Poll: What’s your preferred source of home heat?

What's your preferred source of home heat?

  • wood stove or pellet stove (6%, 8 Votes)
  • electric baseboard heaters (1%, 1 Votes)
  • electric blower heaters (1%, 1 Votes)
  • electric in-floor heating (7%, 9 Votes)
  • hot water radiators (13%, 17 Votes)
  • electric ductless heat pumps (8%, 11 Votes)
  • electric central heating (2%, 2 Votes)
  • gas central heating (40%, 52 Votes)
  • something else... (22%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 131

This poll was active 01.13.2013 through 01.19.2013

  

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

52 comments:

  1. 1
    sniffy says:

    I’ve had just about all of these over the years (except the wood/pellet stoves), and it’s a close call between radiators and electric in-floor (in-ceiling also works surprisingly well).

    I grew up with central heat but really don’t like the way it affects the quality of the air, especially the dryness. Electric blowers and baseboard heaters are similar, though not quite as bad. I probably like the softness and evenness of electric in-floor/ceiling the best, but it can take quite a while to heat up a room when it’s cold. Radiators are much faster (especially the modern, high surface area ones) but not as even–but they both keep the air feeling natural.

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  2. 2
    Blurtman says:

    Please do not release wood smoke into the air that you have generated in your fireplace. You are polluting the air, and denying your neighbors access to clean air.

    From the Department of Ecology, State of Washington website:

    “Health concerns

    The most dangerous material in wood smoke may be the fine particles that make up the smoke and soot. Many of these particles are toxic. Most are so small that, when you breathe them, they get past your body’s defenses and go deep into your lungs. There, they can cause serious problems such as scarring of the lung tissue. Studies show that death rates in several U.S. cities increased when there were higher levels of fine particles in the air. Wood smoke is most dangerous to the health of infants and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with lung or heart disease.”

    (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/indoor_woodsmoke/wood_smoke_page.htm#Health_concerns)

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  3. 3

    My preference would be a heat exchanger used in conjunction with a gas forced air furnace. It allows greater efficiency, which you can wipe out in the summer by using it as an air conditioner!

    Those in-wall forced air hot water systems, the ones that run off water from the hot water tank, are interesting. I believe they operate mainly by convection rather than as a radiator. I’ve never lived in a place with that type of system, however. What I like about it is there’s only one device for both heat and hot water.

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  4. 4
    ray pepper says:

    i like making sexy for heat.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  5. 5
    Howard says:

    Modulating Condensing Natural gas fired radiant radiant heat with tubing in the floor, a few panels in key areas and towel warmers in every bathroom.

    Same boiler feeding an indirect hot water storage tank (100 gallons plus)

    Efficient, no air movement (AKA dust movement), quiet.

    Negatives… expensive to do right.

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  6. 6
    Steve says:

    What about a ductful electric heat pump?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  7. 7
    Pegasus says:

    I rubs me stick as hard as I can. That may not heat the whole house but it stops the shivering. Don’t forget the lotion……

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  8. 8

    By Steve @ 6:

    What about a ductful electric heat pump?

    Thank you for the technical term. ;-)

    It was bothering me so much that in post 3 I called a heat pump a heat exchanger.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  9. 9
    The Tim says:

    RE: Steve @ 6 – Wouldn’t that be a form of electric central heat?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  10. 10
    Jonness says:

    I have an electric heat pump that blows warm air through central ducting. I love the efficiency of this heat. Perhaps in 5 years, I’ll upgrade to geothermal. For now, I have no complaints. I also have a gas fireplace I like to crank on during chilly nights. It’s more for effect than anything else. Once-in-a-while I turn on the electric in-floor heat but it’s also for affect.

    In my opinion the heat pump wins. But use a good filter, keep the ducts clean, and run air purifiers in your house to eliminate dust and allergens.

