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Old 05-09-2010, 09:39 AM   #1
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Electrical Brainstorming


Hi folks, I'm just posting this as a general brainstorming, just hoping to hear any advice or ideas on a project. If this isn't the correct place maybe it can be moved.

Here is the scenario:

I recently bought a 'fixer upper'.
  • One issue with it is that it has basically no heat - a woodstove in a place where the heat won't reach the whole house + a baseboard heater in the kitchen and the bathroom.
  • There are a few problems with the electrical that will need to be fixed, probably before it's insurable - some double taps and wires taped together, a few outlets not grounded etc... (we figure around $700 worth of electrician's work)
  • It is 100 amp service with a piggyback panel
So, we probably want to add baseboards to the other rooms in the house (about 7 rooms) for heat. I'm considering trying to run ducts and go with an oil furnace, but not sure yet, need to do more research and get some quotes).

Also, we intend to build a large addition to act as an inlaw suite for my wife's mom. About 900 square feet.

So, the issues...well, first off, I will need to fix up the current electrical problems. I don't want to spend $700 to then turn around and replace the panel with 200 amp a few weeks later - money down the drain.

I'm not 100% sure we are doing the addition, but if we are, do you think 200 amp is enough for basically 2 houses - maybe 2500 sqf with two kitchens, 2 bathrooms and lots of baseboards?

Would it even be possible to add 7 baseboard heaters onto a 100 amp panel with piggy back? I suppose I need to figure out how much room is left on the panel and how much draw there currently is...

Are there decent plug-in heaters I could go with to tide me over, or should I not even be thinking about that?

I'm just sort of using this space to think out loud and hopefully get some sort of feedback, I know nobody can say anything to specific but sort of wondering what other more experienced folks might do to tackle the issue.

I just don't want to end up fixing electrical ($700) -> upgrading panel to 200 amp ($2000) - -> installing baseboard heaters ($1500) --- needing to go 300 or 400 amp for the house ($2500)...got some decisions to make and perhaps not much time to make them...

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Old 05-09-2010, 09:46 AM   #2
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Electrical Brainstorming


Need to know the watts of the heaters you intend to install and all the major electrical devices(dryer, stove, AC, welder, compressor, etc) in the house. Then do a demand load calculation.

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Old 05-09-2010, 09:52 AM   #3
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Also, we intend to build a large addition to act as an inlaw suite for my wife's mom. About 900 square feet.
Wow you really like your inlaws, i would build about 9 square feet for mine
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Old 05-09-2010, 10:15 AM   #4
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Joed, is it reasonable for me to guestimate that based on averages and do an approximate load calculation? I can start with that and maybe it will show me something, yeah? I as looking around on the net for some 'load calculators' last night and didn't really find anything, I guess I need to use spreadsheets and learn a few things about electrical loads along the way.

Darren - my wife's mom is in for a lot of the cost of the overall place - it's a joint venture - that will leave us with a mortgage of about 70k. So I'm pretty down with that
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Old 05-09-2010, 10:31 AM   #5
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Unless electric rates are cheaper up north I would not consider adding all that baseboard heat. I would think a central heating system would be cheaper to run.
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Old 05-09-2010, 10:39 AM   #6
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Unless electric rates are cheaper up north I would not consider adding all that baseboard heat. I would think a central heating system would be cheaper to run.
much cheaper
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Old 05-09-2010, 11:14 AM   #7
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Electrical Brainstorming


Alright my personal oppinion about this would be if you are dead set on installing all of the baseboard heaters... I would upgrade to a 200 amp panel with 200 amp service... I actually just finished doing all of this under a home owners permit today... It is a beauty if you do it properly the reason for my upgrade was because I was adding our garage on as a sub panel and I felt that the old fuse box just wouldnt cut it for adding a 60 amp sub... anyways back to your issue... I would go around and get a feel for exactly what you plan to be running exactly... If you have Central Air conditioning normally that is a 60 amp breaker because of the starting amperage. Than you would want a 20 amp dedicated circuit for your refrigerator and obviously the code compliant number of receptacles. Also do you have a dishwasher/garbage disposal? or do you plan to have one at some time in the future? Just looking at everything personally I would go with a 200 amp service upgrade if you are planning to be in that house for the years to come... if the lot is a decent size and you don't have a garage think about further on if you want to put up a garage in 10 years and you need to run a sub panel out there... etc... when you are tearing apart your house now if it was me I would just put in the 200 amp service... I would sit down with a pen and paper and just list out everything appliance wise etc and come up with a general idea of your personal needs.... as for a 100 amp panel being okay for the size house you are talking about sure it would work but it doesn't leave very much room for further upgrades etc... me for instance I have 8 computers running at any given time because of my actual profession so yea haha...


Just remember be safe and don't go doing anything stupid with the electrical if you don't know what you are doing.. Hopefully my wall of text gives some sort of insight into your question
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:45 PM   #8
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Electrical Brainstorming


Rates here are about $.07 per kwh.

I think you are right - just doing the expense and getting the 200 amp upgrade would be smart. There is a seperate garage where I will want to run power tools - computers, tvs, I have an audiophile level stereo, will want dishwasher and so on and so forth.

I'll still have to think hard about the baseboard. There is a propane tank there, so maybe there is some ductwork, but there is definately some infrastructure to drop a propane furnace in.

