Alternative Heat Source Central NH

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Emmie

New Member
Jan 22, 2021
14
Central NH
Our hot water boiler must be replaced and I would prefer to replace it with an alternative energy source - such as a heat pump. However, it is my understanding that they consume an enormous amount of electricity during our cold central NH winters and Public Service is about to double our rates. We do have a Harmon P61A pellet stove that has been our main heat source, but as we are seniors, I'm not sure how much longer we will be able or want to perform the maintneance. Our home was built in 1988 and it isn't open concept so we have a DR, LR, BR, kitchen on the 1st floor and an unfinished upstairs which we may soon be finishing - total appx. 1600 sf. Although we have sufficient retirement income, it it is not taxable and therefore tax credits wouldn't work for us. I would appreciate any insight. TIA!
 

EatenByLimestone

Super Moderator
Staff member
Using "An enormous amount of electricity" is pretty subjective since my idea of enormous is different than yours.

There are 138,500btu in a gallon of heating oil. This is 7.22 gallons. What is your cost per gallon?

For electric resistance heating, like a traditional water heater, 1000000 btu is 293071 kwh. What is your cost per kwh?

Now heat pumps move heat rather than generate it. So the temperature of the source and the temperature of the destination matter. But the Department of energy says this is the range of their efficiency, pick a middle of the road or lower end effiency number for your calculations.

"Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. Therefore, they can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters. To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse.
https://www.energy.gov › energysaver
Heat Pump Water Heaters | Department of Energy"

When comparing stuff, try to compare the same amount of energy so you are comparing like objects.
 

EatenByLimestone

Super Moderator
Staff member
oh, I just re read your post. Its not the water heater that's going bad, it's the home boiler... which heats water in pipes. Sorry. You can use tge same calculations to compare fuels though. I'll add that adding insulation and weatherizing is likely to have the greatest affect on comfort and bang for the buck vs changing your heating source.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,696
Northern NH
The best investment is energy efficiency. My house is in Northern NH (Berlin Gorham area) and was built in 1988. A lot has changed with respect to energy efficiency in 34 years. NH did not have a model energy building code and builders tended to cut a lot of corners on the energy side to make a place look good as most folks didnt pay attention to energy costs. Even when NH put in model energy codes, there is no statewide enforcement and many smaller towns ignore it. If you have not done so get a home energy audit from Eversource (Public Service of NH) its the best $100 you can spend as they will give you list of energy reduction improvements to your home and they will pay for half the improvements up to $6,000. There is also going to be new federal dollars for home energy improvements. The upgrades are ranked by payback so they do the lowest hanging fruit first. Its likely they can drop you heat load by 20% or more. Typically, they seal lot of air leaks all over the house to begin with and usually spend a lot of time in the basement sealing the sills.

Homes tended to be built with way too much glass in the eighties as glass sold homes. A major improvement in home comfort is to put in cellular blinds with side tracks. https://symphonyshades.com/22-side-tracks. The ones with side tracks can double the R value of a typical double pane window. More importantly they really cut down on drafts and radiant heat loss at night. I bought mine from the company I linked to as they are in VT. They are not cheap so the financial payback is long but the comfort improvement of being able to sit next to window on a cold night without a cold draft and the heat being sucked out of you is worth it. I do recommend the heavy corded loop option as its more durable. Alternatively for far less money folks buy sheets of iso board foil faced foam, cut it tight to fit the window opening and cover with fabric from Walmart. It works but its likely they get installed once in the fall and left all winter, plus you need a place to store them in the summer. Be careful on the side tracks, many places sell cellular blinds but far fewer sell the side tracks, there is big difference in performance, withouh side tracks the cold air tends to leak around the sides.

Now that you have reduced your heating load I guess I need to answer your original question. Sad to say there are no great options and they all will cost money to implement. Global warming concerns are coming to a head, contrary to what a politician will tell you, fossil energy costs are going to trend up but its going to be a roller coaster ride getting there and this winter is the perfect storm with the Ukraine war driving fossil prices sky high. As much as this winter could be super high prices, many big energy companies are betting that in a couple of year the prices could drop big time which is why they are not drilling.

One option to consider to get off the roller coaster is if there is bulk pneumatic pellet delivery in your area https://pellergy.com/bulk-wood-pellet-delivery/. If you have the space, you can install a pellet boiler and bulk pellet storage tank. A truck similar to a heating oil tanker stops by every month or so in the winter (depends on heat load and storage capacity and blows pellets into your tank). Its probably a 15 to 20K install. NH used to have a good rebate for these installations paid for by Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (Called REGGI) money, but the legislature cut funding the residential program. Until the legislature swings back to the democrat I dont expect the incentive to be renewed.

