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Old 01-28-2009, 03:20 PM
 
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Actually, what does it mean when a house says it has heated floors? By what means? It appears to me most newer homes are on slab foundations- no basements - yet some offer a short crawl space (I would think having at least the crawl space would be better to fix stuff). Is this all for energy efficiency, cheaper to build, or the ground is too frozen or windy or what? While we are on the subject, what is the best, most efficient way to heat your homes there (gas seems like it is common versus electricity or oil, correct?). Do people use the propane heaters in workshops? I was not sure what was meant by cadet heaters and this boiler system sounds interesting.
I appreciate any input on the "art of heating" there.

Feeling like a real newbie, but trying to understand some basics, thank you! (husband does not have a lot of free time to check things out so it is up to me and I very much value your help, everyone - would like my homework in good shape! Thank you!
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Old 01-28-2009, 04:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Dresden4 View Post
Actually, what does it mean when a house says it has heated floors?
Heated floors means they run pipes filled with hot water through the floor. It's called radiant heating. Some people swear that it is more efficient but I have not found any good studies that support that argument. Most everyone agrees that it is comfortable. It generally requires that you have tile or concrete flooring. You can do some hardwood flooring but wood floors aren't designed to be heated. Carpet tends to insulate the pipes which isn't desireable.

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Originally Posted by Dresden4 View Post
By what means? It appears to me most newer homes are on slab foundations- no basements - yet some offer a short crawl space
Homes in the north require deep foundations that go below the frost line so the frost heaving in the winter won't raise or lower the house. Often they dig out the ground below the house and between the piers and create a crawl space. Newer construction can eliminate the crawl space but they are still very common up North.

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Originally Posted by Dresden4 View Post
While we are on the subject, what is the best, most efficient way to heat your homes there (gas seems like it is common versus electricity or oil, correct?).
Here's the scoop on heat source. The most efficient heat source is a ground source heat pump. For every 1kw of energy you put into the system, you add 3kw to 4.5kw of heat to your house because it moves it from the ground to your home. They're expensive to install.

The second most efficient form of heat is electric, which has an efficiency of 100%. Electricity can be expensive.

Natural gas has long been regarded as a cheap form of heat but that all depends on the price of natural gas. Propane is generally expensive. Oil isn't used much in Montana.

A lot of people will choose to heat their home with wood and that is a very traditional source of heat. You say warm (you roast actuallly) when the fire is going and throw on a few blankets at night to stay warm all night long. The wood is generally free or close to it, but requires work to get it out of the woods.

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Originally Posted by Dresden4 View Post
Do people use the propane heaters in workshops?
You can use propane heaters in your workshop if you can afford the cost of heat. (Maybe a few hundred dollars a month). Many people will use wood stoves and cut the wood so it's a free source of heat.

Last edited by bigtrees; 01-28-2009 at 04:32 PM..
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:13 PM
 
Location: LEAVING CD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigtrees View Post


Here's the scoop on heat source. The most efficient heat source is a ground source heat pump. For every 1kw of energy you put into the system, you add 3kw to 4.5kw of heat to your house because it moves it from the ground to your home. They're expensive to install.

The second most efficient form of heat is electric, which has an efficiency of 100%. Electricity can be expensive.

Natural gas has long been regarded as a cheap form of heat but that all depends on the price of natural gas. Propane is generally expensive. Oil isn't used much in Montana.
Bigtrees, I'd have to disagree with you about the most efficent being ground source, I think it'd depend on where the ground is don't you? From what I've read the second one you listed is the most efficient but takes those nasty fossil fuels that Al Gore hates sooo much. I also think you also have to consider ROI when you consider heating systems, unless you're going to live in it for 10 years +++ it may not be worth the $$$$.
My neighbor who's a builder is having one installed in a house right now (the owners chose the system and company who's installing) and the owners paid $45k for the heat system, I'd love to see the ROI figures on that one!

Last edited by jimj; 01-28-2009 at 07:22 PM..
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:21 PM
 
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Hello bigtrees! Wow, you do know a lot of good information and I appreciate it! The radiant heating in the floors sounds cozy, but expensive to install (I understand it is simply a luxury).

If a home does not have a crawl space how do they fix busted pipes?

Oh, and I apologize, I meant kerosene heaters in a workshop - are those used much there?

Thank you so much for your help in the local home information as I would rather hear it from you than take everything a realtor may say as fact. Have a great night!
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:24 PM
 
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Wow, jimj, 45k for a heat system is too much for me! I guess we will have to stick with electric or gas! Thank you for the information!
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jimj View Post
Bigtrees, I'd have to disagree with you about the most efficent being ground source, I think it'd depend on where the ground is don't you? From what I've read the second one you listed is the most efficient but takes those nasty fossil fuels that Al Gore hates sooo much. I also think you also have to consider ROI when you consider heating systems, unless you're going to live in it for 10 years +++ it may not be worth the $$$$.
My neighbor who's a builder is having one installed in a house right now (the owners chose the system and company who's installing) and the owners paid $45k for the heat system, I'd love to see the ROI figures on that one!
OK, so I should qualify that I'm an engineer by trade. So I tend to take people's questions literally.

