving the house. When heating costs are very high there are usually some relatively inexpensive improvements that can save more than they cost, especially with a DIY approach.

Sealing air leaks is number one and a cold basement is a clear indicator there is a lot of cold flow in down there. Often a few tubes of caulking or cans of expanding foam can make a noticeable improvement. Yes, those improvements will belong to the landlord, but you are the one paying for the heat.

I'll attach a link on air sealing and we can go over other options if you are interested.
http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/ste...ide_062507.pdf
Bud
 
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Old 10-24-15, 07:42 PM
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OK I can see where I didn't give quite enough data on the house. First of all, my comfort level is 68F. Below that my nose runs and I hate that...period. If I want to go winter camping, I have the gear for it, but take no pleasure in doing so inside my house....plus I'm raising my grandson and he's only 17 months. The house is very small, like less than 600 sq ft. I have an oil floor furnace. There is only one heating duct/grate and it's positioned in a hallway that serves the whole house. Close a bedroom door or the bathroom door and you have a refrigerator in those spaces-fast!. So I'm stuck with that design.

Now, about the basement. At the end of my kitchen is a door. Through that door is a space and then a back door. Before you exit the back door, there are steps that lead down to the basement. Ergo, the only heat in the basement is residual heat from the furnace cycling. Otherwise the basement would be like the outside, eventually. Using the oil furnace, the basement usually stays around the same temp and the pipes down there never freeze. Using electric heat, I had to leave a quartz heater down there on all the time, or I would have had a disaster. Basically, the basement with the quart heater on very cold days was probably around 50F at best....that cold air down there was always hitting the un-insulated main floor and was making that floor like ice to walk on. Also, my washer doesn't like to run in cold temps...you can hear strange noises. Do have a nice ceiling fan I put in upstairs that helps distribute some of the heat in the living room.....the most livable room in the house.

House was built in '46. Originally, it probably had wood heat or coal..there is a chimney stack that the furnace vents into. Although in houses like this that used coal around here, there is still a basement hopper space of some kind that is present. That is, if they haven't been remolded..this house has not. Without the hopper space, I don't see how they got coal down there to continually feed a furnace...so I'm guessing wood heat or maybe always oil? There is a remnant down there of another oil pipe that would have put the tank on the other side of the house at one time.

If you're thinking the living room electric heater is redundant or a waste, I can shut that off. I have to have one in the bedroom though that I use. The other bedroom for now, is storage and the computer. I want to make this my grandson's room in the near future...so it would probably take the other electric heater. The heat never quite reaches these two bedrooms without some kinda supplement, with the oil furnace in use.

Kevin
 

Last edited by Real1shepherd; 10-24-15 at 08:42 PM.
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Old 10-25-15, 04:24 AM
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The best answer is to find another place to live but I am fairly certain that is not an option for you at this point in time. As Bud mentioned, there are some low-cost weatherization tips that you may be able to use with minimal expense.

Myself, I would most definitely use the floor furnace as the primary source of heat and then ONLY use the electric heaters when necessary, say in the bedrooms and bathrooms but only as really needed.

As for your grandson, children are a lot more resilient than many parents (and grandparents) may believe. When I was growing up our house had only a centrally located (living room) oil-burning "pot" heater. The ends of the house were normally about five to ten degrees cooler than that middle room. there was no heat in the bedrooms at all and although Seattle has a fairly mild climate there were lots of mornings that my brothers and I woke up to a thick sheet of ice on the INSIDE of our windows. So while we might have been cold it was not so cold as to cause us any health problems.
 
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Old 10-25-15, 05:17 AM
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Do have a nice ceiling fan I put in upstairs that helps distribute some of the heat in the living room.....the most livable room in the house.
If the living room is the most livable room, I would sleep there. Convertible couches/beds are available, if you don't want a regular bed there.

How many vents are in the one duct that you mentioned? How is the air flow?
 
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Old 10-25-15, 11:06 AM
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Looking at the configuration of this furnace....it looks like from the floor, there are two plenums;one is the hot air going out and the other is a return air. If that's not correct, I don't know what I'm looking at and I have no clue where else the return air would be. But there are definitely two different compartments. The floor grate is huge..about four ft square and we walk over it all the time....it supported for that.

I shut off the electric heater in the living room. I can't see how running that unit is helping, versus using the oil furnace. I got kind of a pleasant surprise this morning. I was feeding the baby in the kitchen by the door I mentioned. I heard the furnace kick in and after about five minutes, I felt a nice wave of warm air hit us both. I never thought it traveled that well around the house.

The bedrooms are problematic and so I'll take the advice and just supplement them with the electric heaters. The bathroom is fine unless someone closes the door on exit.....when my oldest son lived with me after recovering from a bad auto accident, he kept closing the bathroom door on exit. Then he started complaining about the toilet leaking water. What was happening was that it was so cold in there with the door shut, the toilet tank was sweating. Leave the door open and the room is fine & dry.

When the oil furnace is used for heat, the basement stays decently warm.....you wouldn't want to live down there, but the pipes and washer function are OK that way. I could also install a little louver grate in the duct work to add a little more heat down there I suppose.

What you have to be wary for with children(and animals) are moving, very cold drafts of air on the floor. That can cause health problems like pneumonia. I just have a cold floor...not cold drafts. Without supplemental heat in the bedrooms, I've seen my own breath in the morning...that's cold!

Kevin
 

Last edited by Real1shepherd; 10-25-15 at 11:24 AM.
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Old 10-25-15, 07:55 PM
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Simple question: Did you ever change the filter?
 
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Old 10-26-15, 12:09 PM
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Three times a season. Why?
 
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Old 10-27-15, 06:30 AM
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It's something that could be easily overlooked so I thought that I would ask.
 
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Old 10-27-15, 09:36 PM
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All electric heaters are the same efficiency - the marketing is all garbage.

Electric heaters pose a fire hazard and is expensive compared to even oil in most locations.

The best thing you can do is set the oil heat to the minimum required, like 60-65F and heat the rooms that you're in. shut off all electric heaters when sleeping or unattended.

A house like that could probably use a total overhaul when it comes to insulation as well as mechanicals, but being a rental, there's nothing you could do.
 
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Old 10-29-15, 08:32 AM
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Well, I would tend to disagree on the design of electric heaters. Go to your local box/hardware store and buy a generic 1500 watt heater and then compare that to a 1500 watt Eden Pure. For one thing the Eden Pure processes about three times the amount of cfm of air as the generic heater. Other than that, I would agree that 1500 watts of heat is 1500 watts of heat.

But is the Eden Pure worth the money....I say no. Buy a used one or a refurbished one if you must have one. The Duraflame by comparison is a really crude piece of hardware, but it does process about the same cfm of air that the Eden Pure does.

So for this winter at least, the oil furnace in my house will do most of the work. I'm gonna get an indoor thermometer too and fix it to an interior wall in the living room and try to monitor things....

Kevin
 
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Old 12-27-15, 10:04 PM
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the eden-pure is a gold-plated, polished turd. the cfm don't matter, they all make the same amount of heat. 1500w is 1500w.

if you're after a safer space heater, get one of those oil filled electric radiators. they're quiet and as safe as they get.
 
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Old 12-27-15, 10:24 PM
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Actually CFM can mater. If it is too high it will move more air per minute than the heater can bring to a comfortable temperature. Then you end up with cool air being circulated.
 
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