home heating suggestions

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by evermoor, Nov 20, 2004.

  1. evermoor

    evermoor Well-Known Member

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    We live in your typical turn of the century cold drafty two story white frame farmhouse. It has a oil furnace that was converted from coal ( whatever it is it is probably older than me). Each year it has become less and less reliable and more and more expensive to use. Unfortanetly Iowa is not known for mild winters and my familiy is looking for suggesstions on different furnaces, wood burners, fuel types. I hope this doesn't open a big can of worms. Currently I am staying warm with the wolfhound , a cat , and one toddler under grandmas quilt. I also discovered the clothe dryer can throw out a lot of heat in a pinch.
     
  2. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

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    There are many ideas how to heat a house. A lot of them center around various fuels and owner preferences. And you will no doubt hear many here, during the next posts.

    However, it's your choice. You will like, forced air, or in-floor radiant, air to air heat exchangers for heat recovery ventialation, heat pumps with or without a ground source heat loop, etc, etc.

    The first step is to get your house to use less energy in the first place. Fix it up, insulate, make it more air-tight, better windows, etc,.

    Then look at Wood furnaces, boilers, or what ever you want and will work with you existing systems, house and desires.

    Check out wood, pellet, boiler (if you want radiant) wood or other fuel, oil is almost gone and will go high real soon, same for natural gas. Solar is a possibility, combined with other fuels.

    Good Luck, I don't think anyone but you can answer your questions.

    Just the same, good luck.

    Alex
     

  3. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

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    I currently am using baseboard electric heat (all new) and am looking towards something else in the future.

    one thing I ran across that sounded good was radiant heating, the panels go onto the ceiling. supposed to be 18% more efficient than a heat pump and 55% more efficient than baseboard. it uses 220 the same as my baseboard so should be an easy convert.

    I'd probably try converting one room and see what I think (and what my bills are). I'm also looking at a corn furnace. it literally burns corn, the same as what you feed livestock. I'm in Indiana and my parents have a farm they rent out, this year it was in corn. I'm going to look into the cost of buying it directly out of the field from the farmer by buying a grain wagon maybe ? and having him put it straight in the wagon from the combine. he only got 1.80 a bushel this year and has some right behind my house in a grain bin on the farm that he is drying enough to sale. there is also another grain bin on the farm that I could use for storage. I'm still looking at the logistics of this and trying to get a firm grip on costs per year to heat with it. the furnaces/fireplace inserts themselves run $1200 and up so pretty expensive upfront.

    my sister ditched her fairly new gas furnace this year (less than 10 years old ) and bought an electric one because she refused to pay 2.00 a gallon for gas. and it's expected to go even higher.

    one thing about baseboard, it's incredibly cheap to install. I've look into having conventional gas or electric installed and it would run 2500-4000 or more since this house doesn't have ductwork so needs a complete install. my baseboards only ran 35-50 a piece so I have less than $200 in them. and installation was a do it yourself job. I think my bills are pretty high though, run $90 a month all year to heat/cool an 800 sq ft house. my brothers brand new 2000 sq ft house plus 3 car garage cost less to heat it last january than my 800 sq ft no garage did! and he is also all electric (heat pump).

    but even if I cut my heat bills in half, would still take a decade or more to pay for a conventional install and several years to pay for a corn furnace. if electric goes through the roof the way gas has though...
     
  4. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yup, you have good questions, but the direction to go is really up to you. All fuels have pluses & minuses, and you really need to figure that out personally. We can then probably offer suggestions on good or bad ways to go with that fuel choice..... ;) Wood, pellets, corn, propane, oil - all work. Heatpump is not good for these cold climates unless you get into $$$ geothermal, and no way on electric....

    Your best money is spent on insulating the house. A lot.

    I live in the same house over the border in Minnesota from you, and have a '92 oil burner & am replacing the busted older than dirt wood boiler. I _need_ to insulate...... Must.

    Is yours a forced air or curculated water system? That would help guide your choices a bit.

    --->Paul
     
  5. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

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    Kind of sounds from your post like you're more interested in a quick way of generating some heat for the winter than retrofitting the house with an entirely new central system. If so. . . I rely entirely on a little wood stove with help from a plug-in DeLonghi oil-filled heater (the kind that looks like an old-fashioned radiator). The latter is SO much superior to baseboard electric heaters. It gives off a nice, constant, subtle heat, and my electric bills are noticeably less than when I used baseboards. Last time I checked, the price was about $50. Being as I work during the day and cannot tend the stove during that time, I keep the DeLonghi going at a low setting, and it alone keeps my 600 SF house quite comfortable except for when the temperature really drops.
     
  6. DW

    DW plains of Colorado Supporter

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    Having just returned from Keokuk, IA and looking at all that hard wood. I'd insulate, buy a good chain saw & wood stove!! Here in Colorado we never even see that much hard wood, let alone be allowed to cut it.
     
  7. Carol K

    Carol K Well-Known Member

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    Maybe if you could let people know how much you have to spend on a heating system they could help with more suitable ideas. We put infloor heat in our log cabin (retro fitted, not in concrete) and I'm thrilled with it, no blowers no noise muck or dust-best thing we ever did. I have a friend who put a pellet stove in her basement, cut some vents in the floor and she heats her 1200 sq ft home in Western NY (cold) for about $400 /year. Maybe look at a corn burner for your basement, I say corn as you are in the mid west, that won't take care of the second floor, but it's a start if you can't afford to do the whole house just yet. Just a few ideas for you to ponder.

