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Western North Carolina The Mountain Region including Asheville
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Old 01-14-2011, 02:20 PM
 
Location: Sylva, NC
267 posts, read 464,895 times
Reputation: 205

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Ok, so I'm a FL heater noob, now living in Sylva. Last year, didn't seem to be much of a problem (we got here beginning of Feb), but we had our highest electric bill yet last month. Guessing this month will be pretty bad too.

Anyway, in FL, it was just the basic central heat and a/c. But here, we have what I was told was a heat pump. Some funky tech I've read about but kind of glazed over after a couple of paragraphs (having 3 young boys out of school so much this year has sucked a good 30% of my IQ for good). The thermostat is not digital, and other than the normal "heat/cool" button, and the fan setting (on/auto) there is another button, with two lights (ok, how many people are calling me a Floridiot at this point....). One is a blue light that seems to light up when the heater seems to be struggling and says "Aux Heat", and a red light that says, "Emergency Heat", which only comes on if you move the switch to the left. On this setting, the heater runs much less often, and blows out much warmer.

Also, we have a 1' x 2' wall unit, electrical heat, in the living room, and baseboard units in the master bedroom, and in the dining room.

So I'm wondering....this time of year when it's cold out, what is the most efficient use of all this stuff. The master bedroom, which is furthest from the unit, is always colder than the rest of the house, so we've kind of been compensating by running the central higher than it probably needs to be at night. How efficient are those baseboard units?

Thanks for any help. For a smallish 1k square foot house (including the loft), I was pretty shocked at the bill last month. A good 70 dollars more than the highest last year. Just want to make sure I'm doing things correctly.
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Old 01-14-2011, 03:45 PM
 
Location: Weaverville
765 posts, read 1,511,690 times
Reputation: 372
Heat pumps are only efficient by themselves down to about 35-40 degrees. Once it gets into that range they switch to AUX heat. AUX heat refers to an electric "furnace" which is a big heating coil. This is used to help the heat pump out or it may be the sole source of heat below a certain set temp that the manufacturer uses. Emergency heat means that the electric furnace is on full blast and the heat pump is off. At any rate, once that electric furnace kicks in you can go out to the electric meter and watch it spin like crazy. Now, the electric furnace is really no different than the electric heater and baseboard units--they all are using electric resistance to create heat.

In most cases you might as well let the heat pump and AUX heat do their thing and only use the others as backup and supplemental heat. If a room is cold stay out of it and maximize use of the family room and kitchen. Keep temps down to about 68 degrees during the day and turn the thermostat down to 65 at night. Wear sweaters and layer clothes. You may want to consider putting in a gas heater with a propane source to supplement the electric heat pump at low temps. We have gas fire logs in the family room and a vented gas heater in our Carolina room that run off natural gas. If you have a natural gas line to your house it is a lot cheaper than propane and also a lot cheaper than electric and a gas heater is a good option. Anything though is cheaper than electric heat (except for the heat pump above 35 degrees).

A lot of folks around here use kerosene heaters but they are very dangerous for use inside a house. I have one in my garage/workshop and it does a good job but during startup and shutdown you still get that kerosene odor and they do put out carbon monoxide and other pollutants. You could also look into pellet stoves. They burn compressed wood pellets and are pretty efficient. If you have a chimney its an option. Be safe and stay warm
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Old 01-14-2011, 09:57 PM
 
Location: Somewhere.
1,410 posts, read 1,728,217 times
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And on another suggestion, you could look into weatherizing your home as much as possible. Check to make sure there is enough insulation, look for cracks around the windows and chalk them if needed, add weather stripping to doors, if you have money, maybe even replacing the windows, etc.
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Old 01-14-2011, 10:31 PM
 
1,376 posts, read 2,036,673 times
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no idea, when it comes to heat pump (our home will be on natural gas, so I am glad, cofga described this as a good solution ...) - but I can relate to having the kids home from school and some brain damage ... well ... efficiency problems ....