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  11. 11
    Jonness says:

    By The Tim @ 9:

    RE: Steve @ 6 – Wouldn’t that be a form of electric central heat?

    I think there is a big difference between having an electric furnace and electric heat pump.

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  12. 12

    I think it depends on whether “preferred” is for comfort or for economy. In terms of comfort, oil central heating is hard to beat. It’s expensive, it’s polluting, and it’s so not ecogroovy, but it heats places nice and toasty warm.
    The ductless electric heat pumps are harder to do in multistory situations( due to the way the heat travels.) The “regular” heat pump, whatever the source, is tremendously efficient, and often offers air conditioning as a side benefit.

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  13. 13
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: Pegasus @ 7RE: ray pepper @ 4

    Effective, sure; but isn’t it uncomfortable when the family visits?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  14. 14
    Erik says:

    RE: ray pepper @ 4
    You dog you.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  15. 15
    robotslave says:

    How about “Insulation?”

    I’m continually amazed at just how poorly insulated a typical Seattle-area home is.

    In our mild climate, net-zero heating is particularly practical and cost-efficient… provided you build from scratch, of course. But even a step or two below that summit can and should be implemented before swapping out your heat source.

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  16. 16
    gardener1 says:

    Steam radiators.

    Old school, but greatness.

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  17. 17

    By Jonness @ 11:

    By The Tim @ 9:
    RE: Steve @ 6 – Wouldn’t that be a form of electric central heat?

    I think there is a big difference between having an electric furnace and electric heat pump.

    Especially if your backup source of heat during cold weather is gas. If it’s electric, I’d probably agree with Tim, but that’s somewhat uncommon.

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  18. 18

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 12:

    I think it depends on whether “preferred” is for comfort or for economy. In terms of comfort, oil central heating is hard to beat. It’s expensive, it’s polluting, and it’s so not ecogroovy, but it heats places nice and toasty warm..

    In those terms, I don’t think it has any advantage over a gas furnace, which is cleaner. The air passing through the furnace heat exchanger can’t tell whether it’s oil or gas heating the other side of the exchanger.

    “Comfort” can be affected by other things. Our current house, with a gas furnace, does seem a lot more comfortable than our old Skyway house with electric baseboard. And although the Skyway house was older, it was probably better insulated overall. I think the difference might be humidity–our current house is fairly close to a stream.

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  19. 19

    Converted to gas from the old car-sized 1960’s inefficient oil furnace I inherited when I bought my home. Night and day difference and worth every penny. Plus the added bonus of converting to cooking on a gas stove which allowed me to become the “Wok Master” I am today!

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  20. 20

    By whatsmyname @ 13:

    RE: Pegasus @ 7RE: ray pepper @ 4

    Effective, sure; but isn’t it uncomfortable when the family visits?

    About 5 years ago there was a DJ in Seattle named Laswell, or some such thing. His producer or assistant was younger and had to move back in with his parents. The story they told (and possibly made up) was that to encourage the son to move out, the parents started having violent love in random places around the house when he was home. Maybe they were just tying to save money on the heat bill?

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  21. 21

    By Conor MacEvilly @ 19:

    Converted to gas from the old car-sized 1960’s inefficient oil furnace I inherited when I bought my home.

    Car sized? Are you perhaps talking about an “Octopus furnace?” If so, those are much older than the sixties.

    http://www.irsenvironmental.com/graphics/octopus-furnace.jpg

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  22. 22
    Peter says:

    I purchased a house a year ago that had the original 1978 electric furnace still chugging away. It killed me last year to pay for heat. Last fall I installed a Geothermal Heat Pump. Yes it is electric, but I’m paying 1/4 of what I did last year for electricity. The house is way more comfortable and I don’t think of my wallet every time the heat comes on. I would do it again in a heartbeat. This morning it is 20 outside an a perfect 68 inside.

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  23. 23

    I Like Electricity Heat in a 2X6 Framed House

    With extra insulation, vs. old 2×4 construction insulation.

