Hi all, first post. I'm very handy and recently bought a house built around 1875. I've been doing lots of work on it and have countless projects in the works, but am in need of some advice and help when it comes to my heating system. I'll provide details I hope helpful here as well as questions. The short is that I need help sizing and choosing a furnace or boiler and then need advice on running ducts or registers.
The house is about 1850 sq ft with two stories over part. The basement is sort of in three parts starting with what could be a finished area and is in the process of becoming an office, transitioning to a utility area with most of the floor poured, and ending with a sloped crawlspace with dirt flour. The ceiling in the basement is around 8' in the non-crawlspace areas.
The first floor is 1190 ft sq with ceilings over 9', but with drop ceilings installed due to crumbling plaster. The drop ceiling is between 8' and 8'4" depending on the room. I may one day either raise the ceiling or remove it and drywall, but that won't happen for at least a year and likely won't at all.
The second story covers about half the house and totals 650 sq ft. All the bedrooms are up there as well as a large landing area and half bath. This is a 'normal' ceiling and is just shy of 8'. There is an attic over this section.
We're in the middle of Michigan, so it can become rather cold. Our average lows for Dec, Jan, Feb are 18, 11, 12 degrees, respectively. Record lows in the same order are -18, -30, -36. I'm not concerned with AC at this point and may never need it. Our south side is shaded by a couple nice maples and stays comfortable all but about 4-5 days/year.
All but 6 windows were replaced recently with modern vinyl windows. I hoped to replace the others before winter, but that looks very unlikely. I will add some plastic and probably some thermal curtains and/or storm windows.
I don't think much of the house is insulated and what is well, read on. It has hardboard siding over the original clapboard. The inside is nearly all lath and plaster. We had concerns of some sort of wood boring insect upstairs due to lots of sawdust around my daughter's window. Removed the window to find that part of the house was insulated with sawdust, but I have no idea which parts. I had to remove some paneling in the breezeway that connects the garage and cut away some clapboards to complete some wiring and found nothing in that wall. That breezeway was added much later when the garage was built (80s?), so the wall I opened was exterior until then. I cannot afford to insulate at this time, but it looks like I do have to replace the furnace. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on insulation and if anyone wants to go down that road, I'll add useful information.
As for ducts, we have few and only one is in a correct location. In almost all cases they are on interior walls. The upstairs only has one and it's in the landing area. With doors closed, the bedrooms will get no heat as it sets.
Being that I have to redo ducts and furnace, I'm considering hot water heat. My ideal goal was to put in a under floor radiant system on the ground floor - likely PEX-based - and run baseboard heat in the second floor. I've been talked out of the radiant by a local contractor who said the old, thick hardwood floors don't conduct the heat well enough for that. He said I'd be far happier with baseboard radiant or forced air.
I have natural gas as my fuel source to both my furnace and water heater.
The people before us in this house stubbed out gas to a few rooms at each end of the house and were running ventless space heaters, I assume do to the furnace being very old and inefficient. We bought in April and it was a foreclosure, so I don't have access to any specifics. We used the furnace in April and a bit in May, but neither were especially cold. It did heat fairly well. I fear getting into January and finding out it can't heat the house, costs a fortune, or gives out.
- If I do all the work myself, can I get the cost of a water system down to close to what it would cost me for a forced air system keeping in mind that I have to run all new ducts if I stick with that? I know it can be run over PEX instead of copper everywhere.
- Could someone help me size the furnace? Is the $40 software worth my while? Alpine's online estimator has me at 60,000BTU output. That sounds small, but everyone here tends to oversize.
- If its' going to cost me the same amount to blow in insulation as it would be to heat the house without through the winter, I may have to bite the bullet and eat Ramen for a while. Thoughts?
- If I do forced air, I'd like to zone it to be efficient. I've looked into http://www.homeclimatecontrol.com/
and am intrigued to say the least. If I go with forced air, I'm curious to see what thoughts here are on that project/system.
- I'm interested in any sustainable products or methods as well.