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Advice on heating overhaul?

I'm a young Oregon resident who recently embarked on the adventure of first-time home ownership. My 1948, 1132 sq ft one story has had some recent good upgrades but could really use some improvement in heating & cooling. It has a wood stove which I love but isn't a practical primary heating source, and most rooms have outdated, though pretty effective, fan forced wall heaters. No duct system. Electric hot water and electric everything else. There are so many options out there that I don't even know where to start. I'm not looking for the best of the best, just something relatively efficient and affordable. AC would be nice but not nearly a requirement. Can you give me any advice? Is there an "HVAC for Dummies" or something? I just don't even know where to start looking before trying for my first major home-improvement project and I'm worried about getting taken for a ride. Any words of wisdom much appreciated.

Re: Advice on heating overhaul?

Well congratulations on your new home. You may need to call a professional on this one. Because I take it you are neither EPA certifed or state certifed.
Most Hvac copmanies will give free quotes. Get at least three. Talk with your friends for recomendations. Talk with Hvac people about your options. You might be able to work out financing with them as well. That way it won't hit you all at once and make it more afordable. You may talk to your bank for financing as well.

Re: Advice on heating overhaul?

Contact your local utility company they will give you advice and what would be the best for rebates and will sometimes give you a better deal than a local company..

Re: Advice on heating overhaul?


Keep getting knowledgeable recommendations from a host of sources.

These can include neighbors, friends, family members, people you work with, the butcher, the baker & candlestick maker.

Next, expand your search to those who deal with heating systems every day.

Thus, check the Yellow Pages for house builders, home contractors, real estate agents, heating equipment dealers.

In the meantime, beef up your exterior walls & attic with blown-in insulation (see Yellow Pages: "Insulation").

Don't install a new HVAC without doing this first; it only cost a few hundred $$$ & will forever make your home more energy efficient for summer cool and winter heat.

Do a free heat loss calculation (site below) to determine how many btu's of heat/hour are oozing out of your house on a cold day.

Taking the house square footage & multiplying by 30 or 40 will give you a very rough starting point for what size heating plant you will need; thus 1132 X 30 = 34,000 btu/hr; 1132 X 40 = 45,000 btu/hr.

You would have to have a heating system that is rated at THAT figure to adequately heat the house (the blown-in insulation will of course reduce your btu/hr need).

You can do a free HEAT GAIN calculation to determine how big an AC unit you'll need.

It's best to get a face to face interview with individuals you query on HVAC, & not a phone call with their assistant or receptionist.

For HEATING EQUIPMENT DEALERS, you want a face to face with the COUNTERMEN who are the ones who actually sell the equip. & parts to the installers; ask for the parts dept. counterman.

For the real estate agent, tell them you work in a large office that has people looking for a house & a real estate referral.

As a reciprocation, if the agent takes the time to give you free advice on a heating system, you will refer your co- worker house searchers to the real estate agency.

Real estate agents have a Multiple Listing Service book (that they usually don't show to the public) that is the size of the Los Angeles phone directory; it lists the type of heating system for EVERY house on sale in Oregon; in short, if you find yourself talking to a real estate agent who is kindly, & in a good mood, he/she can impart a tremendous amount of info on heating systems.

Ask the people you know if they own a home, & what kind of heating system do they have, & are they satisfied with it.

Include in your questions if a) the system is gas-fired, oil-fired, all-electric; b) if the system is forced hot air, forced hot water, combination of forced air/forced AC with metal ducts, or 3" high velocity flex ducts that also carry heat & AC.

Since you live in Oregon, you are probably tapping into the hydroelectric system of the mighty Columbia R. & the Bonneville Dam for your electric service.

Your elec. rates are thus among the LOWEST in the country; where most areas of the U.S. are paying 14 cents/kwh, you are probably paying 4-6 cents/kwh.

Thus even an electric system is an option in your case.

This could be a more modern electric baseboard system with low installation cost, or even an elec. boiler.

Other options would include a gas-fired condensing boiler with forced hot water, or forced hot air.

The AFUE number on the sites below on this equipment indicates how efficient each unit performs; thus a 95% AFUE furnace wastes only 5% of the fuel it consumes, which is a very efficient furnace.

Since you live in an area with usually moderate winters & parts of the summer that are hot, you would seem to be a good candidate for a heat pump system that supplies heat in winter and AC in summer all in one system.

This would also be true of a forced hot air furnace with AC.

There is also a UNICO system that uses high velocity air for heat as well as for AC in 3" flex ducts that can more easily be threaded thru wall cavities & joists; these have become very popular in recent years.

You want to try to avoid paying a lot for an extensive, labor-intensive DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM part of the new HVAC.

For example, having a steel duct system installed throughout the house can be very costly, wheras a 3" hi velocity flex duct system would cost much less.

Some people in you area may stick with elec. baseboard & install a mini-split AC system for summer AC, which requires no ducting; mini-splits by Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Fujitsu & others are very popular these days; these units can also include a heat pump feature up to ~ 30k btu/hr; Sanyo has most of the U.S. market in mini-splits.

Also check out the other posts in the "Heating" section of this forum, such as "Heat Recommendation" for condensing gas-fired boilers/furnaces, and other heating recommendations.

Since you may well have to buy the heating plant itself (furnace, heat pump, etc) AND the distribution system (steel ducts & registers, baseboard, flex ducts), a rough breakdown might be $5k for the plant & at least $5k for the distribution system.

Your best shot of saving money is to REDUCE the cost of the distribution system.

For further info & more sites, Google "choosing a heating system"


Re: Advice on heating overhaul?

Thanks for all the great advice. I feel like I have somewhere to start now :)

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