    I also like backup propane heat by renting a tank for like $40/yr [hardly using it though, propane gas costs an arm and a leg], and a gas stove in the living room if the power goes out. A gas furnace with electric blowers not only has two bills [electric and gas], its useless when the power goes out too.

    I like my telephone on a landline too….works when power goes out too and less internet monitoring.

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  24. 24

    By softwarengineer @ 23:

    A gas furnace with electric blowers not only has two bills [electric and gas], its useless when the power goes out too..

    But a gas (or oil) furnace only requires a relatively small generator compared to most the other heat sources mentioned here.

    Some of the new high efficiency gas water heaters also require power, but an even smaller amount.

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  25. 25

    RE: Peter @ 22
    How long is it going to take to pay back the purchase/installation costs of the heat pump via the reduced costs?….75% savings sounds awesome.

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  26. 26

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 25
    All Furnaces [even themostats] Need Tuneups a Few Times a Decade to Work Efficiently

    And I’m not just talking replacing the filter, which actually does little to reduce the bill anyway.

    Unless you know what you’re doing, you need to find a good furnace man to fix and inspect your crown jewel occasionally….do we need to get the heat pump installed for like $5000? Ask a good furnace man, the honest ones will tell you if its really worth it in your case.

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  27. 27
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 2 – If you have a fireplace, installing a modern insert is a must. The inserts legal for sale in our state are incredibly efficient, (75%), and are usually equipped with a blower and external intake.

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  28. 28
    Blurtman says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 27 – Good to know. I will research and try to communicate to my neighbors. In the evenings, during cold weather months, one can smoke a ham on the streets near folks belching wood smoke out of the chimneys of the homes on my street. I would assume that these are not properly maintained fireplaces. I would also imagine that many of these folks are against breathing second hand cigarette smoke. Perhaps a little friendly education can help inform them to alter thier behavior. Violation of KIng County burn bans are routine. I would hope they would not balk at paying for my dry cleaning bills.

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  29. 29
    Peter says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 25

    Quite frankly, I couldn’t make this payback at all based upon the bids I received. They were $20-25,000. I decided to install it myself. I spent time educating myself, stayed away from bells and whistles, and kept my costs low (under $10,000). Excluding my labor, I expect the investment to payback in 4 years.

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  30. 30

    By Peter @ 29:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 25

    Quite frankly, I couldn’t make this payback at all based upon the bids I received. They were $20-25,000. I decided to install it myself. I spent time educating myself, stayed away from bells and whistles, and kept my costs low (under $10,000). Excluding my labor, I expect the investment to payback in 4 years.

    But geothermal is much more expensive than a normal atmosphere system. How much more efficient is geothermal?

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  31. 31
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 28 – Your neighbors are also putting themselves at risk for chimney fires with that incomplete combustion. A chimney fire is one of the most horrifying events you can experience as a homeowner, short of your entire home burning down (which often occurs as a result)

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  32. 32
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Peter @ 29 – I’d say this warrants a guest post. I’d imagine there are many homeowners on this blog that are interested in what you did.

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  33. 33
    David Losh says:

    RE: Peter @ 29

    We talked about this before, and I did go to a plumbing supply store to get a quote for a boiler, radiators, and all the piping, with fittings, and it was cheap, from quotes I got from contractors.

    It is plumbing however, and from a liability stand point a plumber should sign off on the installation.

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  34. 34
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Peter @ 22

    My seller on my Lakeridge listing installed that and was very happy with it. But potential buyers of the home don’t really care to pay more for a home that has it. Same for the electric stove that cooks as if it is a gas stove. I have another client who put tens of thousands of dollars into improvements that are not compensatory at time of sale. Very sad news to break to a homeowner.

    Even when someone spends a lot of money improving their home for their own use, not intending to sell the home, they are not happy to not get that money back when they find the need to sell the home.

