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Thread: Oil furnace , gas, or heat pump?

  1. #1 Oil furnace , gas, or heat pump? 
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    My daughter lives alone in a 900 square foot ranch house. Needs a new furnace. We live in southern Maine. I have been thinking about a heat pump. The reason I ask this here in Science F, is here I wont have some body lying to me in hopes of selling me their product. Thanks filix.


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    Quote Originally Posted by filix View Post
    My daughter lives alone in a 900 square foot ranch house. Needs a new furnace. We live in southern Maine. I have been thinking about a heat pump. The reason I ask this here in Science F, is here I wont have some body lying to me in hopes of selling me their product. Thanks filix.
    What's there right now.....gas, oil or electric?


    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Thanks for the reply. She has a oil burner peerless forced hot water. She had been dumping alot of money. There is always something wrong with it. Furnace man said its the wrong type of furnace for her house. It a top cleaning type furnace, that you cant get to, because its in a crawl space. There isn't enough height to clean it right. It power vents out the side." which she has replaced twice. Because power vents dont last. She has no chimney. The crawl space is all concrete 44" inches high. The electricity in the town is reasonable. Thats one reason I considered heat pump. Thanks. Filix
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    Quote Originally Posted by filix View Post
    Thanks for the reply. She has a oil burner peerless forced hot water. She had been dumping alot of money. There is always something wrong with it. Furnace man said its the wrong type of furnace for her house. It a top cleaning type furnace, that you cant get to, because its in a crawl space. There isn't enough height to clean it right. It power vents out the side." which she has replaced twice. Because power vents dont last. She has no chimney. The crawl space is all concrete 44" inches high. The electricity in the town is reasonable. Thats one reason I considered heat pump. Thanks. Filix
    By forced hot water I assume that currently there is a water boiler and hot water moves via circulating pump(s) to room heating radiators on a call for heat. There would be no ductwork in the house for forced air (circulating fan) heat if I'm correct. I had a 900 sq ft home once that only required a 35000 btu forced air gas furnace. If its a really old boiler then I would consider a new gas operated one, they're much smaller. At one time in Canada and especially on old boilers, oil burners could be replaced by gas operated conversion burners, but don't think so today. When the guy says he can't clean it properly I hope it isn't plugged with carbon (soot). That would indicate bad combustion and possibly deadly carbon monoxide. Fortunately if the vent motors don't vent properly then the unit will shut down. That alone is a feature that could save a life. Is it always a soot problem with the vent motors?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Thank you. Yes it is a boiler with no duct work. The last power vent sh the bed a few years ago. They vent out the side of the home. Very low to the ground. The snow slides off the roof and covers it once and a while. To make matters worst the crawl space tends to flood. The sub pump takes care of it as long as she dosen't loose power. That boiler has been under water at least once, before she owned it. The house was a forclosure. Last year she put 1,600.00 in parts and labor,in the boiler. T think she is being taken advantage of. I think the next heater should be up stairs if possible. filix.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by filix View Post
    Thank you. Yes it is a boiler with no duct work. The last power vent sh the bed a few years ago. They vent out the side of the home. Very low to the ground. The snow slides off the roof and covers it once and a while. To make matters worst the crawl space tends to flood. The sub pump takes care of it as long as she dosen't loose power. That boiler has been under water at least once, before she owned it. The house was a forclosure. Last year she put 1,600.00 in parts and labor,in the boiler. T think she is being taken advantage of. I think the next heater should be up stairs if possible. filix.
    Sounds like the boiler is not the problem, the location of it is. Any oil/gas appliance that’s been submerged should have its valve train components changed. But that wouldn’t be any good in a place constantly under threat of flooding. If it was a foreclosure then was it a bank that sold it to her? I think they should bear some responsibility and I would be interested in the maintenance history of that house. Also might want to check if natural gas is available where she lives. Pipeline distributors may install a discounted service line as long as it isn’t too long. Otherwise you’re looking at propane and a large storage container in the yard. I was thinking that perhaps a well placed thermostat controlled fireplace or room heater might suffice. If you want to go forced air then ductwork will add to the cost.

