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Old 03-11-10, 10:47 PM   #1
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Update: The Greening of Mt. Doom

OK, so over the past two years we made the following HVAC upgrades to our 4300 sf house (3200 sf on main two floors, 1100 sf finished walkout basement office):

Replaced the two traditional in the wall 10,000 BTU A/C units in the basement office (they leaked cold air like crazy in winter) with a single 12,000 BTU mini split (this allowed the re-insulation, sheet rocking/sealing of the walls over those old A/C units).

Replaced the 12 year old contractor grade boiler (i.e. not very efficient) with a state of the art Energy Kinetics System 2000 boiler/hot water system (it's about the most efficient oil boiler on the market today)

Replaced the 12 year old aging/leaking A/C unit with an Armstrong 16 SEER A/C/Heat Pump. Also upgraded the main ducting insulation in the attic from R4 to R8+ (they wrapped R8 AROUND the old R4).

The cost of all this was about $22K. The A/C unit wasn't really so optional, it was on its way out with a leak that might have needed a $500-$1500 repair on a relatively old central A/C unit.

We're nearing the end of the first full heating season with this new setup. When we started we were using 1500+ gallons of heating oil each winter. Looks like this winter we'll be @ 800 or so, give or take. At this point with the milder March temps, the heat pump is doing 80% of the heating, which really takes the load off the boiler. That's a 45%+ reduction. If we're saving 700 gallons annually @ $3 per gallon, this system's payback is over 10 years, but that could shorten up if oil prices rise further. That's not a lot of oil for a house this large (my old house in NJ c. 1926 construction consumed 1500 gallons per season for about 2300, about half the size).

Being able to turn the thermostat in the basement office down to 55 at night means we don't use the boiler to heat that space unless I'm down there working, and the sealed walls allow that space stay above 55 all night even on the coldest nights without that zone being turned on. It only takes 45 mins or so in the AM to warm back up.

The only other measure we haven't done is foam insulation in the attic, which might cut heat loss here and save another 150-200 gallons annually, but the cost of doing that is $4K, so the payback is hard to justify. But if oil goes to $5/gallon, we may look at that again. Other measures like solar powered hot water are pointless, the System 2000 boiler uses VERY little oil to generate the hot water.

Did a ton of research on this, looked into geothermal, could't make the numbers work, that install here would cost $35K or so, and that would have involved keeping the cranky old boiler for the basement and as a backup. We still would have used 400 gallons of oil annually to heat the basement zone and the hot water. Saving 400 gallons annually over what we wound up doing didn't make a lot of sense to me, particularly considering the greater cost and newer technology (if you think nothing can go wrong with a geothermal system, do some more research, it can become a major pain).

Ultimately I think geothermal is a total no brainer for new construction or major renovation. But in our retrofit application, what we did seems to have worked.
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Old 03-11-10, 10:56 PM   #2
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When we all come up to visit, be sure to get enough port-o-let outhouses and maybe a shower or two.

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Old 03-11-10, 10:59 PM   #3
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Oh, and why did you run off that rich/peoria guy? I was hoping he would man the grilles.
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Old 03-12-10, 04:49 AM   #4
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Oh, and why did you run off that rich/peoria guy? I was hoping he would man the grilles.
He probably just finally realized that the only person who was entertained by his endless food picture posting was him.
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Old 03-12-10, 06:36 AM   #5
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Your cause is futile. The only way you can save money on HVAC is to sell your oversized house and move into an acceptably sized one (Unless you have 7 children, in which case I retract my comment).
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Old 03-12-10, 06:44 AM   #6
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Can you just heat your house with the radiation of your own awesomeness?
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Old 03-12-10, 06:45 AM   #7
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Can you just heat your house with the radiation of your own awesomeness?
Best reply ever.
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Old 03-12-10, 06:52 AM   #8
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It gets hot enough on Mt. Doom to warrant air conditioning? Here in Seattle in the summer, we have low humidity and maybe about two weeks in which the temps get above 90 degrees. So almost no one in Seattle has central A/C in their homes. You see the occasional window unit in a bedroom, but that is about it.
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Old 03-12-10, 07:10 AM   #9
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Based on your last photos, Mt. Doom won't be green until July.
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Old 03-12-10, 08:43 AM   #10
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Those are some significant savings you've achieved. A 10 year payback is more than worth the upgrades. Have you already had someone in to evaluate your house with a leak test and heat loss inspection? Simple fixes like sealing up electrical outlets and windows can provide decent savings ... and it's a cheap fix.
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Old 03-12-10, 09:02 AM   #11
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800 gallons? And almost double that last year?

For all the complaints about Cali being "expensive" unless you're up in the high Sierras you don't have to really heat your house much in the winter... at all. I can't imagine paying $2-$3K or more to heat... and you can't write off heating oil like you can mortgage interest.
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Old 03-12-10, 09:18 AM   #12
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I thought this thread would document the snow melt.
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Old 03-12-10, 09:19 AM   #13
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Heating oil? Who uses that? Does it come from whales?
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Old 03-12-10, 09:20 AM   #14
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Can you just heat your house with the radiation of your own awesomeness?
no joke

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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-12-10, 11:00 AM   #15
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Can you just heat your house with the radiation of your own awesomeness?
That doesn't qualify for the Federal Income Tax Credit.

I can't help but discern a tone of sarcasm in this reply.
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Old 03-12-10, 11:58 AM   #16
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Can you just heat your house with the hot air you spew forth all the time?
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Old 03-12-10, 12:42 PM   #17
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This is a tough room. I feel a draft.
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Old 03-12-10, 12:48 PM   #18
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When we all come up to visit, be sure to get enough port-o-let outhouses and maybe a shower or two.
You know, since there will be bike weenies hanging around for a week or two during Doomstock, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to set up one of these, too.

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Old 03-12-10, 12:58 PM   #19
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My Energy Expertise is wasted on you morons.
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Old 03-12-10, 01:07 PM   #20
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My Energy Expertise is wasted on you morons.
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I can't help but discern a tone of sarcasm in this reply.
dejavu.
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Old 03-12-10, 01:09 PM   #21
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My Energy Expertise is wasted on you morons.
How many watts do I need to beat you up Doom?
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Old 03-12-10, 01:09 PM   #22
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This is a tough room. I feel a draft.
sorry....had beans for dinner last night.
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Old 03-12-10, 01:45 PM   #23
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Your cause is futile. The only way you can save money on HVAC is to sell your oversized house and move into an acceptably sized one (Unless you have 7 children, in which case I retract my comment).
This is the best reply ever.
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Old 03-12-10, 01:53 PM   #24
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It gets hot enough on Mt. Doom to warrant air conditioning? Here in Seattle in the summer, we have low humidity and maybe about two weeks in which the temps get above 90 degrees. So almost no one in Seattle has central A/C in their homes. You see the occasional window unit in a bedroom, but that is about it.
The A/C is on quite a bit from mid June through mid September.
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Old 03-12-10, 01:55 PM   #25
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Your cause is futile. The only way you can save money on HVAC is to sell your oversized house and move into an acceptably sized one (Unless you have 7 children, in which case I retract my comment).
But my neighbors' houses are generally bigger. Besides which, I could give a crap if you approve of my lifestyle. Friggin canuck idiots.
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