    My problem with heating systems that have no “forced air” feature is that I see all of the dirt and sometimes real filth captured in the filters. After seeing 100s of people’s filthy filters, it makes me worry about heating systems that don’t use an air filter to capture all of that mess.

    Those who like a system that has no filter capabilities, do you use a separate air filter in the home to supplement it?

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  35. 35
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Peter @ 22

    My seller on my Lakeridge listing installed that and was very happy with it. But potential buyers of the home don’t really care to pay more for a home that has it. Same for the electric stove that cooks as if it is a gas stove. I have another client who put tens of thousands of dollars into improvements that are not compensatory at time of sale. Very sad news to break to a homeowner.

    Even when someone spends a lot of money improving their home for their own use, not intending to sell the home, they are not happy to not get that money back when they find they need to sell the home.

    My problem with heating systems that have no “forced air” feature is that I see all of the dirt and sometimes real filth captured in the filters. After seeing 100s of people’s filthy filters, it makes me worry about heating systems that don’t use an air filter to capture all of that mess.

    Those who like a system that has no filter capabilities, do you use a separate air filter in the home to supplement it?

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  36. 36
    redmondjp says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 35 – Furnace air filters are only there to protect the furnace from damage, not to clean the air in the house. I am currently replacing my own furnace, and have learned a lot about proper filtration systems in the process.

    Modern high-efficiency gas furnaces (now mandated by the EPA) have extra-thin metal in their primary heat exchangers. The furnace must have a certain amount of airflow going through it in order to remove the heat produced within it. The furnace blower has a limited amount of capacity in order to overcome the restrictions to airflow (in the supply & return ductwork, and in the filter) in order to maintain the minimum-required airflow.

    A restrictive air filter, especially the now-popular “high-efficiency” ones made by a well-known maker of adhesive products, can reduce airflow through the furnace below the minimum amount required. This causes both the primary and secondary heat exchangers to run too hot, which can damage them and lead to premature furnace failure. And this is with a “clean” filter!

    There is plenty to read about on this topic on the internet. The HVAC technician discussion boards are where you will get the ‘straight dope’ on this topic. For those suffering from allergies, in-room air cleaners are recommended as a supplement to whatever the forced-air system has in it. I have allergies myself and have used about every kind of air filter imaginable – I would recommend staying away from anything that produces ozone as it’s not good to breathe and tends to break down any rubber components within the immediate vicinity (such as the rubber switch button on the bedside Maglite flashlight). My personal favorite is HEPA with a good foam pre-filter to catch the big stuff.

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  37. 37
    ARDELL says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 36

    Thank you! Even when I am ready to list a house I like to run the air through the furnace filter after sanding hardwood floors or putting in new carpet and pulling out filthy carpet that releases crap into the air, as example.

    I am working on one now with a hydronic system and no air filtration from the furnace. Can you post a link to the HEPA you like best and save me the time, as I need to get one within the next 24 to 48 hours? I would appreciate it.

    I’m thinking I can run it for x hours and move it from room to room, or maybe get a few of them. Your thoughts MUCH appreciated.

    I used to use a whole house fan that sucked everything up and out really well on my Kirkland house. Loved it. But they are not popular here, and obviously not portable. :) Though those monster fans used by the mold guys might be an option…hmmmm.

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  38. 38

    By ARDELL @ 37:

    I used to use a whole house fan that sucked everything up and out really well on my Kirkland house. Loved it. But they are not popular here, and obviously not portable. :) Though those monster fans used by the mold guys might be an option…hmmmm.

    Not wanting to deal with electrical issue and blown in insulation for a permanent whole house fan, I created a portable whole house system. It has two large fans mounted on a panel, and then mounts in front of an open sliding glass door. The panel is big enough for a third fan, but two do the job really well.

