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01-24-2012, 10:07 AM #1
? about heat pump or electric baseboard
We live in PA, in a ranch home that was built in the 60's. Help me decide. We used to use oil to heat our house and then got a pellet stove put in a few years ago, we used the oil for hot water and backup heat (hot water baseboard) in case the pellet stove wasn't working. Fast forward to this past fall. Oil tank started showing signs that it should be replaced, service guy recommended that we replace it so we wouldn't have a mess in the basement. Cost to replace the oil tank was approx 1,500. Boiler is over 35 years old, not sure how many more years we would realistically get out of it. With the price of oil we decided not to replace the oil tank and to totally get off oil. We installed an electric hot water heater.
We need a secondary heat source in the house, natural gas is unfortunately not an option and we don't want to rip out the hot water baseboards that we have in the house. We can only think of 2 options. Install electric baseboard heaters on walls that currently don't have the hot water baseboards or update our central air and install a heat pump. Although we are not planning on moving anytime soon we are thinking of resale value if we did need to sell it.
We are leaning towards the heat pump but we are a bit worried that it would not heat the house sufficiently by itself. Does anyone here live in a similar climate to me in PA and heat an older home with a heat pump? Our duct work runs in the attic therefore our vents are on the ceiling.
Any comments/suggestions would be appreciated.
01-24-2012, 10:51 AM #2
- Rep Power
We live in northern Minnesota and installed an air-source heat pump about five years ago. It's been one of the best home upgrades we've ever done. Shortly after we installed it, propane prices went through the roof. We've already saved enough money to more than pay for the heat pump. At the time, we did not have central air and were looking to install it. The debate here was whether or not it was worth spending twice as much to get the heat pump. It would have been stupid for us not to get it, and I'm glad we didn't make the mistake of just getting AC since we had no AC at the time, so had to buy something. It would have been different if we had already had something.
Our heat pump only runs when the temp is above 25 degrees. If it's colder than that, our forced air furnace automatically switches over to burn propane. We're using the furnace that came with our house about fifteen years ago and was originally just a propane burner. The heat pump came with a control panel that converted the furnace to dual fuel.
Our electric company installed a separate meter just for the heat pump, and gives us off-peak rates, which saves a lot of money. Part of the agreement is they can cycle our AC on and off during peak times. We don't know if they've ever done that, because we've never noticed anything out of the ordinary even when it's hot out. I think they would only shut it off for fifteen minutes at a time.
We have low electric rates here, so it's a big savings for us whenever the heat pump is running. If your rates are higher, the situation may be different.
Before we bought our heat pump, I had a very, very long talk with someone at our electric company who does nothing all day long but handle customer inquiries about the best way to get the most of every power dollar spent. He helped me decide between the air source heat pump and a ground source version. The cost of the ground source heat pump here would have been so high it wouldn't have paid for itself in our lifetimes, even at current propane rates. However, it's more efficient than the air source heat pump. You may want to check on that in your area. Here, the issue is the Canadian shield we're sitting on because it's so expensive to excavate the enormous rocks to clear the area for a ground source heat pump. It may be a lot cheaper where you live if it's easier to dig. At any rate, I'd suggest calling your power company. They will also be able to tell you about any available rebates.
You did not mention propane as an option for you. Is it not available there? You may want to look into that too. We have a 500-gallon tank to supply our furnace. We could choose for them to keep the tank full but usually we watch the level and then call them to fill it. We have a contract that guarantees we will not have to pay above a certain price. Our propane company also services our furnaces as needed, for a fee of course.
Good luck. It's a big decision with lots of money involved, but in the long run IMO it's the only way to go.
01-24-2012, 11:32 AM #3
The ground source heat pump is very expensive, so it would not be cost effective here. We pay close to 12 cents per kwh for electricity. I was told that the electric strips would take over when it gets below a certain temperature to maintain the heat. Propane is an option here, however my sister uses it to heat her house and paid around $4 a gallon.
I hate making big decisions, they just stress me out, lol
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01-24-2012, 12:23 PM #4
- Rep Power
Your propane is much higher than ours then. I think our propane contract right now is around $3/gallon, but it might be lower than that. I can't remember for sure.
Is the rate you quoted for electricity an off-peak rate? I think ours is four cents/kwh for the heat pump, higher for the rest of the house.
I'm not sure what you mean by heat strips. Maybe you're looking at a different system than we have. Are you talking about an electric forced air furnace? Electric baseboard heat? If it's a furnace then I would think the elements in the furnace would kick in when it's below 25 degrees. With our setup, there aren't any heat strips. Either the heat pump is running, or the propane burner kicks in.
I know what you mean about big decisions. It's hard sometimes to know what to do.
01-24-2012, 12:39 PM #5
I'm gonna call up the electric company when I get a chance and ask them about off peak rates, I'm not sure if they offer anything like that. The guy we had over told us the unit we have outside would be replaced with a new one and that he will have to install something in the attic which will kick on and heat the strips when it drops below a certain temperature. Wow I'm not even sure if that would be considered a furnace. I guess I gotta do some more research on this.
01-24-2012, 01:27 PM #6
- Rep Power
I can see your setup is a lot different than ours. Ours is just a standard forced air furnace attached to ductwork under the floor, so it was easy to tie the heat pump into the existing system.
If your power company is like ours, they'll be your best bet for info. They want people to conserve energy and will have the best and latest info about how to do that.
Our heat pump is made by Bryant, if that's any help to you.
Check for state rebates, rebates through your power company, tax breaks and rebates from the federal government, and also rebates from the company that sells the heat pump. It's surprising what's out there at times for rebate money. When we got ours, the state rebate fund had just run out of money (darn!) and the power company didn't have any incentives although they often do, but we did get a nice fat one from Bryant.
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