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  1. pegdot

    pegdot New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2007
    Messages:
    415
    Loc:
    Upstate, SC
    Well, here I sit questioning my own sanity. Our old old furnace died over the weekend and after shopping around for a new one I'm seriously considering just not replacing it at all. The current ducts for the forced air system will likely need a major overhaul, if not downright total replacement, to accomodate a newer more efficent furnace so we're looking at something in the neighborhood of $6,000+ to replace the beast. OUCH! This, of course, will leave me in the same boat I've been in for years, dependent on oil for heat and with a house that is sorely in need of some insulation so, heres what I'm thinking....

    Instead of laying out that kind of cash for a new furnace I could buy another pellet stove, to assist the pellet insert that I haven't even installed yet, to heat our just under 2,000 sq. ft. home for the winter while I spend some of the left over cash on improving the insulation in the attic and possibly blowing some into the exterior walls.

    I'm looking at an Englander stove, rated to heat 2,200 sq. ft., and a vent kit that will run me about $1,800.00 total. That leaves me $4,200, out of the $6,000 I could spend on a new furnace, to do some upgrades to the house. Am I nuts? Help me decide!

    Pros:
    I'd be warm and end up with a much more energy efficient house.
    I could spread the cost out over several months.
    I wouldn't have to deal with HVAC contractors who all seem to be looking to hose me.
    I already have a gas generator so power outages wouldn't be a problem.
    I have plenty of room to store pellets.
    If in the future we didn't need/want the second stove in the house it could be moved to provide heat in my shop.
    I'd be off OPEC's hind teat.

    Cons:
    I'm a total newbie to pellet stoves.
    There is no service for pellet stoves in this area so I'm on my own for repairs/maintanence.
    There are limited pellet retailers in the area so I'd have to buy a years worth (3 to 4 tons?) at a time.
    I'd still need to look at some other source of heat, for the rare times that we'll be away for a few days, in the future. (I'm leaning towards electric baseboards since I can do the install myself.)
    I'd likely need to insulate the plumbing pipes.

    Opinions??? Have I gone off the deep end? Been hit upside the head with an idiot stick? etc.

    Thanks,
    Peggy

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  2. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    29,140
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    I made the same decision years ago. Quit using our heat pump for heating or cooling and went to the wood stove and a couple of window units on the back of the upstairs for cooling. Never gave a thought to dumping seven or eight grand on a new heat pump when I discovered a couple of years ago that it doesn't work anymore.

    Only problem is my wife can't feed the stove any more and being away. I put an oil filled heater in every room and said the heck with it.
  3. Kenny1

    Kenny1 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2006
    Messages:
    304
    Loc:
    Eastern ON
    Hi Pegdot

    Tough spot. In the end only you can make this decision.

    However, I think you have looked at most of the pros and cons. A big thing you mentioned was that you may have to repair the stove yourself. If you feel comfortable with that, then great.

    I agree with your idea of adding some other heat for back up (in case you want to go away for a while, or the stove breaks down and parts are three days out, or whatever). The baseboard may never be used, but better to have it.

    Good luck!
  4. buildingmaint

    buildingmaint Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2007
    Messages:
    459
    Loc:
    Oil City PA
    What is wrong with the old duct work ? Other then new stuff being insulated what could go wrong with galvanized pipe ? I think you could insulate the old duct work and buy a new 90% forced air furness for a lot less then $ 6000. 00 grand . I'm not in the business but I hear all the time about people needing new duct work when they buy a new furness. I have worked in the HVAC business in my past so I know a little about tin banging and have insulated miles of pipe before flex able insulated duct came around. Any pro's out there that know why you would need new duct work ? I guess it could be insulated with asbestos , and that would be bad .
  5. mkmh

    mkmh New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2007
    Messages:
    407
    Loc:
    Southern, Maine
    I went through this a while back and wound up replacing out old forced air oil burner with a Harmon P61. So far it is working out well, but I made no attempt to hook up to the old duct work. Basically I have the Harman heating the basement, and a St Croix heating the main floor, and 2 Rinnai propane unit to heat some remote spaces. Complicated system but I am happy with it.
    One consideration is that if there is any chance that you might sell your house in the next several years, this type of set-up may turn off some potential buyers. I have also heard that without a central heating system of some sort baks might not be willing to finance a new owner. I did not confirm this, but it might be worth looking into. Personally i'm not worried about it. If we had to sell we could always nstall a new furnace at that time.

    It is looking like (in a normal year) i'll be able to heat the whole house and heat the water with a little over 4 tons of pellets plus a little under 400 gallons of propane. Not too bad for a 40 year old home 2000+ square foot home in Maine.
  6. pegdot

    pegdot New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2007
    Messages:
    415
    Loc:
    Upstate, SC
    Thanks for the input guys! :coolsmile: I'm feeling a little better about my mental state this morning!

    The old duct work is pretty much a joke. No insulation and the cold air returns are seriously undersized. Plus, I've been doing some major remodeling, moving walls, and plan on doing at least one more major make over to the kitchen so there are a few ducts that need to be moved. This is coming from the HVAC contractors. As for me, I just think that the old ducts are bound to be flat out nasty. I probably don't want to know what they look like on the inside! Plus, none of the guys who came out looked at the chimney with it's old clay liner. I expect that if they had the estimates would have gone up. :gulp:

    I'm still looking for a furnace, a used one. If I can find one reasonably and install it myself I may do it but I'm not very hopeful of finding anything, that isn't ancient, that will hook up to the old ducts.

