Need opinions for heating my new house.

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Old 02-25-15, 01:23 AM
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Need opinions for heating my new house.

I am gutting my new ~700 sq foot house and considering my options for heat. Currently the electric hot water tank doesn't work and there is a tired old oil forced hot air furnace. I am being told that I can heat my whole house from the floor with radiant heat and that it'll be inexpensive and extremely comfortable! But I have some questions. Is this still a very cost effective solution if I use an electric water heater or electric instant hot water? Can I use the same unit for the house's hot water AND a closed loop system? Should I consider ditching my oil tank for propane units? Again I am looking for low cost operation (i'm poor) and I'm wondering if this is for me.

The facts:

- I have electricity and an oil tank... considering swapping for propane tank if it ends up being more cost effective
- The house is built on a slab with cement block walls on the first floor and timber frame construction on the second
- First floor has a living room about 10x20 and a kitchen about 10x16 with a 4x10 utility room tucked under the stairs. Second floor has two bedrooms about 8x10 and a small bathroom.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 04:26 AM
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Since you didn't mention natural gas, I guess there is none. If it exists, I would look for something that can handle both oil & propane. I remember seeing a #6 oil burner that could run on natural gas, as a second choice.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 02:24 PM
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I remember seeing a #6 oil burner that could run on natural gas, as a second choice.
Probably the other way around as gas is almost always less expensive than oil. I worked in one facility where the "energy manager" wanted us to burn oil and he said that we were saving money until I asked him if he had considered that the cost of the gas was at the meter versus the oil at the supplier? I told him that WE were paying for the transport of the oil, the treated water lost (as steam) in atomizing the oil, the water lost (again, as steam) in heating the oil just so it would burn more or less cleanly and the losses in soot blowing to say nothing of the lower combustion efficiency of the oil related to the gas. The next day we were back on gas and nothing more was ever mentioned about oil being a cheaper fuel.

The actual reason for the dual fuel burners is that the gas is purchased on an "interruptible" basis which means that if the gas utility cannot supply all their non-interruptible customers then it has the power to stop the gas to the interruptible customers. This often occurs during really cold weather and is often is due to the pipelines not being large enough to transport enough gas rather than a real lack of gas.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 02:29 PM
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George, radiant floor heat CAN be a very comfortable and fairly economical method of heating a home but in such a small home it needs to be VERY carefully engineered. Although it is done, I would never advocate using a domestic water heater as a source of heat to a radiant floor. The water heater is not designed for this duty and there are several reasons why it is not a good idea. Also, radiant floors are not cheap to install and a poor installation will not work very well.

The other thing is that as I understand the electric rates in New Jersey are fairly high and that alone should dissuade you from using electricity as a source of heat unless you plan on doing massive increases in insulation and air sealing.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 02:59 PM
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Natural gas is a definite consideration if it's available to you. Most areas of NJ are pretty well covered with natural gas and it sure beats our electric rates.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 04:20 PM
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There are some boilers which can be easily converted from oil to gas. If LP rates there are like they are here, I wouldn't even consider it. Here LP is about $2.70/gallon vs oil at about $2.90. That makes LP $30.00/million btu & oil $20.71/milllion btu.
I'm going to hopefully add to Furd's comments about radiant:
Under floor may or may not work for you depending upon floor covering. Carpet is a serious insulator & will kill the effectiveness (thus comfort) of a system designed for bare hardwood. If you really think you want underfloor radiant, make sure you talk with a contractor who is well versed in the subject.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 05:31 PM
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Probably the other way around as gas is almost always less expensive than oil.
Furd, I agree but big real estate management companies do strange things. Warning: History Lesson: Originally, the building & many other buildings used Con Edison steam, for heat. For people who don't know New York City, Con Ed supplies electricity to NYC, so they had steam lines underground. At one time, they would sell that steam to NYC landlords who would heat their buildings with it. Con Ed started to raise their prices & oil became cheaper. The steam was abandoned & here we are with oil or gas.
 
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Old 02-25-15, 05:42 PM
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Using those room dimensions I get about 600 square feet assuming 40 square feet for the bathroom. I don't know if that would be enough area to heat the house in a New Jersey winter.

I would never suggest an under(sub)floor installation but would suggest Warmboard (or equivalent) under the finished flooring. A Gypcrete floor with embedded tubing is nice for even heating but it is NOT inexpensive.

Honestly, I think you are best with the forced air system or IF you add massive insulation, electric baseboard heaters.

Or maybe a woodstove if you cannot afford anything else for fuel. You would not need a big stove to heat that small of a home.
 
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