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  1. #1
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    The Pcad Household Energy Efficiency Makeover

    I posted about a possible conversion over to geothermal here several months ago, after my local heating oil distributor told me their price for home heating oil (which we use to heat our 4500 sf home in SE NY State, 50 miles NW of NY City, natural gas lines don't come up here, too rural) was $4.89 per gallon. Right. We used 1477 gallons last winter.

    So I looked into geothermal. Got two price quotes. The right way to do up our house would have cost a whopping $60,000. After that we would have needed to spend another $10,000+ to remove every baseboard heating unit in our 4500sf house and re-trim, paint and wallpaper all those rooms. Still, at nearly $5 per gallon @ 1477 gallons, you could almost make the case for such an outlay for a system that would reduce us from nearly 1500 gallons of oil to zero. I kept researching.

    We wound up taking the middle road. We installed an Energy Kinetics System 2000 boiler/hot water system just like this:



    That will take us from 1500 gallons of oil down to <900 gallons. Most efficient boiler on the marketplace, it's been around for nearly 30 years. I did a lot of research on this. They are reliable if a touch finicky to service due to the sophisticated electronic controlling unit, but becoming more mainstream every day. Our local contractor is excellent, there are several good companies here that service these including our new oil supplier.

    We also changed our oil suppliers and lowered our oil cost by about 40 cents per gallon. Between that and lower prices on global oil, heating oil prices are closer to $3 per gallon ($3.39 last time I checked, I'm sure it's lower now) than $5.

    Further, we removed the two old cranky in-wall A/C units in our finished basement/office (that's where we work every day) and buttoned up those openings. Replaced them with one 12,000 BTU ductless mini-split heat pump ($2000) which is 13 SEER (old units were 10 SEER) but more importantly makes our finished basement far less drafty in winter.



    The next phases will be:

    • Closed cell foam spray insulation in our attic. $4,400. They claim that will reduce oil usage by 30%, I'm hoping for 20%, which would bring us down to 700-750 gallons of oil annually. Our home is well insulated with excellent Anderson windows (it's only 11 years old) but the attic insulation is a bit light, the closed cell foam would be like putting a winter hat on our head to replace a light baseball cap. It would also reduce the load on our A/C gear tremendously.

    • Replacing our 11 year old central A/C unit with a new much higher efficiency 16 SEER heat pump with a variable speed air handler. That can generate heat through our a/c ducting rather efficiently when the outside temps are above 40 or so, which will largely relieve our boiler of home heating duties except for 3-4 months of the year. That's a 5 ton unit (same size as the current old unit). A bit undersized for our home perhaps (it's only for the 3200 sf upstairs, not the finished basement), but we're thinking that the attic insulation will reduce the load enough so that it will be fine. $9500 for this measure, two three ton units would be closer to $15K, don't want to go there, too complex and expensive. We only use A/C three months annually and would be using this to offset the heating load on our boiler in the shoulder months, should work fine, my heating contractors agree.

    That last measure should theoretically lower us to <600 gallons annually in combination with the attic insulation. We'll probably do that next winter after the new heat pump/ac unit. Trying to do this in phases.

    So from nearly 1500 gallons of home heating oil to about 600 gallons. Total cost outlay about $26K. We really have to do it. House will be more comfortable, have better resale value in the long run and will obviously have a much lower carbon footprint.

    The last ultimate measure would be to install a solar hot water assist array on the roof, current pricing is $20K, but I'm sure that cost will drop. That lowers your oil consumption another 30%+, which would bring us down to <400 gallons. I'd only go there if oil went to $6+ per gallon. That would be nearly double current prices. We'll see.

    The difference between the old boiler and the new one are startling. The old boiler sounded like a jet plane. The new one is virtually silent. The old unit was CONSTANTLY firing up to keep the water hot. The new one literally fires up about 20% (or less) as frequently. The System 2000 can provide 40 gallons of new hot water in 12 minutes. The old one took 45 minutes. That's almost unlimited hot water. And it does this for .2 gallons of oil per day, that's less than 80 gallons of oil annually. I'm sure that's 1/4 of the oil the old system needed to provide our hot water. The new mini-split A/C in my office has a wireless electronic remote and it's far quieter (the compressor is outside). 13 SEER vs. the old one which was 9 SEER. These units are like replacing a 1978 Gremlin with an F22 jet.
    Last edited by patentcad; 09-09-08 at 05:07 AM.

  2. #2
    Hey guyz? Guyz? Wait up!! Siu Blue Wind's Avatar
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    Whoa. Long post. Serious thread.

    This is Foo, what's wrong with you?
    Quote Originally Posted by Buddha
    We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
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    Please dont outsmart the censor. That is a very expensive censor and every time one of you guys outsmart it it makes someone at the home office feel bad. We dont wanna do that. So dont cleverly disguise bad words.

  3. #3
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siu Blue Wind View Post
    Whoa. Long post. Serious thread.

