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Old 01-06-2008, 10:45 AM
 
Location: Vermont
1,434 posts, read 4,598,917 times
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Which is the best way to heat a house in Vermont?

And what alternatives do you have?

Oil vs Natural Gas vs something else, such as Propane or Electric?

Forced Air vs Radiant Heat vs something else?

Radiators vs Baseboard vs something else?

Wood Stove vs Pellet Stove vs Fireplace?

Best combination of heating methods? My friends in Rhode Island use, I think, oil and a wood stove.

By "best" I mean most affordable, most comfortable, most reliable, most accessible, least dangerous and least polluting. Also, with least maintenance.

I have a cat with lung disease and I wonder if a wood stove would injure him with its creation of indoor pollution.

You can probably tell by my questions that I am not very knowledgeable about these issues. Also, I would assume that there are pros and cons of each heating method, and that trade-offs would have to be made.

In my current home, I use natural gas and steam heating with radiators. It's convenient, as I don't have to stockpile or order deliveries. It's always there. At the same time, there was an article a day or two ago about a house exploding when a car hit a gas line. There have been other instances of houses exploding because of gas leaks.

When I lived in Rhode Island, I used, I think, propane, and I had to stay home for deliveries. Once, I had to stay home all day for a delivery that never came. I called, and was told they "didn't get around to it". I was not happy, especially since there were almost no other companies to provide competition for them, and leverage for me.

I'm open to all responses to any or all of the questions I just asked.

Thanks.

Last edited by arel; 01-06-2008 at 10:54 AM..
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Old 01-06-2008, 11:45 AM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 3,260,997 times
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We have several alternatives here that includes all the options you mention as well as others. I have lived in houses heated with forced hot air, oil burner with baseboard hot water heat, and wood stoves with furnace backup.

If your kitty has breathing problems, and if you have allergies that react to dust & other inhalants, I caution you to avoid wood-burning stoves. I loved the radiant heat and the smell of burning wood. But heating with wood stoves is not only dusty and relatively inefficient, but also very labor-intensive. Whether you chop your own wood or have it delivered, there's stacking, storing, and protecting. Then there's hauling wood into the house regularly. And cleaning the stove. And cleaning around the stove.

Depending on the forced hot air system, that can be dusty and dry. I hear newer systems are better. I've seen some very impressive propane inserts for fireplaces that generate lots of heat. And a pellet stove can be added with or without a fireplace. The pipes stay so cool that you don't even have to have a chimney; you can punch a hole through the wall and let the pellet stove's minimal and relatively cool exhaust vent that way.

Our current home has an oil burner with BB hot water and a pellet stove. The pellet stove is 80% efficient and nicely warms our entire downstairs and a small bit of the upstairs. It's rated for 1100 sq ft and our house is 2000+ sq ft, so that is as expected. We had our house as super-insulated as house can be that's more than a century old. Our attic is filled with insulation, we have all new windows, and our doors are hung carefully and have rubber seals around them. This isn't awful, but we want to do better.

In our next home, my husband and I plan to be energy self-sufficient through a combination of active & passive solar. We will consider wind if it's feasible on whatever property we end up with, but we prefer to live in town so that seems unlikely. We plan to heat and cool with geothermal, which uses a small amount of electricity to move the water through the system. Geothermal is extremely environmentally friendly -- efficient, clean, and very long-lasting once installed (if potentially quite expensive up front).

We are getting to know a geothermal heating/cooling expert who will go look at houses with us when home-shopping time arrives so we can factor in geothermal-ability before we buy. The thing about geothermal is that you need ductwork running through the house. So we'll be especially eager to see houses that already have radiant heat and/or forced hot air systems, since those are more easily convertible to geothermal.

Some resources:
Efficiency Vermont
Vermont Solar & Small Wind Incentive Program

The geothermal guy we're talking with doesn't have a website. Here's the only Vermont geothermal company I could find that does have a website:
New England Ground Source
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Old 01-06-2008, 11:50 AM
Status: "haskdjhfku,ea.jsdhfa,je" (set 17 days ago)
 
955 posts, read 1,804,845 times
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When I lived in VT I used hot water board heating. Heat was provided by my landlord (if you rent, try to find someone that includes a utility or two, such as snow and rubbish removal, heat, water, etc.). I kept thigs warm without the stuffy, dried out feeling.
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Western views of Mansfield/Camels Hump!
1,362 posts, read 1,945,203 times
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Sheryl - how has your research been going with the geothermal situation? We are definitely considering that for when we move, combined with passive and active solar as well...perhaps with the addition of a pelet or wood stove.

I was under the impression that geothermal would not work with radiant heat - was I misinformed?

Also, can you use geothermal if you are hooked up to municipal water? I have been looking at homes that have wells, to make the conversion easier...
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:15 PM
 
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IMHO, most older Vermont homes require a well distributed can of Kerosene and a single match. Forget the fire department, just follow up with a bulldozer.

But if your going to keep it regardless of my advice, I suggest gas/propane heated hot water baseboards, or even better in floor radiant heating. The later is usually impractical unless you plan extensive floor renovations anyway.

Forget wood stoves. They pollute the environment and are too much work to keep going.
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 3,260,997 times
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I'll add more detail when my husband gets home later. He is more technically adept and has done most of the conversing with the geothermal guy so he has a better handle on it. I'll also send you the geothermal guy's contact info.

My husband also thought that geothermal wouldn't work with radiant floor heat. The expert told him that the ducts needed for geothermal are so small that radiant works fine. He also said that having a good well would make the system cheaper for the homeowner than with a municipal water source, but that either way was possible.

Last edited by Sherylcatmom; 01-06-2008 at 12:34 PM..
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:56 PM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 3,260,997 times
Reputation: 733
Quote:
Originally Posted by tkln View Post
I was under the impression that geothermal would not work with radiant heat - was I misinformed?
My husband confirms that geothermal will work with radiant floor heat.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tkln View Post
Also, can you use geothermal if you are hooked up to municipal water? I have been looking at homes that have wells, to make the conversion easier...
He said you can do geothermal with city water, but you still need a well. So looking for a house with a well makes some sense because it will save the $3000-$4000 to drill a well deep enough for adequate water flow.

Here's the geothermal guy my husband got our latest info from:

Green Mountain Geothermal
James Ashley
P.O. Box 222
W. Danville, VT 05873
(802) 684-3491
jashley@kingcon.com
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Old 01-06-2008, 02:54 PM
 
Location: Vermont
1,434 posts, read 4,598,917 times
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Great info. Thanks to all of you.

For some reason, I had forgotten about geothermal and solar. I will look into them.

Housing stock in Brattleboro tends to be older, although there are some new homes being built.

Last edited by arel; 01-06-2008 at 03:30 PM..
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:03 PM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 3,260,997 times
Reputation: 733
We actually prefer older homes. We'll be looking for a home & property that meets all our needs (e.g., the home office, renewable energy, geothermal, etc.) and that may mean we end up with a newer one, but we're hoping to stay in an older home. Just a personal preference. Maybe because I grew up in Miami Beach where homes 50 years old were considered ancient! Decades ago, when we were in the Middle East looking at ruins a few thousand years old, my brains went all fuzzy. New England is a nice middle-aged civilization, so to speak. :-)
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Old 01-07-2008, 07:31 AM
 
Location: Western views of Mansfield/Camels Hump!
1,362 posts, read 1,945,203 times
Reputation: 608
Sheryl - thanks for the info.

Though I am also interested in an older home with a lot of character, I think we're going to have to research the costs of updated an older home vs. buying newer or even building...
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