    if all else fails then electric is the choice. Heat pump might be the most economical way to go. What are her neighbors using?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    She is not sure what the neighbors use. She thinks maybe oil? Her boiler needs a new coil too. She has an oil tank in the crawl space. Heat pump sounds pretty good. But I hear that below - 15 It might not work? It doesn't get that cold here that often. I really appreciate you trying to help me help my kid. If I was her I would put a nice big wood stove in there. But she is not that kind of woman too mess with firewood, bugs and all. filix.
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    Asked a friend in the know .....At -15F the heat pump would not work as well. At those temps you’d need backup anyways so the boiler needs to be operational. I always encountered heat pumps with a fuel burning appliance so I couldn’t tell you how good they are as a stand alone. I would think HP would take longer to heat house on its own.

    My experience is mainly with nat gas/propane.. At one point in my life I inspected new installs, repaired, investigated numerous incidences involving gas i.e. CO poisoning, leaks, fires and explosions. I still hold a gas fitters licence.

    Whatever your daughter chooses is going to cost. If it was me and I was tired of oil and there no nat gas then I would opt for a propane room heater of some sort(fireplace, space heater) or go electric. At least with electric you won’t be needing tank fills. I’ve tried to picture her situation in my mind but my experience tells me there’s no description better than actually seeing it. It still bothers me that the bank would sell her this house but more than likely they were told by a oil heating expert that it was safe, yet not told there was occasional flooding.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    One more thing I was wondering. When they built that house, they put outside air vents. It tends to get dampish down there. I have a friend that had close to the same set up in his crawl space. He hired a company that all they do is fix basements and crawl spaces. They put two sub pumps down there. Then they sealed off every place where water or air could get in. Tight as a drum. They put his sub pumps on a automatic generator should he loose power. I asked the man about my daughters grills to let in fresh air in her basement "crawl space" concrete walls. He said they shouldn't be there. I should seal them up with foam. The boiler man said just the opposite that the boiler needs fresh air. What about when the air is -10? you want that air coming in near all the pipes? What about if she doesn't have a boiler down there anymore? Cold winter air coming in with those pipes down there cant be good. filix
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    Fuel burning (oil,gas) appliances require combustion/ventilation air. Air mixes with fuel to be burned properly and air is required to aid in removing the products of combustion (CO2, water vapour). Even power vented appliances need air. Some appliances in air tight homes get their air piped directly from outside to combustion chamber and drafting exhaust(ventilation). That way inside air is not affected by combustion. If air not provided as in a well insulated home then the air pressure in the house will go negative affecting combustion and ventilation. This could lead to very serious and dangerous consequences as in CO, ignition delays and even explosion, plus appliances outages (pilot outage, flame sensing capabilities). Been in air tight homes and have had to tell home owner they need outside air openings.

    Without seeing your situation it’s hard to say what’s actually the best thing for you. It sounds like those air openings are for the furnace room and should be sized correctly to allow proper amounts of outside air. Water pipes in furnace rooms don’t generally freeze unless unit shuts down completely for a period of time. Things like clothes dryer and other household air exhaust iequipment can also affect home air pressure. A wood burning fireplace requires air also, and a chimney. Newer air tight homes could have an air exchange apparatus at the side of the house to maintain positive house air pressure., otherwise permanent air openings are required or you’ll need to leave a house window locked open.

    This is just basic stuff. Modern appliances are equipped with several safety features designed to shut down equipment should combustion or ventilation fail for some reason. However some of these shutdowns are only temporary which means after a prescribed time limit they will try for ignition again and only after a certain amount of trials for ignition will the shutdown require manual resetting but the problem needs attention.

    An indication of poor ventilation might be a damp odour. Generally you would get that in a natural draft appliance (uses chimney). Unless the vent pipes in a power vent application are cracked or joints not sealed properly you don’t normally get the damp smell. Now if the heat exchanger is cracked then it is possible for combustion products to enter circulating air for a forced air appliance, however in your case the boiler could leak water. The water temp and pressure relief valve could also leak or blow water on occasion.
    Last edited by zinjanthropos; November 11th, 2019 at 08:40 AM.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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