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  39. 39

    RE: redmondjp @ 36 – I recently came across a house where the flipper apparently had moved a furnace outside to an attached shed, seemingly to reduce furnace noise inside the house. Because the house had a very low slope roof, they used only an 8″ air intake. I thought that didn’t look right, so I called a furnace guy I know and he said that would “kill the furnace” because it wouldn’t be able to breath. He compared it to breathing through a straw.

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  40. 40
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 39

    I also just saw a house like that…and even had it “in contract”. Luckily the sewer pipe was crap in a 10 foot section and the foundation was moving in all directions, so we got to cancel before trying to decide if the furnace moved to the outdoor shed was going to be an issue. :)

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  41. 41
    redmondjp says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 37 – It sounds like you are looking for a short-term, quick-cleaning solution, whereas I was talking about something one would use on an ongoing basis.

    Any of the Honeywell HEPA units (they are cylindrical, about 2′ in diameter) work great – about $120-150 and Costco usually carries one model. I don’t know how quickly these would clear the air in a house – you would probably need one for each room in order to be effective and it would still take a day or two. The problem is, any filter (whole-house or otherwise) only affects a small percentage of the total volume of air inside the house. Any dust-laden air that doesn’t reach the filter will still end up depositing the heavier deposits on everything it touches.

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  42. 42
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 39 – That’s exactly the problem that my original furnace installation had (done by ‘professional’ contractors, heh!) – I ran the flow numbers for my furnace and determined that the single 12″ dia. air return was far too small. I added a second 12″ dia. return vent to the hallway adjacent to the furnace, which will also help to balance the return airflow in the house since the original return is at the far end of the house.

    I was cleaning out my cold air return vent last night, and found a huge audible warning horn for the now-removed security system (so it would be loud inside the house but still hidden)! I’m sure that didn’t help the airflow any either, not that the security system installers seemed to care . . .

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  43. 43
    ARDELL says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 41

    Thanks for the info! Saved me lots of bucks. I’ll probably go with a variation of Kary’s remedy.

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  44. 44
    Jamfish says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 28 – I’m sorry to hear that it’s that bad in your neighborhood. My family typically turns to our insert during these colder weeks/months. Our home is only about 1200sqft and the insert can keep everything very comfortable for hours when properly tended to.

    Our insert only puts out smoke on startup (expected). Once everything gets to temp, it’s quite efficient and clean-burning (using dry, seasoned wood). We’ve had some neighbors like you described. While I dislike being a do-gooding snitch, that kind of neighborhood-wide smoke-out is over the top and indicates there’s something unsafe going on.

    PSCAA emailed me and said to call the FD in such a situation.

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  45. 45
    ChrisM says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 36 – “A restrictive air filter, especially the now-popular “high-efficiency” ones made by a well-known maker of adhesive products, can reduce airflow through the furnace below the minimum amount required.”

    Interesting – I’ve got an old furnace (mid 70’s). I’ve got one of the 3M inch thick filters w/ the heavier pleating. Would I be better off using the cheap $4 specials?

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  46. 46
    redmondjp says:

    RE: ChrisM @ 45 – From the standpoint of the furnace, yes. But your furnace may have been built using a beefier blower in it when compared to the weenie fans that they use in modern furnaces, and be able to develop more static pressure to overcome the resistance of the air filter.

    The only way to know for sure is to install a differential pressure gauge (or use true flow-sensing equipment which is very expensive and not typically permanently installed) AKA an air filter restriction gauge. You can go from something under $20 such as a Generalaire G-99, to a $100-200 Dwyer Magnehelic:

    http://www.achrnews.com/articles/what-you-should-know-about-air-filter-gages
    http://www.discountfurnacefilter.com/v/Downloadable%20Resources/GeneralAire%20Air%20Filter%20Gage.pdf
    http://www.dwyer-inst.com/Products/AirFilterIntroduction.cfm

    I was going to go with the Generalaire, until a coworker heard about my project and graciously donated a Dwyer 0 – 1″ WC Magnehelic gauge to me.

