Have a question about heating system options for my home improvement project. We currently live in an approximately 1800 sf old two-story farmhouse (originally built in 1917, with several poorly constructed additions added later). A forced air propane furnace heats the first floor, but there are no ducts to the second floor. There are three upstairs rooms, currently one is heated with an in-wall electric heater with a thermostat. The other two rooms are heated with plug-in space heaters when in us – which is expensive so our living area tends to shrink significantly in the winter. We live in MN – winters get seriously COLD, and the price of propane is getting ridiculous.
We have done some things to improve efficiency – blow-in insulation in the walls, lining the foundation with rigid foam insulation, new windows - but the house would require fairly extensive renovation to get it up to ‘modern’ standards and, because it wasn’t well constructed in the first place, probably isn’t worth spending the money on. Initially we looked at building a new home, but cannot afford that much cost right now. We may still build a house in the future, but what we are looking at doing now is building a two-story garage with upstairs loft space for additional living area, attached to our current home by a heated breezeway. We want to install an efficient system to heat both the old house and the new garage, without having to do very much retro-fitting on the house.
One of the options we are looking at is an outdoor wood gasification boiler (we have 17 acres and plenty of wood available). I understand it can be adapted to a forced air furnace so we could use that as our primary fuel source, but have propane for back-up. Is there a way I can also use it to heat the upstairs rooms without installing duct work? What would I need to install in the garage to heat it with the boiler? I’d like to have the upstairs heated to living area temps, but the downstairs garage part can just be at 40 or 50 degrees.
I’m also interested in hearing any other suggestions for efficient heating systems that would meet our needs. We don’t know a lot about this stuff and want some independent opinions before talking to the sales people. Thank you for your time!
There is no easy answer. One option would be to put in floor registers between the 1st & 2nd floors and allow the natural heat rise to heat the rooms. That would not really heat it up like the downstairs but would put some heat up there.
2nd option is to go with what they refer to as a "mini-split" unit which is basicly a heat pump of sorts on the outside wall with a unit transferring unit in the room. But would "one" do the job for two rooms. All lines can be routed on the exterior wall.
3rd would be the outside furnace. I have been that route and although it is a great heat source it will work you to death. You have to feed the boiler at least twice daily and look forward to using 12-14 pick up truck loads ( or tri-axel truck of logs) each season. Could be more or could be less. You can put an extra zone (heat exchanger) for the upstairs which only require electric and two 3/4-1" water lines up through the partitions from the ground floor or basement. The main floor could be set up for an additional zone. One advantage to this is that most are made to where you can hook up your domestic hot water and eliminate the hot water tank useage in the winter. If you are not home a lot of the time someone would have to feed the furnace while you are gone at the same intervals. Like I said I have been there and done that and after 3 winters I determined that this was not what I wanted to do year after year especially as I aged as well.This message has been edited. Last edited by: redoverfarm,
A mini-split Heat Pump would allow you to heat and air condition the space without ductwork. Given your location though I'm not sure it will be a great option for the really cold months.
A second furnace in your attic with duct work for the second floor would be the least disruptive solution, but you're probably stuck with propane as a fuel if you don't have natural gas.
Given your location and lack of natural gas a ground sourced heat pump would be an expensive to implement but very efficient to run system. Might be worth looking at if you ever build your dream home on this land.
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.
I have a sister in law down in the southwest corner of MN who has an outside wood boiler and coil into the oil furnace, works well on her farmstead. there are two old groves being cleared out for a wood source. as mentioned, you do have to work the grate and feed the burner and tickle the airflow in the burner two to three times a day. just one more chore on the farm. city slickers note... miss one appointment with the burner, you are frozen up and dead for the winter. absolutely dead. unrepairably dead. this is not the life you are used to.
localities have started to get nasty about them because of the lower firebox temperature typical of these units (alias stinky smoky burners), so you have to check with the authorities. the cost would be similar to install to replacing your furnace with one that will heat the whole house, and right now, backhoeing in the glycol lines to the house would be an iffy proposition.
but heck yeah, worth getting a couple of quotes. the propane situation is nasty.
right now, I'd consider a couple of round KeroHeat type wick heaters, lots and lots of heat (too much for my 10x16 HamCave radio shed) for something like a gallon and a half of K1 a day. I have not tickled the CO monitor with it yet, but there is some risk of oxygen depletion and a little smoke on start and stop. in a leaky old farmhouse, not so much. increased fire risk because of liquid fuel in living spaces, obey all manual precautions and don't fall over them and you'll be OK. in a pinch you can burn DDF (#2 "heating" oil, with is non-highway-tax diesel) but it will gunk up the wick.
the kerosene heaters will buy you time and save your house if the propane runs out. we're approaching a time where the good ol' good ol' is not always dependable, and we all should be thinking about backup heat and power sources. all that infrastructure is at capacity, and any normal failure is all of a sudden going to be a moderate to severe regional impact. we've seen it in natural gas, propane, and power already in the past year Up Nort'. add water supply in the southwest to that list.This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,
sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
We are looking at a dual stage wood gasification boiler. According to what I've read they burn at a very high heat, are much more efficient and use 1/2 to 1/3 the wood of a regular outdoor wood boiler. Are the comments here about how much wood is used based on a traditional wood boiler?
We both work full time M-F and are gone 10-11 hours per day. We can feed a boiler in the morning before we leave and again when we get home, but if we would need to do more than that it probably wouldn't work for us.
We will look into heat pumps and other options as well. Thanks for your input!
up here, you will be on alternate fuel, not heat pump, for 5 months easily. a geothermal installation (2-3 times the cost) will be operating on heat pump just about all the time.
sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
i got rid of my propane forced air unit and instaled electric..my heat bill dropped by half
their is not good answer to your question.if you have a boiler
have a qualified heating tech do the math to see if it will handle the load of baseboard heat upstairs...that would be the least intrusive/expensive
Just my opinion..
I wood go with a baseboard heat ( oil). You would have a boiler that heats the water, it runs through pipe (encased and finned) that can be run anywhere in the house. Places like the kitchen can have what is called toe kick heaters. These heating systems are best for large places.
Save your trees because their gonna be worth some money, when all the crazies start hollering about going green, can you say carbon credit.
I forgot, later the oil can be switched to natural gas when the BS hits the fan.This message has been edited. Last edited by: ron45,
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