Alternative Heating Options for your Connecticut Home

By
Real Estate Broker with Fab Real Estate

I heat my home with oil - I have a hydro-air forced warm air heating system with three zones.
When I built my home three years ago, has I suspected the price of oil would more than double in three years, I might have considered different heating options. 

Back in 2005 when I built the home, I contracted for oil for about $2.05 per gallon. 
This past year, I've been paying $3.59 per gallon. 
Now, I'm hearing quotes of $4.70 - $5.19 per gallon.  Ouch. 

Just by conservation - and the fact that now all of our kids are in school during the day - we've reduced our oil consumption from 1,500 gallons per year to 1,100 gallons per year. 
Those 1,100 gallons, at $5.19 per gallon, will cost me $5,500.  That's just too much money.

So, we've been researching various options on how to heat our home. 

We looked into installing a new geothermal heating and cooling system.  I've seen these in action, and they work great. Simplistically, geothermal systems use ground water to heat and cool your home.  There's no oil, no gas...just the electricity need to run the geothermal pump.  The cost savings can be amazing. 
But, the installation costs are prohibitive:  To retrofit my home will cost $40,000 - $60,000.  Even with these high oil prices, that's not a great investment. Apparently, these systems are much more cost-effective if installed during the construction of the home.  Something to keep in mind for the future...

Of course, we also took this time to look into installing solar panels.  They may not provide my heat, but they could reduce my huge electricity bill.  But, again, the installation costs are prohibitive. 

We considered replacing our gas (propane) fireplace with one that might actually put out some heat.  But, our chimney would have to be modified to fit a new unit that would probably only heat one or two rooms.  While this would obviously be cheaper than a geothermal system or solar panels, it still wouldn't be enough of a return on our investment to make it worthwhile. 

So we moved on to wood stoves.  I like these.  Radiant heat drifting through my home.  The look and smell of a real fire blazing.  The sound of that fire crackling.  Years and years of free wood available on my own property.  Stove prices are fairly reasonable, with some great new modern design stoves, but installation will double the cost.  And, will I ever really cut and split that wood?  Will I ever carry those dead trees up the hill? 
Unfortunately, we know our lifestyle.  We'll end up buying pre-split cord wood and storing it in the side yard.  There go some savings.  And, realistically, when there is 2 feet of snow outside, am I going to go out to get some wood?  I guess I could send the kids...  I still do like this option, but there is a lot of work involved.  Do I have the time? That is a definite consideration.

Next we looked at pellet stoves.  I wasn't too keen on this idea at first.  So I spent some time (OK, a lot of time) visiting stores and researching online.  Most pellet stoves are not pretty. But, with a little searching, some nice looking units are available, and they seem to have great reliability reviews.  True, I will have to store pellets in my garage, and the price of pellets has gone up lately.  But it is still much more cost-effective than oil, and fairly comparable to buying cord wood instead of cutting my own.  I found a few stoves that should heat my entire main level, and probably keep the upstairs in the low- to mid-60's at the same time.  Not too shabby.  My oil heat can become the supplemental system, and what we may need to use at night. 


There is a great fuel cost comparison calculator that can aid in your decision as to whether your savings will be worthwhile.

I think we're going to go with the pellet stove.  Of course, they are scarce right now and not cheap.  But, I think I may earn my money back in 2-3 years.  If oil prices drop and it takes longer, at least I know that I'm no longer completely dependent on foreign oil.  And, I'll have an additional fireplace in my home. 

I will have two heat sources in my house - I will be able to choose which one is used as the primary heat source at any given time, based on current fuel costs. 

How cool is that?

 

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Topic:
Home Improvement
Location:
Connecticut
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homeowner hints
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Anonymous #21
Anonymous
Brian

Hello, I will be in Ct next week and can provide you with a correct bid for your home, turn key driller and HVAC installation with equipment. Send me an email with your contact info and I'll see you next week. Best  bmello@earthsource-energy.com

April 04, 2009 04:08 PM
Rainmaker
302,226
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate
Fab Real Estate

Sue - First off - where are you getting heating oil for $1.47 per gallon?  I'm paying $2.50 right now.

I'm not a geothermal contractor, so I don't know the breakdowns of cost.  However, your quotes seem much higher than I've seen, especially since you are installing the system at the time of construction.  Grading/re-seeding should not be an issue, as that will be done anyway by your building contractor after the home itself is complete.

I don't understand why your quotes for a new-construction home are higher than the rough-estimate quotes I received to retrofit my existing home.

Have you had any of the installers out to your new home to do a site inspection and then give an accurate estimate?  Perhaps the lay of your land is increasing the cost?  I don't know, but I would be interested to know if the estimate changes after they come out.

If you do a Google search for geothermal in Connecticut, you should find several contractors/installers.  Call around and have them out to give you a better quote.  If they go into a sales pitch, just tell them to stop - you don't need the pitch.

Let me know how it goes.

April 06, 2009 11:38 AM
Anonymous #23
Anonymous
Mandy

Actually the geothermal systems are very affordable when you consider the federal 30% tax rebate plus the local rebates. That doesn't even take into the account the huge saving in the cost of energy to heat or cool your home (the system does both). Now add up the cost of a geothermal system verses the cost of a wood pellet pot thing and a central AC unit. You are way ahead in the end with a geothermal system!

August 12, 2009 11:58 PM
Rainmaker
302,226
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate
Fab Real Estate

Mandy,

Even with the 30% tax rebates, along with the energy savings, most people still do not have $40,000 - $60,000 to lay out for the geothermal system.

August 13, 2009 08:01 AM
Anonymous #25
Anonymous
Joe

An inverter driven ductless heat pump can be installed for a few thousand dollars before rebates and tax credits and will provide very efficient heating (even in colder weather).  It's not quite as efficient as geothermal, but will cost tens of thousands of dollars less, and will by far have the best life cycle cost of any other alternative out there.  

 

 

December 21, 2009 08:01 AM
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Rainmaker
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Don Fabrizio-Garcia

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