4 posts / 0 new
Last post
Bet heat for vt log cabin

We have a 1500 sq ft log cabin in northern vt with an old oil boiler and some baseboard radiators for heat. We are looking to replace and wondering if getting a new boderus oil boiler and adding more baseboard is best or going with a new oil furnace and adding duckwork is more effective and efficient in the long run. We have a huge wood furnace in the basement as well with duckwork to the 1 st floor, but dont want to conrinue using that.

Re: Bet heat for vt log cabin

Would it be possible for you to go with radiant floor heat?

Re: Bet heat for vt log cabin

We can perhaps discuss several options, as keith has done, and make some recommendations, but in the end your best bet is to consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors" and have at least 3 different heating technicians over the house to look over your present system & offer you their options. I assume you don't have natural gas lines in your area; if you do, give strong consideration to switching to gas-fired equipment to save on heating costs; oil is expected to stay high.

It's hard to give much useful advice without actually physically looking at the heating equipment you have now; I find it surprising that a forced hot water (hydronic) system was installed in northern vt, as opposed, say, to as you noted, a forced hot air system with ductwork---a system that wouldn't suffer as much from a power outage & freezing/bursting baseboard piping---do you have regular power outages in your area during winter storms? How have you fared in recent past winters? do you have a portable generator in case of outages?? Having a 2nd source of heat, such as a wood stove on each floor is an absolute must!

The big, (perhaps only) "Achilles' heel" with hot water heat is the danger that you will lose power & the pipes inside the walls will freeze & then burst if power is not restored within several days during an outage---the result is a big & expensive mess of ripping walls out to make the repairs to the piping/baseboards----always turn the heat way up in advance if the weather report predicts an ice storm or heavy snow----keeping the house at 85 or 90 during the start of a blizzard or ice storm will allow the house to stay warm for 2-3 days, preventing a baseboard freeze-up, even if you lose power---by that time, power is often restored.

On the other hand, there is an additive called propylene glycol (non-toxic anti-freeze) that you can add to your system during the winter months (available at HD/Lowes)---2 to 3 gallons is often sufficient & the consumer magazines list a number of low-cost portable generators that can be had for $600 to $900 if you tend to have a lot of power outages----it's also very important to have a SECOND SOURCE OF HEAT, such as a wood-burning stove (on each floor) or the wood furnace you have in the basement---these will be a real life-saver if the power goes out.

Thus, one strategy would be, since you already have the baseboard system in place, to consider the option you mentioned & replace the old boiler & install 2 or 3 gallons of propylene glycol in the system---Buderus makes excellent boilers, as does Burnham, Crown, Dunkirk, Peerless, Utica & Triangle Tube, to mention just a few---I favor the standard cast iron boilers with a 3-pass combustion chamber, such as the Burnham MPO, or the Buderus 3-pass boiler, the Crown Freeport 3-pass is also good (as opposed to the "high efficiency" condensing boilers, which are very expensive & seem to have a lot of call backs for service problems).

Changing over to a forced hot air furnace would entail a lot of expense for the installation of the duct work throughout the house, as well as the room registers for the new system; however, you would gain the peace of mind of knowing the system won't freeze in the event of a power outage.

Always first check the status of the insulation inside the exterior walls of your house, as well as the presence of any single-pane, old/drafty windows, that should be replaced with double pane vinyls; taking these 2 steps before committing to modifying your heating system will allow you to order a smaller boiler/furnace, & will assure that the heat produced by the new equipment will remain longer inside the house because of the added insulation & new windows.

Make it known to family, friends, & work associates that you are considering a new heating system & try to get their feedback on the best local heating contractors in your area, and the experiences they had with their own heating system.

Re: Bet heat for vt log cabin

No hot air system is going to give the even comfort of a radiant hot water system. If you already have hydronic, why replace it? If it is an older boiler, you might upgrade to more efficient one.

As the previous poster stated, the boiler water can have anti-freeze added to it to prevent freeze damage during a prolonged power outage. Just as in a car, anti-freeze also improves the thermal efficiency over straight water.

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.