Be careful of lumping heat pumps together as a generic class, there are two distinct type of heat pumps. The old style air source while house heat pumps with ducts tended to be energy hogs as they werent designed for efficiency. Many switched to electric resistance heat when it went below freezing. Thus not a great option. There is new "cold climate mini split" technology that works well for moderate temps down to around 10 to 20 F, yes they will go down to lower temps, possibly -12 F but the efficiency drops down to electric heat and the heat produced is not great (lots of slightly warm air being blown around). Still 20 degrees and above they are potentially twice to 4 times more efficient for heating and also a lot more efficient for cooling as there are no ducts. Mini splits are space heaters, like a pellet stove they heat and cool the space they are in. Ducts leak and frequently run through unconditioned spaces so a lot of the heating and cooling get lost on the way to a room. What most people do is pick one room to heat in the winter with mini split and then keep the rest of the house at a lower temp. Odds are you will have occasional cold snaps in your area for below 20 F so you need some sort of backup but 95% of the year its hassle free heat.

A possible backup that has been forgotten about is a vented "kerosene" heater. https://toyotomiusa.com/product-category/company/vented-heaters/ Contrary to name the new designs can be run off of low sulfur heating oil or diesel in pinch(the old ones needed to run on Kerosene). They are a space heater like a pellet stove but can be run off a bulk fuel oil tank so home deliveries can be arranged. They need yearly service like an oil furnace. There are dealers in NH, use this link to look one up https://toyotomiusa.com/sales-service/ Many folks use them with minisplits as primary heating sources but for homes with basements they may need some sort of supplemental heat to keep pipes from freezing (less likely if the energy audit was done. There are similar propane units but unless you a have huge propane tank installed, heating oil storage takes up a lot less space than an equivalent btu content of propane. I think that is important in NH as propane deliveries can sometimes be an issue in cold weather in NH.

I used to be a big advocate of net metered solar with minisplit heat pumps but the state has watered down the net metering program for new installations to the point where I would need to look closely at the numbers as they are a far less attractive. REGGI used to fund an incentive for solar installations but thank the current legislature for not funding it.

If your time window is 10 years or longer in the house IMHO the pellet boiler may be the best option but you need to look at if there is going to be reliable pellet delivery. The Berlin/Gorham area gets supplied by a big distibutor in Bethel Maine but unsure what options are in your area.
 
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EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,578
SE North Carolina
I’m going to second the pellet boiler, but the reality is it may not be installed By winter. It’s probably worth keeping all options open to get you through this winter. Don’t wait. Biggest decision is to keep the oil boiler or not. I don’t see abandoning your hot water heat as a realistic option.

A mini split can help reduce oil consumption. Relatively cheap to install. It not a replacement for your boiler.

Wintering for the coming winter and replacing the oiler boiler may be your best bet. A heatpump water heater might be worth looking into. (A regular electric water heater might buy you time to get exactly what you want installed. ) But I have not run the numbers with current prices. You have a pellet stove so you know the pellet game. Finding someone to to do the regular maintenance could be an option.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,785
SE PA
While I am a Heat Pump fan, I agree with @peakbagger. Your 'central NH' location makes that tough... a mini-split might be the best option if you want to go that route. If slinging pellets is the hard part (physically), a mini-split or two could probably cover the shoulder seasons and help a lot even in the dead of winter, to reduce your pellet usage by more than 50%, while still being affordable to run.

In addition to the previous advice about weatherization, I would suggest an energy audit and 'air-sealing' by a professional outfit. Most older homes were intentionally built with large hidden air leaks in the basement, attic and framing that bleed huge amounts of heat and bypass insulation that was often added later (making it almost useless). A skilled pro can get into and seal these openings for a small amount of money. My 1960 well-insulated house saw a roughly 40% reduction in heating requirements just from airsealing. The determination of how leaky you are can be done with a fast and cheap 'blower door' test. Most outfits will also estimate energy savings, and financial payback times on the work in advance... and these are often in the 2-3 year timeframe or less.

If you can cut your heating demand 40% just with airsealing, that will make the heat from a mini-split (or your pellets) go a lot farther.

For more specific advice, post your house style and build year, your zip code, and how much oil and pellets you use in a typical year, if you know.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,696
Northern NH
I agree its getting late for pellet boiler install. A cold start System 2000 oil boiler will cut your year round heating costs by 10 to 15% as there are minimal standby losses in summer but money spent on a new oil boielr that could be spent on a pellet boiler.
 
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NH recently opened up the $10,000 grant for fully automatic pellet boiler installs again.
Limited amount of $170,000 or so is available.