    Good point about financing but selling the house isn't an issue. Hubby says they'll have to carry him out in a box and I feel the same. This is home. It's paid for now & all the remodeling I've been doing is with the thought in mind that one day we'll likely be living here in wheelchairs so.....if at some point we are forced to sell it would likely be to a developer who's only after the land for a sub-division so, resale value on the house really isn't important.

    Working on the stoves doesn't scare me, I repair most everything else around here that needs fixing, but the lack of readily available info. on them is a little intimidating. Doing the repairs isn't a problem, it's diagnosing the problem that worries me. I can see myself throwing expensive parts at one while guessing at what the real issue is. I'd be relying on you guys here a lot! lol

    Bart, are you talking about oil filled radiators in every room? Does that do a decent job when no on is tending the stove?

    One concern I have about pellets is overheating the house. Seems like a lot of people have problems running their stoves on low and we are in a pretty mild climate. Sure, we get some nights in the 20's during the winter but our daytime highs usually rise to above freezing so even with a drafty old house I think running on low will be something I'll have to do a lot. Any thoughts/suggestions on stove sizing? I'm leaning towards Englander because I understand that they are DIY friendly. I could put a pellet furnace in the basement and use the exsisting ducts, with some modifications, so that's an option but I think tending a stove that's in the living area might be easier.

    Thanks,
    Peggy
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    29,140
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    The oil filled radiator heaters really have not gotten a hard test since we haven't been away since I bought them last year. They have been used to keep a couple of rooms warm and worked great.

    I think if I was in South "Ka Lina" I would be looking at something like the Englander with the monster hopper on it. It should haul the freight for the climate there just fine. In fact I am thinking about buying one myself to see how it does. At sixty I won't be able to hammer on trees for many more years.
  8. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2006
    Messages:
    781
    Loc:
    OH
    Unless you're looking at an A/C unit also, $6,000 seem like an awful lot. Another thought: buy a min efficiency furnace (80%) which you should easily be able to get for FAR LESS than $3,000 AND then also buy the new pellet stove you really want :) and install it yourself and use the remaining money to insulate your ducts and your attic. Then you've spent the same $6,000 or less yet have the best of both worlds: 1) you have TWO stoves to heat your house with, 2) you have supplemental heat if you ever need it and 3) if you ever sell your home, you can state that it has a recently installed forced hot air system.......

    Also, the 80% eff unit shouldn't hurt too much because you'll only be using it sparingly....kinda like one of those expensive emergency generators that run on NG......they cost an arm and a leg to run but when you need it you have it and you won't be using it that often........final thoughts: 1) see what it costs to go up to a true DC variable speed fan on the furnace.....the real savings (depends on NG or oil prices in your area) are in the fan technology because they consume FAR LESS energy than do conventional fans .........especially if you run it 24/7 to help distribute heat in your home and 2) I think you alluded to the fact that the chimney may need work but that only applies if you vent into the chimney...I don't think a pellet stove has to necessarily vent into a chimney (someone else chime in here) and if you buy a higher efficiency furnace (instead of the better fan) these furnaces vent out PVC pipe run out of the side of your house and not through the chimney....and if you ever need to use the chimney, you can install a ss liner with insulation
  9. GVA

    GVA Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    2,140
    Loc:
    Waxhaw, NC... Formerly North shore Mass
    And also if it is 80% and under you can use an aluminium liner in the clay flue (unless at one time an oil burner vented into that flue then stainless is required(no idea why).)
    I chose a direct vent out the side of my home.
    And most of my ductwork was replaced because it went back decades to the old gravity furnace in the basement which were in the center of the house.
    They were changed to returns and then new ducts were cut in to the floors under the windows (the way they should be) to help with the convection loop......
    Price went up but I saved on the liner... :coolsmirk:
  10. pegdot

    pegdot New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2007
    Messages:
    415
    Loc:
    Upstate, SC
    Yep, South Ka Lina. LOL I've got one of those radiators in the bath. I've been pleased with it so far.

    Ya'll got it in one! I made the mistake of letting these guys know that our furnace is dead so they think they have me by the short hairs, so to speak. Just flat out trying to rip me off! No AC included in any of the prices and after doing a little research none of the furnaces they are trying to sell me is really super effcient so I think the whole duct work needs replacing thing is a load of horse hockey as well. I can buy the same furnaces, off the internet, for under or around @2,000. There's only 7 vents and 2 returns, all in hardwood floors, so we're not talking about a terribly large or difficult duct system. And the furnace goes in a portion of the basement that is easily accessible and tall enough to stand in so there's no excuse, as far as I can see, for the ridiculous labor charge.

    I'm still shopping for a furnace and I may buy one but if I do I'll have to install it myself. Replacing the ducts can wait until spring I think. Not terribly excited with the prospect of this as a DIY project but...you've gotta do what you've gotta do. :mad: The old furnace was hooked to the chimney with the clay liner. It looks to be in fine shape to me...clean and no visible cracks... so I wouldn't hesitate to hook the new one to it. I think a liner would be overkill but I might do it anyway.

    Not going to get in a hurry on the furnace though. Getting the insert installed and shopping for a second stove takes priority. Called venting pipe yesterday to see when my chimeny liner will arrive and they said TWO WEEKS! :bug: This old wood insert is about to run me to death, we only had about a weeks worth of wood stockpiled, so waiting 2 more weeks to switch to pellets is not a pleasant prospect. I think I've located a place, about an hour away, that actually has pellet pipe in stock so I'm off this moring to see if I can scrounge up all the necessary parts to do the install that way rather than with the flexible liner. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!

    Peggy
  11. GVA

    GVA Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    2,140
    Loc:
    Waxhaw, NC... Formerly North shore Mass
    I believe the liner is required for NG now..... your old furnace was grandfathered....
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