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        posted
        Hi, First time poster here!

        Here is the rundown of my problem... I bought a home in Maryland a few months ago that has a oil forced air furnace that is probably half the minimum size recommended for the house (previous owners installed the furnace then built 950 sq ft of additions but added no supplemental HVAC). The basement is about 700 sq ft with another 950 sq ft of crawlspace that has open access to the basement, all unfinished with no insulation at all. The floors over the crawlspaces are always cold (1 carpet, 2 tile and 1 hardwood).

        Ultimately I want to replace the furnace (it's 12 years old so I'll probably have to do it sooner rather than later anyway), but I don't have the money to do that right now. I'm looking for ways to supplement it without draining my wallet. At this rate, I'm going to spend about $1000 a month in heating oil and that is physically painful to think about. I've opened the dampers to the rooms we use most and either completely closed or mostly closed the dampers to the rooms we don't use (mainly bedrooms on the 2nd floor).

        The front running solution so far is to install baseboard heaters for the bedrooms upstairs and to use space heaters in the rooms that are over the crawlspaces(master bedroom/bathroom, large sunroom and family room). I have a 2 year old and even though his room is upstairs, it gets pretty cold at night unless I crank up the thermostat.

        I have a fireplace, and eventually want to get a wood or pellet insert but it's not centrally located so I'm not sure if an insert would actually help heat the house or just make the room with the fireplace so uncomfortably hot we don't want to use it.


        I have been told to insulate the basement and crawlspaces and install a pellet/wood stove down there by family/friends, but I've read a lot of mixed opinions about whether it will be worthwhile, since we don't really plan on using it as living space, just storage (and maybe a workshop type room...). I'm not sure how much it would cost to insulate my basement(or even the best way to go about doing it) but between my husband, myself and our family, we are pretty experienced with remodel projects, so if I can figure out the right best way to proceed, I'm sure we can do some, if not all, of the work ourselves.

        Ideally I want to do something that won't be just a Band-Aid. I'm hoping whatever I do will cut down my heating costs even after I replace the furnace. Any advice would be appreciated.
         
        Posts: 4 | Registered: Nov 25, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        With $1,000 a month going out to heat what sounds like a fairly small house your best bet will be to borrow the money to install a more efficient system. Just dong some simple math: A new, energy efficient system could cost as little as $300 a month to run - or even less. Even if a totally new system costs you $10,000 you can finance it over 4 years for around $250 per month. Meaning that you could be paying $550 per month for something better than what is costing you $1,000 now. Even better savings after you pay the whole thing off.

        You can also get a quick payback if you add insulation provided your house is poorly insulated now. Here too, even if you have to borrow the money for some insulation you will come out ahead.

        Many utilities around the country have low interest loans available to upgrade what you have and ultimately reduce energy usage. This could make borrowing the money even more attractive.

        The wood stove in the basement is a good idea too. Even if you do not use the basement as living space, all the heat from the wood stove will rise and heat the floor of your main living space. This will not only cut down on the load on your main furnace but will make for some toasty floors - really nice in winter.

        Overall, while it may seem like you have a big problem the fact that yo are spending so much money now means that you are actually in a situation where it is very easy and inexpensive to better your situation. Odds are good that you can make your house more efficient and save money at the same time.

        This message has been edited. Last edited by: Jaybee,


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10151 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of CommonwealthSparky
        posted Hide Post
        I agree. A properly sized energy efficient forced hot air furnace would be step one. And insulation upgrades step 1b. And that part you can do on your own. The internet providing the how to and you providing the labor.
        Spam bump. Big Grin


        Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
         
        Posts: 1411 | Location: Central Pennsylvania | Registered: Jun 02, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        Thank you for your responses. I guess I will get started calling HVAC companies to get quotes on a new system installation. My only concern is that with just buying our house, I'm worried we may not be approved for financing. But I guess there's only one way to find that out. And I have some more research to do on adding insulation. My electric company does offer some rebates for energy efficient upgrades, but you have to pay a contractor to do them and it's not enough to offset the cost of paying someone else to do it.

        As far as making the floors warm by adding a woodstove in the basement, would that also warm the floors over the crawlspaces? Two of the additions that are over crawlspaces are tile and one is a wood floor. All three are cold, but the tile is really really cold. I guess I'll have to research and figure out how to insulate the crawlspaces but not insulate between the crawlspace and the floor above it...
         
