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patrick.ogrady 03-18-2013 08:20 PM

Seeking heating system retrofit advice
I am living in a 70s era ranch bungalow, 1100 sq ft 3bdrm plus kitchen and living area. Heating/hot water is via a similar age oil fired boiler. I am seeking advice on more economical means of heating this house. Last year I was away from home for 7 months, and with heat set to around 15C and no hot water usage, my oil bill was about $1800. I plan to insulate the attic to R50-60 from its present R30 or so. The exterior walls have R5 foam outside and R12 fibreglass in the stud bays. No basement insulation is present although R10 is planned if I can ever afford to finish the basement. The rim joist is insulated R12, although not sealed.

The options I am wondering about are ductless minisplits, wood heat, and Cansolair solar heaters. Which would be the most economical long term? I have an unobstructed south exposure so solar would work well, when the sun is out. I love woodstoves but the house layout is choppy, makes distributing heat difficult. For the same reason I am leery of investing in a minisplit, how do you move the heat to all the rooms?

Appreciate any advice, especially those who have been here, done this.

Ocelaris 03-22-2013 12:40 PM

The cheapest best investment in heating is insulation and sealing. Sealing is the hardest part but may have the greatest gain. If you have natural gas as an option that may be more inexpensive in the long run. There are many "high efficiency" boilers getting 95%+ which benefit from lower return temperatures, so what kind of radiators you have depends significatly in that factor.

Most of the "alternative" fuels have a long pay back periods, but it's also dependent on government subsidies which may make some cheaper than others long term.

We have a 1950s Gas boiler for our ~2000sq foot ranch in New Jersey, and we decided the maintenance possibilities outweigh any high efficiency boilers, Return on Investment was about 10-15 years but our gas bill wasn't that high, and it was more about making sure a 60 year old boiler didn't fail unexpectedly. We expect to gain some benefit from switching to a newer boiler, lower BTUs, and improving air seals and insulation (which are poor at the moment).

Longer run times can save fuel, so depending on the size of your boiler, if you can get a smaller one it can help also.

jagans 03-22-2013 02:10 PM

You did not even tell us where your house is. Do you go away a lot? That sounds like a lot of money for the situation. Has your oil tank been checked for leaks?

russiand 03-22-2013 04:15 PM

Oil is crazy expensive. 1800 for 7 months sounds normal to me. I am begging the gas company to extend the gas line to our street. Its crazy that just a couple of hundred feet away they pay 2 times less than what I do for heat..

beenthere 03-22-2013 05:32 PM


Originally Posted by jagans (Post 1143049)
You did not even tell us where your house is. Do you go away a lot? That sounds like a lot of money for the situation. Has your oil tank been checked for leaks?

Thats probably less then 550 gallons of oil. A tankless coil in the boiler means it was maintaining a minimum boiler temp 24/7 while he was a way. May be as high as 160F.

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