Shoestring Theory

Currently documenting the house that is eating our lives, we will return to regularly scheduled programming in a couple of more months

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Massive Photo Dump! Day Two – This heating system is fully operational

February 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm by thetheorist

I never would have believed that one day, I would quite literally be jumping up and down with joy over a new furnace system. So this is what adulthood feels like.

The old furnace in our house was…inadequate. I suppose that’s a polite word to use for it. We have a friend who is a retired HVAC guy from Lawrence. He checked the unit out when we first got the house to make sure it was safe to use for a few months while we figured out our greater plan.

Upon walking into the place and seeing it, he exclaimed, “That was the finest heater money could buy…in 1969.”

He remembered installing these relics early in his career. This was the only heat in the house. No duct work, nothing. Just one wall furnace that radiated heat into a single room. The final nail in the coffin of this dinosaur is that it took up prime wall and floor space at the end of the living room. It had to go.

New Furnace System
Click pic to embiggen.

We did explore several options for how to handle heating and cooling. Patrick, and a few others, had suggested radiant floor heating. As attractive as this idea was, the cost and labor to retrofit a 108 year old house just wasn’t worth it. The cost really added up when you figured we would still need to run ductwork for a cooling system. So, alas, that idea was dropped. We also looked at just doing a furnace and leaving cooling for later. In the end, we settled on a high efficiency propane furnace with a heat pump that provides both heating and cooling. Given our location, we thought this was the best solution.

On a side note, heating and cooling businesses have to be hurting. Every single one we solicited for a bid had someone out within a day and all of them promised they could start within just a few days, some insisted they could start the next day. While the economy is hurting lots of folks, I think it helped us get a better deal on this job.

New Furnace System
Click pic to embiggen.

The new furnace is mounted in the cellar, freeing up that space the old one ate up. We had to run the ductwork through the ceiling instead of the crawl space though. Because of the odd additions to this house, there are two separate crawl spaces separated by a rather robust limestone wall. With no access between them (and quite narrow spaces in parts), the ceiling was the best option.

As an added bonus, having the furnace in the cellar will keep it above freezing. The previous owners had serious problems keeping their pipes from freezing in the dead of winter. With the heater there, and a small vent into the space, we should never have that problem. Nor will we need to run a space heater down there for a month straight, as they did.

Update: Baldy didn’t know what a heat pump was, and there are probably others who don’t know either. A heat pump is a unit that looks strikingly like an AC unit, but works differently. It moves heat from one place to another, so it can provide both heating and cooling. In the winter, it can pull heat from the air, and move it inside. It can work down to about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence the need for a traditional furnace also. But heat pumps are supposed to be considerably more efficient than traditional furnaces, so running them saves you money in the long run. One of my neighbors has one and claimed it cut his propane use down by well over half. In the summer, they move heat from the inside of the house, to the outside. This is an air source pump. There are also more expensive ground source pumps that are buried underground, allowing them to work at far colder temperatures. You find these the farther north you go. Hope that clears things up. End update.

The heat pump is mounted on the southeast corner of the house, the area most shielded from the wind that comes in off the river. It will also be around the corner from the front door and well away from where we will eventually have a deck. I’ve always hated the houses I lived in that had the AC units right next to where people might like to hang out due to the noise of them. I was really happy with the overall placement of both units.

New Furnace System
Click pic to embiggen.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Justabaldguy Feb 19, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Alright Courtney you lost me, did you do the heater and A/C or just the heater? In that bottom pic it looks like a typical A/C unit, but I thought you said you were doing the cooling later, so is that a “heat pump?” You’ll pardon a simple Texan (who only runs the heater for barely a month out of the year) for not knowing the difference! 😉

  • 2 thetheorist Feb 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Ha! Yeah, I should have explained it, I don’t think those units are super common in lots of parts of the country. I’ll update the post so anyone else who hasn’t encountered one before will understand it too. The update will be above the heat pump picture.