have you ever considered a wood stove ? I think, that's a great, efficient, eco-friendly and budget friendly improvement, when it comes to heating the house. and has a great 'back to the roots' feeling, too

here is an example: Osburn 900 Series High Efficiency EPA Wood Stove Wood Burning

the good thing: there's wood everywhere

will see how, the winter 2011/2012 will turn out - both this and the last winter were 'unusual', as locals say, but may become 'usual' now
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Old 01-15-2011, 08:20 AM
 
Location: Sylva, NC
267 posts, read 464,895 times
Reputation: 205
Well, right now we're only renting and can't make any real improvements/changes to the house. I can however check the weather stripping around the doors and caulking around the windows. All the windows are efficient double hung windows, so I'm ok on that front.

However, your posts also provided good information to consider when we decide to buy. Bit of a learning curve, but we're loving it!

Thanks everyone!
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Old 01-15-2011, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Western NC
5,799 posts, read 5,716,289 times
Reputation: 3905
In most new housing built by the better reputable builders, they put in a natural gas/forced warm air system, maybe 2 zones if needed. My home has a Carrier Weathermaker, 2 stage system installed in 2004. Awesome and inexpensive. About $530 a year to heat 1600 sq. ft. on one level at an average of 68-70 degrees.
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Old 01-15-2011, 10:34 AM
 
Location: Weaverville
765 posts, read 1,511,690 times
Reputation: 372
Another option is a hybrid system like we put in this spring. It has a high efficiency heat pump and a 95% efficient gas furnace instead of the electric furnace. The heat pump cools in summer and in winter it operates down to 35 degrees. At 35 degrees the gas furnace kicks in and you can really feel the difference. The initial cost is higher than the conventional systems but because you use the heat pump in its most efficient range and the gas furnace when it is most efficient it saves as much as 30% in the long run. We also did a 2 zone installation--one for the upstairs and one for the basement. We keep the upstairs at 68/65 day/night and the basement stays at 60 unless we're going to be doing something down there. However there usually is enough heat transfer from upstairs that the heat in the basement rarely comes on.

We have gas logs in the fireplace that got a lot of use last winter but we've hardly used them this year--the gas furnace really keeps it warm in the house now. When we bought the house the Carolina room was unheated but we renovated it over the summer and added a small wall hung, vented gas heater. Having natural gas is a great option to look for in a house since it is much cheaper than electrical resistance heating and less than heating oil or propane. And once the temps drop below about 35 degrees it is even more efficient than a heat pump. The only problem is you have to have a pipeline running through your neighborhood so that rules out gas in outlying areas.
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Old 01-15-2011, 05:41 PM
 
Location: Mtns of Waynesville,NC & Nokomis, FL
2,557 posts, read 3,300,616 times
Reputation: 2766
Quote:
Originally Posted by QuilterChick View Post
In most new housing built by the better reputable builders, they put in a natural gas/forced warm air system, maybe 2 zones if needed. ...
Maybe in the 'burbs; there are many areas of western NC that have no access to nat gas. Our 'reputable builder' here in the mtns, pointed out that an oil fired boiler would not work well at 5,000 ft, nor would a heat pump.

Hendersonville is a very different world from life above 4,000 ft elevation...
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Old 01-15-2011, 05:52 PM
 
Location: Western NC
5,799 posts, read 5,716,289 times
Reputation: 3905
We had the same heating system in a brand new house, run with propane, out on 5 acres in the county. That was a selling point when I bought my present home.

Propane may cost a bit more than natural gas, that's all. The majority of homes in the counties have propane heating.
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Old 01-15-2011, 05:57 PM
 
1,376 posts, read 2,036,673 times
Reputation: 697
Quote:
Originally Posted by QuilterChick View Post
In most new housing built by the better reputable builders, they put in a natural gas/forced warm air system, maybe 2 zones if needed. My home has a Carrier Weathermaker, 2 stage system installed in 2004. Awesome and inexpensive. About $530 a year to heat 1600 sq. ft. on one level at an average of 68-70 degrees.
wow, that's great. Good for you !!
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