    This is Foo, what's wrong with you?
    I would have posted it the BF Global Warming Awareness Al Gore Tree Hugger sub-forum, but I couldn't find it. Jeez Siu. Read it and learn something sweetie. You know, for the day you actually own a friggin house. I'm surrounded by college kids and bike messengers in this stupid place.

    Of course if you do already own a house and you're a bike weenie, the odds that it will fall into foreclosure soon may be 50% given the state of the US economy at the moment. Don't ask me how we're avoiding it. They keep sending us work, which continues to amaze me on a daily basis.

  4. #4
    Hey guyz? Guyz? Wait up!! Siu Blue Wind's Avatar
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    Pcad you are funny.

    Yeah. Maybe ONE day I'll own a house. And even pay it off or something.

    And yes, I did read your original post, silly! I just wouldn't do that to rental property.
    Quote Originally Posted by Buddha
    We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
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    Please dont outsmart the censor. That is a very expensive censor and every time one of you guys outsmart it it makes someone at the home office feel bad. We dont wanna do that. So dont cleverly disguise bad words.

  5. #5
    T-Shirt Guy ehidle's Avatar
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    Way to go..

    This year, I am determined to get my oil usage below 200 gallons. Last year, I came very close (226). I have a new differential temperature controller that I can set to some value "above outside" rather than some absolute indoor temperature. That should help immensely.

    I am also bringing hot-water-on-demand shower heads home with me when I go to Brasil in January. They are popular and cheap there and I haven't been able to find one anywhere here. Storing hot water is a total waste of energy no matter how you heat it. My hot water is already electric, and at 16c/kwh, that will save a ton of money.

    Funny: it didn't even take any government regulation. Just free market forces and capitalism. Go figure.
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  6. #6
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
    So from nearly 1500 gallons of home heating oil to about 600 gallons. Total cost outlay about $26K.
    Lets wait to June before you pat yourself on your back too much

  7. #7
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post.

    I will be putting in Central Air in the next couple of years, and I was considering going with a heat pump for exactly the reason you mention, for the more efficient heating in the spring and fall... even though I know it will do no good in the winter.

    It is nice to see that someone else has thoughts along those same lines. I may even do geothermal to extend that depending on feasibility and cost (drilling straight down to tap into the water in the abandoned mines)

    I haven't done the actual research yet, but a friend in the south has a heat pump, and his has an "emergency heat" unit that turns on an electric heat unit when the external temperature falls too low for the heat pump to be effective. I assume that there is some mechanism to just have the heat pump stop instead in your case...

    But the real question is, what interface, if any, is needed between your heat pump and the oil system?
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  8. #8
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    I hear you Siu. That tree hugging energy stuff is expensive. That's why Al Gore can afford it. The guy flies around on friggin Gulfstream jets. Those of you driving 10 year old used cars may have a tougher time with the capital requirements of course. But it does underscore the Silver Lining aspect to $145 per bbl oil. Those stupid oil prices got me to do all this. And to be honest if heating oil drops to $2.50 per gallon by January, I may implement those other measures more gradually. So in a very real sense, the one thing that will ween America off imported oil is $5 per gallon gas. In some critical ways, it would benefit the USA tremendously. But it will suck for lots of people. Hard.

    As always, the most effective cure for stupid prices are....stupid prices.

  9. #9
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerseysbest View Post
    Lets wait to June before you pat yourself on your back too much
    Correct. Besides, it's F-ing up my Self Loathing.

  10. #10
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Darwin View Post
    But the real question is, what interface, if any, is needed between your heat pump and the oil system?
    I don't think any is really needed. You set the thermostat on your heat pump and boiler to 70 or whatever. You program the heat pump to generate warm air until the outside temperature falls below a certain level, say 40F. At that point it would stop operating, and if the temp in the house falls below the boiler thermostats, the boiler would kick in. It wouldn't kick in before that because the thermostat wouldn't call for heat. I think I would probably set the boiler thermostat a couple of degrees below the heat pump thermostat.

  11. #11
    Hey guyz? Guyz? Wait up!! Siu Blue Wind's Avatar
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    Speaking of tree hugging, (not to jack your thread - but in the same thought) I just got a letter in the mail saying that they wanted to buy my non smog device car for a whopping $650 bucks!! Hmmm. Should I do it?


    Quote Originally Posted by Buddha
    We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
    Quote Originally Posted by making View Post
    Please dont outsmart the censor. That is a very expensive censor and every time one of you guys outsmart it it makes someone at the home office feel bad. We dont wanna do that. So dont cleverly disguise bad words.

  12. #12
    T-Shirt Guy ehidle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siu Blue Wind View Post
    Speaking of tree hugging, (not to jack your thread - but in the same thought) I just got a letter in the mail saying that they wanted to buy my non smog device car for a whopping $650 bucks!! Hmmm. Should I do it?

