Home>Discussions>INSULATION & HVAC>Oil vs. Electric in 1910 New England Farmhouse Rehab??
3 posts / 0 new
Last post
Oil vs. Electric in 1910 New England Farmhouse Rehab??

I am looking into rehabing a 1910 Farmhouse in Western Mass. I love so much about it and want to leave as much original as I can. However, there is no heating system. I am wondering what would be the easiest and most efficient type of heating system to install so as not to have to do much demo to the property. Would you recommend an oil or electric heating system, baseboards or air ducts? Any direction would be greatly appreciated!

Re: Oil vs. Electric in 1910 New England Farmhouse Rehab??


Without knowing too much about the utilities available in the locality of the Farmhouse, (assuming natural gas pipelines are not present), I would probably first recommend an oil-fired forced hot water baseboard system.

However, before you think about the heating system, your first point of attack must be to check out the AMOUNT OF INSULATION IN THE EXTERIOR WALLS-----these older farm houses are notorious for often having a total lack of insulation (known as the building envelope) in the exterior walls----drill tiny 1/8" holes at the base of the various walls throughout the house, unravel a steel coat hanger, coat one end with glue & run it into the wall cavities to see if you pick up any signs of insulation; if twisting the hanger while it's in there makes a lot of noise, you know there is no insulation in the exterior walls; if you'd rather not drill holes, temporarily remove the electrical receptacles found at the base of most walls & shine a flashlight in to see if you can detect any insulation.

There are insulation companies that blow in cellulose insulation for a reasonable rate & can do the entire house from the outside in one day, and this is money well-spent that will keep returning dividends for decades to come----also check the windows; if the house has all single-pane old, leaky windows, it's another great money-saving investment to have double-pane vinyl windows installed throughout the house---if cash is short, the windows can be done as a DIY project.

If by chance natural gas pipelines are present at the property line, then a gas-fired forced hot water baseboard system would be the choice.

Electric heat is considered comparatively too costly in nearly all instances, and especially in the northeast, where electric rates remain high.

With forced hot water baseboard the installers could use plastic PEX tubing as connectors to the room baseboard runs, which due their flexibility can be routed thru wall cavities and as connectors to adjacent floors with the least amount of material removal of the walls and ceilings----this type of heating would also allow for easy zoning of floors and different parts of the house with separate thermostats to maximize comfort and realize fuel savings by keeping several little used parts of the structure at lower temperatures, simply by turning down the thermostats.

Modern high efficiency forced hot water boilers by Triangle Tube, Crown, Weil-McLain, Burnham, Buderus, Viessmann and many others would provide an efficient heating system that perhaps can only be surpassed by natural gas, if available in your area.

Re: Oil vs. Electric in 1910 New England Farmhouse Rehab??

Thank you so much for this extremely thorough and insightful response!! It is extremely helpful! And you are right, no natural gas pipelines!!

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

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