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Pellet boiler or heat pump?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Flem, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. Flem

    Flem Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2009
    Messages:
    131
    Loc:
    Western MD
    Men,
    Can you talk to me about the pros and cons of a pellet boiler vs. a heat pump? Right now I am using an oil-fired boiler with hot water basement. Love the comfort of hot water. Not real fond of the maintenance and labor of pellets. Considering a high efficiency heat pump system or a pellet boiler (likely a Harman PB105 for a good price of $5,500) in order to get away from oil. I have a well-insulated 2,000 square foot 2 story house. Thanks for any thoughts or advice you have!

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  2. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Nova Scotia
    A pellet boiler can't do Air Conditioning.
    flyingcow likes this.
  3. Flem

    Flem Member

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    Loc:
    Western MD
    Um... yeah I know. We would replace our AC unit if we went with a heat pump.
  4. BadgerBoilerMN

    BadgerBoilerMN New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
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    Loc:
    Minneapolis
    When designing HVAC systems around the country we look to the cost of fuel, both money and manpower, and try to fit comfort in first.

    What type of radiation do you have?
  5. EcoHeat

    EcoHeat Member

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    Dec 2, 2008
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    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    Heat pump efficiency is highest when the output temperature is close to the input temperature. If you're considering an air-source heat pump, its efficiency is therefore best when outside temperatures are mild. As the outside temperature drops, the efficiency drops as well. If you live in an area where temperatures drop below 30°F, you would probably do well to have a secondary heat source to take over for the heat pump.

    Another factor in considering a heat pump is the cost of electricity. Here in the Northeast US, our electricity costs are higher than the national average. So case studies provided by the heat pump manufacturer should be checked to see if the electricity costs used are realistic. I don't know how much your electricity costs in Western Maryland compare, but it's probably a little less than what we pay here.

    A pellet boiler has the advantage of being suitable for all heating, from Fall right through Spring including those coldest days in between. Pellets are also less costly than electricity, so you'd save more money with a pellet boiler.

    If you're looking at pellet boilers, please look around as there are quality options available that would be a good fit for your home.
  6. iceguy4

    iceguy4 Minister of Fire

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    Upstate, NY
    the PB 105 is a GOOD choice...just my un-biased opinion:rolleyes:
  7. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Falmouth, Michigan
    The suitability of pellets or heat pump will depend a lot on the local cost of each fuel. $.?? per KW or $$/ton of pellets.
    Couple things to remember as you cipher this out............
    My experience has been that heat pump performance is dependent on good regular maintenance/cleaning and it absolutely will degrade over time just as a matter of course.
    Pellet boilers also require maintenance but some makes are far less than others. (see Windhager BioWin for example)

    Go to the DOE energy information website and look for an Excel spreadsheet they have there that allows you to put in local costs for the fuel of choice, factor in actual efficiency and come up with actual $$ per delivered BTU. Around here a pellet boiler is very competitive with even a ground source HP and beats an air to air noticeably.
  8. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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  9. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    My climate is prob pretty close to yours, and I have a low eff heat pump (HSPF=8.5), $0.15/kWh elec, and my average cost per BTU is well below pellet prices (which are hard to get delivered south of NYC in my experience).

    The HP has been in 5 years and the maintenance has been ZERO, other than changing the filters myself. I monitor output temps from time to time when it is a reference temp outside (32°F) and there has been no change during that period. IF you didn't clean the pellet combustion chamber for 5 heating seasons, do you think it would still be working?

    To price it out, figure your average HP efficiency (over a season) is the rated (HSPF/3.414)*100%. Mine is ~250%, and a good mini should be 300-350%. Then calculate relative price per BTU for the HP and pellets.

    FYI, my low eff system is 4 tons, nominally 48kBTU/h and carries my well insulated 2200 sqft house down to ~23°F, below that I have resistance backup help a littel. The HP provides >90% of BTUs/season. A small mini will take a big bite out of your heating bill, but you will still need the oil backup, probably during v cold weather.
  10. EcoHeat

    EcoHeat Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2008
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    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    Well, most people like selection. Pellet boilers come in various sizes, designs, material constructions, features, capabilities and support. Some also come with various pellet storage options, auger options, and so on.
  11. katman

    katman Member

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    Loc:
    annapolis md
    My heat pumps in annapolis are seer14. I'd be using my oil boiler from Thansgiving to late March/April to keep the wife happy if I didn't have the pb105.

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