space heaters vs. an oil furnace?

Reply

  #1  
Old 12-25-13, 06:32 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 17
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
space heaters vs. an oil furnace?

I live in Seattle, where the temp rarely gets down to 20 degrees at night. It's a 2200 sq ft house, two stories, built in 1962. I have already spent $2000 on heating oil and it's not January! (original oil furnace) It's an 8-bedroom house, seven people, and I'm wondering about maybe investing in a radiant heater, those pretty small ones, with thermostat, for each room, using the propane fireplace for the common area/kitchen, and turning the furnace way down or off. I know there is common wisdom about space heaters versus gas furnaces, how does it add up versus oil heat? Also, we are not in our rooms much during the day, and so that would change the equation some as only the common areas would need to be heated during the day. Does anyone have a feel for this, any advice? Thanks.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 12-25-13, 06:58 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 53,535
Received 408 Votes on 384 Posts
Space heaters running on what....... electric ?
I know living in NJ..... you'd rather not use electric for heating.

Your oil burner is over 50 years old. Have you considered a boiler upgrade ?
Call several dealers.... most will offer a free estimate.
 
  #3  
Old 12-25-13, 08:46 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 17
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
The upgrade is a good point, I will give someone a call. For next year that could make sense, I would have some cash saved up.

For now - yes I am thinking of those pretty small electric radiant heaters. Is there a formula? so, I would look at a prospective heater and how much electricity it uses per ? and then estimate how much it would use, not sure how to do that. And then try to get a total usage for the house per month. Any suggestions? As I said, the rooms are almost always empty during the day and the heaters would be off. Thanks.
 
  #4  
Old 12-25-13, 09:22 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 53,535
Received 408 Votes on 384 Posts
Most of those type heaters have two settings. Hi= 1500 watts and Low=750 watts.

If you run the heater on Hi it will use 1.5kwh (kilowatt/hour). On your electric bill you will see how much you pay for electricity based on kwh. I was looking at rates in Wa. and found .06/kwh.

That means it would cost you 1.5 x .06 = .09 or 9 cents per hour per heater.

A 1500 watt electric heater is about all you can run on a standard 15 amp circuit. This size heater would have to run the bulk of the day to keep a room heated based on outdoor temperatures and how well the house is insulated.

To take it a little further..... one heater...........
.09 per hour x 15 hours = 1.35 per day x 30 days = 40.50 a month to run.
.09 per hour x 10 hours= .90 per day x 30 days = 27.00 a month to run.

Just a broad example.
 
  #5  
Old 12-25-13, 10:14 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 17
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Thank you so much. I did the math and after multiplying by seven heaters, have decided to stay with oil heat for this winter, and will check about the upgrade in 2014. Thanks for all the advice!
 
  #6  
Old 12-26-13, 02:21 AM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,493
Received 33 Votes on 25 Posts
PJ makes the assumption that the dwdanby has a hydronic system rather than a forced air system. The majority of homes in the Seattle area do NOT have hydronic but ARE forced air. He further goes on to suggest that Seattle City Light (the utility in question IF the dwdanby lives inside the city limits and maybe even outside the city limits) has a simple $0.06 per kilowatthour rate structure. I haven't checked in several years but it was more than a decade, maybe more than two decades, ago that SCL went to an increasing rate tiered rate structure. The competing utility outside of Seattle (Puget Sound Energy) also has an increasing rate tiered structure.

What this means is that you CANNOT use a simple six cents/kWh figure to even come close to approximating what the cost would be for using electricity, either by means of portable space heaters or any kind of fixed central heating system. You must instead calculate the electricity used by only the heat and then integrate this figure with the electricity used for everything else in the house. The heating would need to be calculated using degree day formula and expected outside temperatures AND the heat loss calculation for the house during any specific billing period to be meaningful. Not an easy calculation by any means.

That stated, even being among the lowest cost electricity in the nation (SCL) the cost of electric heat is almost prohibitive if you have any alternative. Oil IS high as well but there are still some pockets of Seattle and the surrounding area that do not have gas service, which is, coincidentally, provided by PSE. Since dwdanby states he has a propane fireplace I assume he does not have natural gas available. Propane in the greater Seattle area is also prohibitively expensive.

I have a few questions for dwdanby: Where in Seattle is this house located? Does it have forced air or hydronic (hot water) heating? Do you own this home? Why so many bedrooms in a relatively small house, was it converted to rent out rooms to university students? What do you have in the way of insulation in the attic, walls and floor? What is the basic construction of the house? Is natural gas available in the street near the house? What is the size of the electrical service to the house? The answers to these questions are important before deciding on a course of action.
 
  #7  
Old 12-26-13, 11:22 AM
Member
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 245
Received 1 Vote on 1 Post
If you could get perfect efficiency out of an oil system (impossible) then 1 gallon of the best oil would provide about the same energy as 40 kwh of electricity.
[1 gallon of oil =~ 140,000 btu; 1kwh = 3412 btu; ~140,000/3412 =~40 ]

So if oil is $4.00/ gallon, then $.10/kwh electric is break even [4.00/40 = .10]
... the idea that oil is a lot cheaper than electricity was true when oil was $.20/gallon and electricity was $.06/kwh ; the difference at today's prices is not so great.
For example, where I live, electricity costs ~$.15/kwh; oil ~$4.00/gal . So resistance heat would cost me at most 50% more than oil. ( I use I heat pump so for me, electric is cheaper than oil.)

I think Furd (above) poses all the right questions...
and why not:
- get a quote on insulating your house
- get a quote on a new oil burner
- do the math on the capital cost of 7 space heaters versus a new oil burner
- Furd's point about the electrical service is especially germane; if you go to electric resistance heat, you may need to upgrade your service and do other related electrical work.

Whether a heat pump would be a good solution might be problematic: on the one hand, the Seattle temperatures are just the range that heat pumps thrive in; but on the other there are probably a lot of damp cool days when a heat pump would spend a lot of time and waste a lot of energy defrosting - maybe someone with heat pump experience with your climate could advise on whether that's an issue.
 
  #8  
Old 12-26-13, 01:17 PM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,493
Received 33 Votes on 25 Posts
If dwdanby is served by SCL then he may not have the option of increasing the size of the electrical service without also doing a complete insulation and weather sealing job on the house. I don't know about today but several years ago SCL added a requirement to replacement services that stated the energy saving improvements had to be made in conjunction with any electrical service upgrade. this requirement was added because it was concluded that any service upgrade was done for the express purpose of adding electric heat.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: