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Old 11-09-2008, 08:54 PM
 
Location: Bend, OR
3,033 posts, read 5,014,209 times
Reputation: 2920

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I am looking at buying a house right now that only has electric heat and a woodstove as the heating source. This has me concerned because electricity can be more expensive than gas and less efficient. I am looking to see if it's possible to convert the home to gas, but haven't heard back from the power company yet. The home does have a crawl space, so there is room for the ductwork. Most of the homes in the neighborhood seem to be electric too. I didn't see any gas meters. However, the homes directly behind this one do have gas meters, so I imagine there is a gas line nearby. Besides the heat factor, we are concerned about an electric water heater. I grew up in a house that was electric only and once the water heater was out of hot water it took hours for it to heat back up. We are thinking about going to a tankless water heater regardless of which fuel source we use, but does anyone have an opinion about electric tankless water heaters? Would you do the conversion, or live with the electricity?

Another option we are considering is going solar. Anyone have experience with this in an electric home? What are the costs like to do this?
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Old 11-09-2008, 09:10 PM
 
27,234 posts, read 21,021,038 times
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Water heaters should not take hours to heat back up unless the stat is bad or an element is out.

Solar at this point is really expensive however a solar water heater is fairly attainable.

You need to find out gas rates versus electric rates which the power company should be able to provide or the gas company could provide for you.
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Old 11-10-2008, 08:14 AM
 
Location: Knoxville
3,354 posts, read 10,976,462 times
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First thing is to find out from the utility company IF you can get gas to your house. If not, all this does not matter.

Electric water heaters, if working properly will heat the water up pretty fast. In the old days (10 years ago???), they were slower, but newer ones are pretty fast.

Make sure that whatever heating system you decide to install, that the ducts are sized properly. Duct sizing can be different for electric versus gas systems.

The other thing to consider is when you put the ducting in the crawlspace, you can upset the cross ventilation is the ducts are large and the space is small. Should not be a problem, just something to consider.
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Old 11-10-2008, 11:36 AM
 
Location: Apple Valley Calif
7,420 posts, read 12,041,567 times
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I have a home in Oregon that i converted from oil to gas last year. Strt by calling the utility company to see if a gas line in near you. I had a gas main across the hiway from me, and the gas company agreed to put in a gas line and meter for free, providing I installed a new, high efficiency heat system, which I was happy to do. I replaced the 50 year old oil burner with a new NG heater.
If your's is a one story house, it would be simple to install a modern forced air furnace and A/C. My house is two story, so ducting would have been difficult, so I stayed with the hot water heater. The only problem with that is, I can't install A/C.
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Old 11-10-2008, 01:29 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
8,834 posts, read 23,377,549 times
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If your concern is efficiency, you *might* want to think about a heat pump. You didn't say but I think you are looking at baseboard or similar straight-resistance electric heat, right? Natural gas may or may not be cheaper per BTU delivered, if it is, you still need to see if you have a reasonable pay-back time for converting to gas. At current prices around here, propane is more expensive than straight-electric heat. The link below will show what price for one fuel is comparable to some other fuel. In Bend, it might actually make more sense to use the electric as just a backup or aux heat source, and run the woodstove as your main heat. It's more work but you definitely get more BTU for the buck, that and it's not subject to price fluctuations or outages.

CAS - Coping with High Energy Prices - Energy Cost Comparison Charts
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:07 PM
 
3,020 posts, read 16,731,707 times
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Default Yup, first find out if the gas is available.....

Next research what the former owners bills have been on electric. Natural gas may also have another down side. Not all the money actually pays for fuel. They can have a ton of fees built in, mine does. You pay taxes, more taxes, transportation fees, a user fee, being a customer fee. It can be so bad, only ~60 cents of every dollar actually goes to buy gas which lately hasn't been all that cheap. My gas company is essentially doing away with a fixed contract type rate for like a year and we are getting some sort of variable whatever, no other option. Lord, knows it is not going to be good for our pocketbooks.

You want to fully understand what the deal from your gas company might be and what will be the rates. Something around $10 / Mcf probably is a good deal, least it is around my neck of the woods. With electric does all the money basically buy heat???? Is there some sort of fixed rate?

Another thing to consider, have a HVAC type guy look at what is going to be involved in putting in a natural gas unit. The ducting may be simple, it may not be. Not every installation is the same. Don't assume it can be done, at least easily. Backfit type installations can be tricky.

