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Reality of solar heat?

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  • #16
    Here's the short answer to your question " Is there a practical solar Thermal solution to my problem" = NO. Installing PV if you have net metering available, and upgrading your heat pump to a properly sized HYperheat model would be the answer. A manual J heat loss calculation needs to be performed first so that the proper size equipment can be selected at your lowest ambient temperature with out using resistance heating. I recommend using the Mitsubishi Hyperheat (rated to -5F) model with their conventional air handler that would replace your existing AH. Duct work changes will most likely be required.
    In my opinion these units exceed the performance of Geo thermal heat pumps in your climate zone. Be prepared to spend more than your quote for the wood stove.
    If the above exceeds your budget then another alternative is to install a 92% propane fired furnace, propane for heating use usually is in the $2.75 per gallon range for heating use.
    Just for the record with heat pumps there is no conversion of tons to BTU's as the capacity changes with the ambient temperature.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by PNW_Steve View Post
      Thank you all for your thoughtful replies.

      To answer some of the questions above:

      I don't have natural gas. A pipeline runs through the County and does not serve a single customer in the county.

      I really doubt that there is any insulation under the basement floor.

      Adding PV to heat with exceeds my space and budget.

      How much time and money am I willing to expend?

      Well.... With the schooling I got from all of your replies, Not enough ..... I see from your replies that solar air or water heater is not practical in my circumstance.

      I suspect that if I set out to build a new house and design it to best incorporate solar heat I could probably be successful with supplemental solar heat.


      I am committed to staying here for another 2-1/2 years. When I get past that I am considering building another house. I am thinking of something between 600-800sf. Hyperinsulated and built to maximize solar..

      Thanks again everyone.
      For anything I added that you found useful, you're most welcome.

      There are many sources for retrofitting existing dwellings. W/a bit of reading and then appropriate action(s), you'll be able to get close to a min. energy design with an existing dwelling while not going broke doing so. I and others here have done so. Just start w/small projects and the low $$ stuff but read up on the what and why such conservation measures work and make sense of it before you do.

      If/When you do build, or better yet, long before you build, check out passive solar, sun tempered, high mass designs. When well done and appropriately designed for the area/climate, such designs, or portions of such designs as fits your lifestyle/budget do not need to look out of place or be a full of glass monstrosity/eyesore. There's a lot of room between all and nothing in such designs. Such sun/mass tempered designs will probably cost more than a tract/stick design, but do not need to be that much more $$ if you know a bit about them. If you're willing to make some what are probably very minor lifestyle adjustments, they can be a very pleasant place to live in.

      Good luck.

      Add: As Bruce notes, propane is often a lot cheaper when you buy it in the summer. If you are not limited by local ordnances or the propane dealer sometimes using a larger than normal tank to get you through an entire year w/out winter buys can save a lot of $$. That might make a propane fueled scenario less costly. Propane bought around here (zip 92026) in the summer is about 30-40 % cheaper than in the winter.
      Last edited by J.P.M.; 12-10-2019, 12:32 PM.

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      • #18
        If the OP is looking for something inexpensive and short term (and also DIY), weather sealing, insulation/re-insulating, and supplemental electric heat in the rooms you use is probably the most economic solution in the short term.

        These oil filled radiators (i've used older models, not these) work great. They hold the heat really well and use comparatively less electric than trying to heat rooms you're not using.

        https://www.amazon.com/DeLonghi-EW77...s%2C127&sr=8-4

        https://www.amazon.com/PELONIS-NY150...s%2C127&sr=8-6

        https://www.amazon.com/Pelonis-Porta...s%2C127&sr=8-8

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        • #19
          Originally posted by JSchnee21 View Post
          If the OP is looking for something inexpensive and short term (and also DIY), weather sealing, insulation/re-insulating, and supplemental electric heat in the rooms you use is probably the most economic solution in the short term.

          These oil filled radiators (i've used older models, not these) work great. They hold the heat really well and use comparatively less electric than trying to heat rooms you're not using.

          https://www.amazon.com/DeLonghi-EW77...s%2C127&sr=8-4

          https://www.amazon.com/PELONIS-NY150...s%2C127&sr=8-6

          https://www.amazon.com/Pelonis-Porta...s%2C127&sr=8-8
          They may hold heat really well and I'd sure agree that they may have some possible advantages in safety, but a 1,500 W input is still 1500 W input - and for electric resistance heat, will always lead to a 1,500 W output.

          Oil transfer electric resistance heaters are no better/worse at heating a space with respect to cost than straight electric resistance heaters. Straight electric resistance or electric radiant heaters may even have a slight perceived advantage if higher temp. source heat is required for some reason(s) such as faster radiant heat transfer with perhaps some perceived warmer spot temps., but the 1,500 W input will cost the same.

          If heating the same space, under the same conditions, a 1,500 W input electric heating device will run as long as any other 1,500 W electric input device regardless of what's between the conditioned space (be it oil, masonry/brick, whatever) and the electric resistance element supplying the heat. Thermal masses for the oil, masonry/brick, whatever, will slow down the response time of getting the heat to the conditioned space in some proportion to the size of the thermal mass, and large(r) size thermal mass enclosures with more surface area will keep the heating surfaces coolerand in so doing slow down the radiant heat transfer aspect of the heating process.

          But under something approaching a steady state condition of heat required, the energy required to maintain a set room temp. will be the same regardless of how that energy is supplied. If the energy is supplied by electric resistance, under steady state conditions, the cost will be the same for the fuel (the electricity).
          Last edited by J.P.M.; 12-11-2019, 10:45 AM.

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          • #20
            I find for intermittent use like heating a cold bathroom prior to and during a shower a fan forced electric heater beats an oil fired or even a baseboard heater. I just want to heat the air up not the entire mass of the room.

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