        Posts: 4 | Registered: Nov 25, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        Usually a crawlspace will have open ventilation to the outside - needed to keep it from retaining too much moisture. But crawlspaces are not usually heated. Without a heat source in the crawlspace, you will not see any warmth to your floors. Best thing for the crawlspace would be to insulate the floor above in those areas. This is reasonably easy (depending on how much height you have in the space). Batts of R-19 insulation are placed in-between all the floor joists and are held in place with thin wire hangers. Just put the paper side of the insulation up towards the living space and place a hanger every few feet. Some cutting will be requires around plumbing / electrical and for the odd spaced floor joist. As a DIY project, this will cost you about $1 per square foot of area covered. It's a good project that will get you payback in a few years with an immediate increase in comfort due to warmer floors.

        If you do add the wood stove to the basement area, then this will certainly help for all floors directly above. If there is access from the basement to the crawlspaces, then you may be able to heat those areas too - provided you seal off any outside ventilation from the crawl. Note that come spring, you will want to open up the foundation vents once again.

        I agree that financing could be tricky since you have recently purchased, but you may get around that if you can finance through your local energy provider. However you do it, it's a no-brainer if you can get rid of those $1,000 per month heating bills.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10151 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        Our home inspector mentioned it was odd that there weren't any vents on the crawlspaces. They are open to the basement though. Each crawlspace has about a 2'x9' opening from the basement. Two of the crawlspaces have a concrete slab, the other one I think the other is just a dirt floor with a membrane over it. I hate the idea of heating the crawlspace, but those tile floors are very cold and it makes the whole room cold. The one room we close the doors and it is so cold we can use it for cold storage. Even though there is a heat duct run to the room, it gets next to no heat/airflow.

        We have been talking about insulating between the crawlspaces and floors, but haven't done it yet because we were trying to figure out the best way to proceed before we did anything. I guess my first step is to get some quotes on new furnaces. I'm hoping with a new furnace those rooms over the crawlspaces will actually get heat supplied to them and won't be as cold.
         
        Posts: 4 | Registered: Nov 25, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        As far as insulation goes, you will see more benefit from insulating the attic over the walls or floors. Insulating walls would be next, but often this is not possible to do.

        Both attics and floors are fairly easy to add more insulation to.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10151 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of CommonwealthSparky
        posted Hide Post
        I would rather have you listen to advice provided by HVAC people than what a home inspector might decide is correct or not. Easily the most difficult trade to understand all the ins & outs of heating & cooling.

        Spammer bump as well. Big Grin


        Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
         
        Posts: 1411 | Location: Central Pennsylvania | Registered: Jun 02, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        It sounds like you have a conditioned crawlspace, though not completely. With a conditioned crawlspace you insulate the walls and keep it warmish in the winter and coolish in the summer versus a vented crawlspace.

        With a conditioned crawlspace you want to have some heat and AC going into them, though you certainly don't need to keep that at the same temperature as the first floor. The AC will keep any moisture in check better than a vented crawlspace. How you should expect a vented crawlspace in hot and humid MD to stay dry in the summer is anyones guess, but it is done all the time.

        Google "conditioned crawlspace" for more details. You may need to beef up the insulation on your basement and crawlspace walls, but I'd defer to experts on the ground as to what your should do.


        General Disclaimer

        Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

        My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
         
        Posts: 626 | Location: Cary, NC | Registered: Aug 17, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        Jaybee,

        I am planning on adding insulation to my attics. I know the one over the main house and one of the additions should have more after researching the Department of Energy website. The other two additions, I haven't seen yet because the only access is from outside. My home inspector checked them, but I didn't climb up there myself.

        CommonwealthSparky,
        I didn't have too much confidence in this home inspector... The man I wanted to use (had used him when I bought my first house) had to be booked a month in advance and I only had a week to get my inspection done... I have a HVAC "comfort specialist" coming out tomorrow from a local company to give me a quote and do an assessment for what the best type of system would be. It says on their website that they check and consider the insulation in your home while they are here. We'll see how extensive that check is though.

        Sparky617,

        Thank you for giving me the terminology for that! Believe it or not, I've been trying to google the proper way to insulate a crawl space (or even if it should be insulated) and I couldn't get much of anything to come up, but once I searched "conditioned crawl space" it came up with the type of information I was looking for. Thank you very much. There is no insulation in the crawlspaces or basement right now, so I'm sure adding insulation to those spaces will be next on my list after meeting with the "comfort specialist" tomorrow.

        Thank you all for your responses. They are very informative and helped me clear up what needs to be done to solve this problem. I'm noticing more and more things that the previous owners didn't do up to the standard they should have (heating, insulation, AC system)... So they saved money in the short term but I'm sure they lost a lot more from the time they did the additions to when they sold the house (about 4 years from my guesses). Then the people we bought it from didn't do anything to try to remedy the situation. It boggles my mind that someone would live here for 8 years and not bother fixing any of this stuff. I've been here 4 months and that's enough! Haha! Then again, the neighbors did warn me that the people we bought the house from "weren't domestic." Haha.
         
        Posts: 4 | Registered: Nov 25, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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