Heating system notes

Part of building a well-insulated house is considering the kind of heating system you need. Ideally, all the money you spent on insulation should be balanced by being able to get away with a lower-capacity (and thus cheaper) heating system, and also offset by lower energy bills. So, the question is what to do. Some of the major choices for heating systems include:

  1. Propane furnace
  2. Electric furnace
  3. Radiant floor hydronic heating
  4. Electric resistance heaters
  5. Heat pumps
  6. Wood stoves
  7. And oh-so-many more

In version 1 of the house, the main heat source would have been hydronic radiant heat in the concrete slab. However, now the concrete slab is in the unheated basement, so that’s out. You can do hydronic radiant heating under wood floors, but you have to be super-careful with your temperatures because you run the risk of drying out the wood and warping everything.

A particularly efficient mechanism for heating is the heat pump. Fundamentally, heat pumps extract heat from the outside (although it is cold) and bring it inside. So, they don’t generate heat, but just move it. Because of that, they reach higher levels of efficiency than would even be theoretically possible with electric resistance heating systems. Back in Raleigh, NC we had a heat pump system in our house (as do most houses because a heat pump can also be an air conditioning system). However, when we had the heat pump replaced (just the heat pump and air handler) it cost $5000 and needed to be done by pros because it dealt with refrigerant lines (and that didn’t include the ductwork, which would have cost extra and takes up space!) But while searching the internet today, I came across a “mini-split” heat pump system, which is basically a ductless single-room heat pump. Since the house only has 3 rooms, one per room really isn’t out of the question. Also, it appears that you can owner-install it without too much trouble. Here is a link to the product.

So, for $725 each (so $2175 for the whole house), you get a heating and cooling system that you can control on a by-room basis. So, I think that may be the way to go.

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