On the other hand, baseboards convert to solar very easily, which would be very nice in the long run...

I guess my thinking with the baseboard is that i would like to use the wood heat as much as possible, using the electric only as a supplement to that (and insurance requires you to NOT use woodstove as primary heat source, so something has to go in).
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Old 05-09-2010, 12:46 PM   #9
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Some demand load calc info.

http://www.selfhelpandmore.com/home-...ation-2002.php
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Old 05-09-2010, 05:48 PM   #10
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Solar to run baseboard heat, what is the payback time on that, 50 years?

I have heated in Minnesota with plug in electric heater. The oil filled ones work best. One per room.

Plan ahead for a separate 100 to 200 amp service in your garage. Have a 320 amp meter pedestal or service installed.

Can you do off peak electric for your baseboard? This would be a separate panel and meter. Where I am at a gas fireplace is sufficient as back-up. Or maybe two or three depending on the size of the house. Plus you can have heat when the electricity fails.

I live in a 1000 sq foot home with 100 amp c/b panel (just for the house) 38 gallon water heater, a electric clothes dryer and a gas cook stove. After I added my hot-tub, I have tripped the main on the house a few times. The tub is broke now so I haven’t worried about moving it’s electrical to the garage c/b panel


Are you going to use any gas appliance? I don’t think 200 amps will be enough if you go all electric. Defiantly not enough in you are going to have full meter electric baseboard heat. If you have two electric cook stove , one big water heater, and one clothes dryer this is that is 180 amp right there. Make all those appliances gas including the clothes dry, 200 amp service will be fine. But remember I am a true DIYer, you should consulate $$ a pro , do a true load calculation, or risk doing it over (like a true DIY) J

Good luck,
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Old 05-09-2010, 10:08 PM   #11
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Have you thought about radiant heat? A buddy of mine installed a tankless heater with a circulating pump and has had great success. You could even zone it if you wanted to get really nutty with it.

Wood stoves can be a really great heat source, but you can see where the insurance companies are coming from.
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Old 05-10-2010, 12:40 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by studhauler View Post
Solar to run baseboard heat, what is the payback time on that, 50 years?
I just converted a 450g hot tub to solar, it was 111 the other day
Panels were free, need some new glazing for better performance
$20 in hose & clamps
Payback 1 month

Many TV renovation shows have shown solar heating setups in Northern regions
Payback time was very reasonable
System supplied plenty of heat & hot water for the house
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Old 05-10-2010, 01:05 PM   #13
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I THINK he is talking about using solar to make 240 volt electricity to run his electric baseboard heaters. If he is talking about hot water baseboard, please forgive me.

Scuba Dave, just yesterday I came across your old post about heating your hot tub with solar. I was thinking about using a panel similar to your “can” solar panel to help with heat in my house. I look though a lot of your home addition post also. That is a huge project for a one man crew. Keep the faith. I need to get back to finishing my garage, but like you said, “Why finish one project, when you can start another.”
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Old 05-14-2010, 12:13 AM   #14
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Ugh, well, ran into issues with inspections so house purchase not going as well as I had hoped.

Anyway, I was thinking along another line, and this should probably go into the hvac forum, but oh well...

I was starting to think about going with propane for my heating. There is a propane tank at the property and this got me thinking, it would be nice to go propane for appliances (as a cook I would love gas range) and going propane would reduce two issues - whether or not the electrical panel can handle the introduction of baseboard heaters and the cost of those baseboard heaters to heat the place.

Like I said, I do intend to use the woodstove as the primary heat source.

Now I'm starting to ponder a propane wall furnace, something around 30000btu. I feel like that in conjuncture with a woodstove would heat a 1400sqf house pretty comfortably. Anyone have experience with these heaters?

I'm trying to keep my costs in the $2k range and initial research suggest I could probably get one of these units for about $1200 + $800 for install and running pipes to appliances...seems like a reasonable idea. I was thinking of doing the in wall furnace on the second floor with the woodstove heating the first floor. My wife is concerned that the wood heat won't be sufficient for the rooms that are around a few corners and a fair distance from the stove. She may be right.

Anyway, just sort of thinking out loud here, but wondering if anyone has experience using propane as a heating source and any suggestions. Looks like I could pick up a used propane furnace for about $400 and then run my own ducts (have never done that before and know little about it) but that seems a wee bit intimidating as a job, maybe just because I'm unfamiliar with it.

Oh, and yeah, I was talking about electric baseboards - I don't really know anything about it, it was just mentioned to me that solar - electric baseboard is a decent conversion by someone who knows about these things.
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Old 05-14-2010, 03:37 PM   #15
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Have you done a heat loss (manual J) calculation? My guess is that 30,000 btu might be a little light but without the actual calc you'll have no assurance of comfort.

I have propane heat and similar electric rates and I am seriously wanting to switch to electric. Propane seems to be costing more than electric to heat these days (in my area). But I can go with a heat pump here, don't know hoe well those work in Ontario.

If you go with baseboards you'll also need the manual j to determine the size and location. This in turn will tell you what size electrical service you'll need. If you need roughly 30,000 btus then thats about 10 kw (~3000 btu/kw) or about 45 amps at 240 volts (amps x volts = watts). I'm rounding a bit and doing this quickly in my head so you'll need to check my math.

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