    They want to export it to a non-emissions country and sell it for a gigantic profit. You won't be solving anything but instead contributing to the problem.
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  13. #13
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
    I think I would probably set the boiler thermostat a couple of degrees below the heat pump thermostat.
    That was what I was thinking of doing... But I wanted another thought to make sure I wasn't being too simplistic.

    This year my fixes are simple. Increasing my attic insulation from 4 inches to 14 inches, and actually using the storm windows that I discovered I had this summer... I bought the house in December.

    Next year I hope to update to double glazed windows all around.

    Then will come the heat pump, followed by a look at a more efficient furnace. Mine isn't too terrible, but it will be 10-12 years old by then... time for an upgrade.

    I will also be looking at some point at a wood stove or other alternative for supplement and/or emergency heat in case of a power outage.
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  14. #14
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siu Blue Wind View Post
    Speaking of tree hugging, (not to jack your thread - but in the same thought) I just got a letter in the mail saying that they wanted to buy my non smog device car for a whopping $650 bucks!! Hmmm. Should I do it?
    I'll give you $750, and I promise to only drive it minimal distances...
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  15. #15
    Banned. ModoVincere's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siu Blue Wind View Post
    Speaking of tree hugging, (not to jack your thread - but in the same thought) I just got a letter in the mail saying that they wanted to buy my non smog device car for a whopping $650 bucks!! Hmmm. Should I do it?


    I'll buy it for $850! Heck, I'll even fly out to the west coast and pick it up personally. Maybe even go on a bike ride with you and some other cali members while there.

  16. #16
    superArti artifice's Avatar
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    fascinating! thanks for sharing your info. I'll be interested to hear your report once the snow starts flying.

  17. #17
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ModoVincere View Post
    I'll buy it for $850! Heck, I'll even fly out to the west coast and pick it up personally. Maybe even go on a bike ride with you and some other cali members while there.
    OK.... I'll Go $1,000. Only because I really care about polar bears.
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  18. #18
    Banned. ModoVincere's Avatar
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    $1001

  19. #19
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    OK... MV Obviously loves Polar Bears more than me...
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

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  20. #20
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    Get back on topic you friggin Greenhouse Gasbags.

  21. #21
    Fax Transport Specialist black_box's Avatar
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    congratz on the system and good luck w/ the future addons. sounds like you'll have some impressive gains there.

  22. #22
    You Know!? For Kids! jsharr's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post PCad. The wife and I need to sit down with a pro and do an energy audit on our home. It was built in the 60s and and probably sucks energy out of thin air.
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorider View Post
    Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.

  23. #23
    Banned. ModoVincere's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
    Get back on topic you friggin Greenhouse Gasbags.
    methane....I has it.

  24. #24
    Peloton Dog patentcad's Avatar
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    I saw half a dozen contractors for everything from geothermal to air to air heat pumps to boilers and assembled a folder that's about 2" thick. We had an energy audit of the house (paid for that) and really did the homework. I started this process back in early June. It did take a while. I do have a basic understanding of this stuff and what might work for our home. It is not very simple for the uninitiated, but once you wrap your head around it, it's not so bad.

    Solar electric was a major disappointment. Not even CLOSE to being cost effective, and that's with massive subsidies from the State of NY and the Feds. I'd say that for residential use, the cost is still at least 3-4x too high to work compared to current residential electric rates. If fossil fuels double and solar technology drops in half, those two curves might intersect some day, hopefully within a decade. But it's certainly far away at this point. On the other hand, you can make a case for geothermal. Certainly on new construction, and if oil bumps back up to $4+ per gallon (and gas rates follow suit) even for a retrofit. If I were building a new home, geothermal would be a total no-brainer.

    Ultimately all this really opened my eyes to the fact that high fossil fuel prices are quite positive in one crucial sense: the higher they get, the faster individuals and businesses will ultimately have no choice but to move towards alternative energy sources. Painful, but inexorable, and amazingly compelling. Paying crazy dough for stupid high oil or gas is like burning your money, and people will do things they wouldn't otherwise do to avoid that. That's what motivated me in this process.
    Last edited by patentcad; 09-09-08 at 08:08 AM.

  25. #25
    Senior Member ritepath's Avatar
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    Here in my part of VA Ive used heat pumps for primary sources in my last three homes (first two I built) The second one I used a pellet stove for supplemental heat and it worked great. My new home I have a 55k BTU LP gas unit, Ive used less than 100ga in the past two winters. I let the resistance heat of the heat pump system function if/when temps drop too low for the outside unit to function properly. So far my highest electric bill was in the neighborhood of 270 (feb 07). My summer/spring costs are currently 88-120 bucks/mo. Last year I installed a better quality programmable thermostat and thats helped on the heating side. The old unit for whatever reason would run the heat pump trying to warm up the house until the inside temp fell 4 deg/F below set point. The new unit kicks in the aux heaters @ 2deg below set point. Im going to adjust my family down to 70f maybe even 68but you know how kids and females are.
    Id love to find something to completely rid myself of the grid.
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