Geothermal heat pumps are the most efficient because they dump more heat into the house than they consume. Typical efficiences range from 350% to 450% for a geothermal system. Yes, certain soil types are more effective at heat transfer than other soil types, but in Montana, the soil works pretty darn effectively.

However, you'll notice I didn't say geothermal systems were the least expensive system to run or provided the best return on investment. I just said they are the most efficient system (which means adds the most heat to a house compared to the amount consumed.) They're the most efficient bar none, but like I say, expensive to install. I've never priced one out but always knew they were expensive.

Electric heat uses fossil fuels in some part of the country, but so does propane, natural gas, kerosene, coal, diesel, or most other forms of heat. In your part of the state, electric heat actually doesn't use fossil fuels as your power comes entirely from the hydropower generators in Libby Dam, Hungry Horse, Flathead Lake and Bigfork. Eastern Montana uses fossil fuels as does most the rest of the country.

The downside to natural gas is it is not available everywhere and the price for natural gas has fluctuated a lot in recent years. But then so has the price for every other fuel except for firewood a guy cuts himself. Natural gas is hard to beat if you have it at your house.
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:14 PM
 
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I wonder how much they raise the price of a home if it already has this efficient heat system = my guess is to cover almost the whole thing, but it would be great to find one with it in it already! Okay, I am dreaming now......................................it would probably still be too $$$$$$ ;( !!!!!!
You guys are over my head now with these ROI's and geothermals! But, I will just print this and have it handy for my husband to read sometime! Thank you!

Since my husband likes cutting wood, maybe we'll stick with that! The old simple ways may be the best way to go!

Very interesting guys!
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Old 01-29-2009, 07:46 AM
 
Location: LEAVING CD
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Dresden,
Let's see if I can give you a real life example. We built in 2005 and considered all types of heat and after quite a bit of research found that cadet heaters were about the most cost effective and efficient way to heat. Electric radiant baseboard heat was actually the most efficent least expensive way to go but we didn't want dead wall areas (they can run as long as 6 feet along the baseboard and you can't place things in front of 'em) and they don't have fans or anything to move the heat out.
The second best was the cadet but a bit less efficient as they do have fans that use electricity but only take up about one square foot of wall space. We considered forced air but the cost to install was about 5 times that of cadets and the cost to run was about twice what a cadet cost to run since natural gas was/is more expensive than electricity and less efficient. Many of our friends pay at least twice what we do to heat their houses and a couple of them are smaller than ours. Our current power bill is about $200 a month for a 2500 sqft house and that includes not only heat but all electrical use from the well/septic to washing machine,oven and lights.
The other downside to forced air is that it moves all the crud in your house around via the duct work which can and do get dirty. A basic example is because the air return is inside your house if someone is sick it and hacking the air return sucks that air in and will move all of that throughout the house as well as dust etc unless you put in one of the top of the line hepa filiter systems and it still doesn't get it all, yuk!.
The other upside to cadets is we can control each room seperately via a thermostat in each room so we're not heating rooms we're not using and have no cold rooms due to being too far from the heater (very common) and if our heater breaks we replace one at the cost of about $80 instead of $$$.
We considered radiant floor heat but again the cost to install was very high, and we'd never get that back in savings though I'd have preferred it since we wanted tile and wood flooring and it makes that nice and toasty.
Our neighbor went with radiant floor heat connected to an outside gas/wood boiler which works well and can be cheaper to run as long as you use the wood for fire instead of gas but this wasn't available (that we knew of) when we built.

As for slab vs crawl space, everywhere else we've lived has been on a slab unless it had a basement. I'd asked when we built why there were very few slabs here since I figured a monolithic slab was the way to go and the answer I got was 1. They are expensive to lay. 2. They don't insulate well so cold is transferred into the house and 3. They can buckle and move in the cold here since they're above the frost line. Don't know if any or all of this is accurate but we did a 5 foot crawl space. Personally I like that I can get to and service all of my pipes and have all of my mechanicals (water heaters,pressure tank etc) under the house instead of in it plus it gives me a place to put boxes I don't need very often.
Hope this helps...
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Old 01-29-2009, 07:59 AM
 
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As jimj is alluding to, the hardest thing about picking the "least expensive" or "cheapest" heat source is the price of all the fuels keep going up and down every year. Electricity might zoom up while natural gas falls and oil stays horizontal, or any other combination you can imagine. It's impossible to guess what will be cheaper in the future.
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Old 01-29-2009, 09:53 AM
 
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Hello jimj and bigtrees! You guys are great! Thank you for explaining even more! My husband built houses in the summers growing up (in the SE though) so I think he will really find all of this very interesting and important for living in the NW. We have never been keen on slab houses which they throw up these days down here (he would never live in one). We would really want that crawl space, if no basement. I was just confused on the construction part without the basements being as common as I thought they would be there and how people would work on busted pipes with no crawl space. It will make even more sense to him I am betting. He is a handy guy and does repair a lot things himself.

Wow, jimj, $200.00 a month sounds great for 2500 sq.ft.! We pay up to twice that here and for less space (with electric and a gas pack - forced air - the bill does at least include water and trash pick up). I will have him read that closely! I think the cadet heaters sound like a smart choice.

Again, I appreciate the two of you taking the time to respond. Is this a hobby in the winter for you guys, helping people? Thank you for being there!
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