I would be more inclined to go with something like geo-thermal. Yes, the initial costs can be more but in the long run it might be the better choice.
You want something where all the heating money actually buys fuel, there are no fees, charges and rigamarole each month. There are peeps in Ohio heating fairly large homes with geo-thermal for small payments, plus it does not have the labor or maintenance that wood does. Wood / coal to me only make super good choices if you own the fuel source. It may be a tad cheaper, if you are buying the fuel but the time consumption is also a big factor, plus you have to meet the wood burners schedule or it gets cold.

If I had to consider a fuel source for a new house, I will do everything in my power to avoid anything oil or gas in nature. Both of those longer term have no future, the only way prices will go is up. Some type of solar, geo-thermal or alternative which can fix the monthly fees long, long into the future is the way to be thinking. Getting the heat free after the initial costs is the better option if possible.

Last edited by Cosmic; 11-10-2008 at 04:16 PM..
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:28 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
8,834 posts, read 23,377,549 times
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Cosmic brings up some good points. OP, maybe part of your answer is in your original post - "Most of the homes in the neighborhood seem to be electric too. I didn't see any gas meters." - in a lot of the Pacific Northwest, electric rates are still pretty cheap. Back in the 50's and 60's apparently electricity was very cheap here.

Definitely check the past bills for the house, and keep in mind if the previous owner had a bunch of kids, or was elderly, or for whatever reason kept the house quite warm, you can do better than that if you try.

I still like wood, although, it is time consuming and messy. I'm able to get branches pruned from nearby orchards at a very good price, and am able to supplement it with some locust trees that die every year on the "ranch". I've got plenty of room to store the wood, and buy it in advance of needing it so it has plenty of time to dry.

Take a look at the wood stove, if it's a fairly recent one, they are about 30% more efficient than the older designs from the 70's and early 80's -

Cosmic also makes a good point about geothermal, or ground-sourced heat pumps - *if* you have a place to dump well water (and are on a well) or you have the room to put in a closed system ground loop, these are really the ultimate in heating and cooling efficiency. In fact the few people I know who have them pay very low electric bills, probably less than $20 of it goes to the heat pump, and can pretty much set the thermostat where they want it without worrying about what it will cost.

The ground-source heat pump itself, and it's installation, can be pretty expensive though.
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Old 11-10-2008, 05:18 PM
 
Location: South Dakota
733 posts, read 2,860,082 times
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Funny how things go. I have natural gas and have been considering installing an electric boiler because electricity is cheaper per therm than gas. 30 years ago gas was cheaper but you couldn't get it due to limited service areas...and I was lucky then! My how times change. Maybe we'll just go back to coal...
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Old 11-10-2008, 05:40 PM
 
Location: Bend, OR
3,033 posts, read 5,014,209 times
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Thanks to all who responded. I have certainly become more educated about the process and all the things to look into. One thing that I didn't consider was the fact that the PNW gets cheaper electricity rates. I'm assuming this comes from hydroelectric power. In CO where I was from, there were no large rivers to dam, therefore no hydroelectric power. I imagine that has something to do with it.

After looking at all of our options, I believe we are going to stay with the original electric heat source. The house has a fairly new woodburning stove and I believe the current homeowners have used that to supplement. I don't mind burning wood so it makes sense to use it. Also, I didn't realize all of the fees and taxes imposed by the gas company. What an eye opener!

I don't think geothermal or solar makes sense at this time. We would love to do it, but this house won't be our "dream" home. It's something that we will enjoy living in for 5-10 years, but will probably want to move on. The startup costs of alternative energy sources right now are just too high for us to consider.

Of course, we don't even know whether we will get this home or not. It's a short sale, so I'm not getting my hopes up.
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Old 11-10-2008, 06:07 PM
 
3,020 posts, read 16,731,707 times
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Default See what the driller sezs.......

What would you charge a foot for a three hundred foot deep well for geothermal? My understanding is it is basically a dry hole, don't got to hit no water. No casing, no nothing. Poke a hole in the dirt.

Never seen one of them done but research sezs a deep vertical hole, deeper the better. Local I been hearing they typically do 300' and maybe three of those spaced out. Guess they are typically 4" wells.

Heard some dudes will do it at a dollar a foot. Seems to be the systems boys mark up the subs work a lot. One guy quoted a lady I know $26K for a system, claiming the hole was super expensive and it all was just about beyond the human understanding. What do you know about the grout used to backfill the hole?

Figure it is like anything else, if a dude does most of it hisself, won't cost that much. In my neck of the woods probably no permits would be required.

The other factor in the costs apparently there are a lot of tax breaks, rebates, etc. Be interesting to see what the equipment in the house costs, where you might buy it. Critter is a bit bigger than a breadbox but no by too much.

Like most things if a dude did all the work, what could you do it for? I don't pay anything close to retail for nothing.

Bet you can get one of them puppies for a nominal charge, maybe not more than a normal system.
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