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Recommendations on efficient heating system

I live in CO where the weather can go from 100 in the summer to -15 in the winter. We are going to be building a new house but I'm not really happy with the limited selection our architect has shown us. Where we are building, there isn't access to natural gas, so we are looking at propane or electrical heat. I wanted to do at least 3 zones in the house, maybe 4. We are planning on a 2 story, a garden level, and a main floor. I wanted to look at some heating that would help us save money over all, while not breaking the bank just installing the system. Can you recommend a system to look at?

I have heard about a system that has a motion sensor to detect movement in a room and turn heat on in that room, and off in a room that isn't used. However I have yet to find anything on it, and it seems like it may be a bit expensive. What are your thoughts?

Thank you

Re: Recommendations on efficient heating system

-15 kind of rules out a heat pump as a sole source unless it is geothermal. For long term, geothermal looks like it would be the hands down winner but it does come with a high initial cost and there are still some questions about the overall cost of maintenance. Some of the early systems were so maintenance intensive that what you saved in fuel cost were quickly eaten up by maintenance calls.

Propane is very expensive compared to natural gas. Your best bet might be a hybrid system that has both a propane burner and a heat pump, but with three to four zones, that might get very pricey as well.

The system you refer to sounds like a mini-split. These are a heat pump system that can feed up to four zones, each zone can have its own thermostat and those thermostats can be the type that detect motion to program themselves, like the Nest thermostat. The problem with those thermostats is that they rely on motion so if you are sitting in a room watching TV, you can find yourself in a very cold/hot room if you don't get up and walk around during each commercial break.

There is a new thermostat that can detect a cell phone (smart phone only with an app) and controls the temp based on its location. That requires that you leave your wifi on 24/7 so make sure your security on the wifi is good and you use a strong password. The new mini-splits are efficient down to about +5 but below that, they need resistance heating to keep them from freezing, even if they aren't heating your house.

For those colder days, you could use baseboard electric heaters or even plug in types, just if you use plug in types, have the electrician wire in separate circuits dedicated for those heaters so you don't overload your wires. You don't want to have too make the decision to watch TV or have heat because there aren't enough circuits.

But in the long run, if your architect is local, then he/she probably knows what works and what doesn't work. You could check with local HVAC contractors to confirm that, but the contractors are only going to recommend what they sell.

If you go with some type of heat pump, you may want to look at a propane powered generator for when the power goes out, or some other suplimental heating like a wood/coal/pellet stove or fireplace.

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