    I’m modifying my cold-air return plenum, going from a single 14″ x 20″ x 1″ filter to two 20″ x 25″ x 1″ filters, so I can still use the high-efficiency 3M pleated filters w/o the nasty pressure drop – I’m increasing my filter surface area by almost four times which will dramatically lower the pressure drop across the filter. And then I’ll use the differential pressure gauge mentioned above in order to tell me when to change the filters – no guesswork required (every 3mo at $20/filter gets really expensive IMO but of course 3M shareholders appreciate it ;).

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  47. 47
    Peter says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 32

    Maybe in March I could put something more detailed together. I’d like to have some more actual performance results.

    To provide a few more details I buried 5 loops of 800′ 3/4 HDPE in 3 foot wide trenches. These trenches were about 100′ long per loop and 5 foot deep. They come to a manifold at the house foundation where they aggregate into a 1 ¼ PVC pipe which runs to a QT flow center with two pumps. This is the biggest obstacle to selecting a GSHP. Those on city lots usually opt for wells instead. Usually this means one well per ton of capacity needed.

    The water and antifreeze circulates about 14-15 GPM at the pump. This runs thru a heat exchanger in the 5 Ton Heat Pump. The heat pump looks like any central furnace except it has pipes running to it. The other side of the heat pump is a radiator to exchange the heat to the air. There is also a water circuit that runs to a preheat tank to cut hot water costs.

    The efficiency of a heat pump is 4-5 times that of electric heat. An ASHP (air source heat pump) exchanges heat with the outside air. A GSHP (ground source heat pump) exchanges heat with the ground. The reason a GSHP is more efficient is because in the summer, when you are trying to cool, the ground is cooler than the outside air. In the winter, when you are trying to heat, the ground is warmer than the outside air. Like today, it’s 30 outside, but 50-55 underground. Because the temperature is higher, my GSHP is about 20% more efficient than an ASHP.

    Then you must consider the upfront cost before you decide if this is a good idea financially. I decided that spending $20,000 to save $1,500-$2,000 a year on electricity was not a great investment. Spending under $10,000 to save the same is a good investment.

    There are some significant tax incentives which may also affect your decision. I needed a new furnace. I was confident I could do this myself. I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new. That doesn’t work for everyone.

    It’s also a “Green” thing, but I don’t believe in doing things that are fads they have to pencil out.

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  48. 48
    Dean Howard says:

    I honestly believe Geothermal heating solutions would have won the polls with ease, if they had been listed in the 1st place. But the results of the polls are expected.

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  49. 49
    ARDELL says:

    RE: ChrisM @ 45

    “Interesting – I’ve got an old furnace (mid 70′s). I’ve got one of the 3M inch thick filters w/ the heavier pleating. Would I be better off using the cheap $4 specials?”

    The forced air gas furnaces that allowed for the extra wide filters that I see from the 70s use a built in electrostatic filter with two metal boxes. Some people don’t realize there is a second box to clean in the back.

    My inspector has always recommended the original metal filters be used until and unless that system fails, and then replaced with the big white ones only as a last resort. He also recommends simply hosing the metal filters and NOT putting them in the dishwasher, as I have also seen people do.

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  50. 50
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Peter @ 47 – Thanks. Very interesting stuff.

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  51. 51
    Blurtman says:

    RE: Jamfish @ 44 – Thanks for the info. I don’t want to offend my neighbors, and personally favor a hands off approach, but then again, the rights of their fist end at my nose, and as you say, I could be doing them a favor as well. I can also understand the economic rationale for choosing wood as a heat source, and do not want make assumptions about my neighbors’ economic situation.

    I am going to mail folks on my street a friendly and hopefully informative letter, and see what happens. Of course, I will be signing Kary’s name to it. ;>)

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  52. 52
    Jonness says:

    An efficient heat pump that might be the next best thing to geothermal:

    http://www.aircomfortservice.com/greenspeed

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