    Carol K
     
  8. antiquestuff

    antiquestuff Well-Known Member

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    I'd go with wood....I'd like to have wood heat sometime soon....A stove is more efficient than any outdoor boiler. If you need something cheap and quick, I'd go with a good kerosene heater, if you don't mind the fumes and the hazards. Electric would be fine, but you will freeze if the power goes out. Gas heaters, that require no electricity, are good. Wood can be real cheap, and fossil fuels are not that cheap anymore. Kerosene heaters are cheaper to use than any furnace, because it burns a lot less fuel.
    Just some thoughts. :)
     
  9. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    We cut our oil bill by 1/3 after we properly insulated our 1860's farmhouse,including hardiboard (aka fiber cement board) to replace the old clapboard. Insulation and good windows are the first steps.

    All alternatives have their downsides - radiant (installation cost), wood (labor intensive and messy), corn (rodents love it) etc. If you want to get a good comparison I suggests you get a copy of Natural Home Heating: The Complete Guide to Renewalble Energy Options by Greg Pahl.
     
  10. evermoor

    evermoor Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the ideas. We would like to do a quick cheap fix since we don' t plan on living in the house for too many years. It has too many structural problems to justify the cost of fixing it up. Plus my wife hates this house. We are leaning to a wood burner. Are there any good pointers to incorperate one into the forced air system. Do we want it in the basement or outside. The house is insulated( how well I couldn;t tell you), has steel siding. We caulk and seal the windows, outlets, and stack straw around the west and north sides. Someone gave us an old parlor stove that we would like to use, but have little idea how to do it.
     
  11. antiquestuff

    antiquestuff Well-Known Member

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    An old parlor stove will not be nearly as efficient as a new stove, but, it's cheap, and if you aren't going to live there that long, I'd say go for it.
    Unless you have a good, lined masonry chimney, you'll need to use a good metal chimney. Not stovepipe! Try to get an insulated/double walled chimney. If it's an older stove, the clearances around it will probably be about 3 feet, to be on the safe side. I'd make a hearth for it out of something heat proof, to be safe and to protect the floor. I've seen stoves without a hearth, but they looked DANGEROUS! An old stove like that will give out more heat with a flue damper in place, newer ones don't normally need one. Just make sure the stove is in safe working condition.
    I'm sure others will have some suggestions! :)
     
  12. dale

    dale Well-Known Member

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    Well if it were me! Having said that i would use an outdoor furance. The reasons being is no mess in the basement with wood splinters or bark that falls off. Another good reason is you dont have to cut holes to put in the Flue pipe. if its outside it is hooked straight to the furnace. you could put up a small leanto to keep the wood dry. The insurance companies like the outdoor ones better and therefore the insurance is cheaper.

    you can have them set up as forced air or with an anitifreeze solution that goes into the house thru pipes that is used like a radiator then there is a blower and it is use as a force air from that point on.

    Just my thougths.

    Just a wood stove is the cheapest. Check with your insurance company to see if they will allow it. If you dont have insurance and are going to put it inside anyway I would suggest a tripple wall flue or a double wall insluated flue they are usually stainless steel and will last for ages and if you keep a hot fire you usually dont have any problem with soot.

    Any way that is what my experinces have been
    I burn wood cost me about 240 per year for heat.
     
  13. DreamingBig

    DreamingBig Well-Known Member

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    If you are using the dryer for heat :eek: you want something you can do today, sounds like. I used to live in a house with no insulation and found that closing off the bedrooms really helped. I just put a tension pole in the doorway and hung a sheet from it. This took one minute and worked amazingly well. About 1/2 hour before bedtime I'd open the curtain to warm up the bedroom a bit, then turn the heat down to 50 and snuggle in. Also Ugg boots will keep you sooo warm, as will (especially double layer) long johns! ;) If you do buy a furnace, don't get one with an electric starter! :no:
     
  14. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    Look into a corn stove. I have a friend in Iowa that bought one and loves it. He just uses corn from his own land which costs him little or nothing but even if you had to buy corn it would seem to be exceedingly cheap especially when compared to LP, electric and the like.

    As soon as they make a effecient corn furnace that will work with my central heating system I'll ditch the LP burner in a heartbeat.
     
  15. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

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  16. longshadowfarms

    longshadowfarms Well-Known Member

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    We have one of those big old farmhouses too with what sounds like an identical furnace - coal converted to oil. About 6 years ago we put in a new furnace. We went from burning a dump truck load of wood every year plus two tanks of oil to no wood - just two tanks of oil per winter. The house is heated much more evenly too now. My guess is that your furnace will pay for itself pretty quickly and will also be a good selling point when that time comes. We were able to use the same duct work and what not so the cost was basically just the furnace and installation. We cut up the old one and hubby pulled it out of the basement with the tractor. Our local metal guy happily picked it up.

    You may be able to have a home improvement place or even your local energy company come in and do an evaluation as to what might be the most cost effective means of stopping some of that heat loss. One of the first years we were here our local elec company offered that service for free. We based our prioritization of our home improvements in part on those recommendations. They even came up with some stuff that had not occurred to us. Recently I saw a flyer at Lowes I think with a lot of good ideas like that.