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Thread: HVAC replacement options

  1. #1
    LHBA Member dustinfife's Avatar
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    May 2016
    Mullica Hill, NJ

    HVAC replacement options

    It's about time we get a post in this thread again!

    So, here's the situation. My existing furnace in my home is 40 years old and the blower fan is going out. We just got gas lines run to my country property neighborhood. So, I'm at a decision do I want to heat my home. I'm one of them homesteading types that has issues with paying "the man" to heat my house for me, so I'm looking to be as self-sufficient as possible. Also, I am saving for a cabin so I don't want to spend a whole lot of money making this work. It seems I have five options:

    1. Replace the oil system with a natural gas system. This will run me about 10k.
    advantages: easy to hire it out, it will be done quick, it will be cheaper (in monthly expenses) than what I'm doing now, easier to sell the house in the future (I live in NJ with high property taxes and little yeah, I do plan on moving sometime in the next 20 years)
    disadvantages: very expensive initial costs that I won't recoup until long after I've moved out of the house (e.g., if I save $50/month, it would take me about 17 years to recoup the cost of the 10K, all things being equal).

    2. Replace the oil system with an efficient oil system. This will run me about 6k.
    advantages: easy to hire it out, it will be done quick, it will be cheaper (in monthly expenses) than what I'm doing now (though not as cheap as natural gas)
    disadvantages: I am still on oil heat (and oil prices fluctuate wildly and are more expensive than natural gas), harder to sell the house, I have to call in to have my oil delivered, bad for the environment

    3. Replace the blower fan only and keep using my existing furnace
    advantages: the cheapest option ($500 rather than thousands), may fix my high electric bills
    disadvantages: may have our furnace crap out on us in the near future anyway (in which case the $500 is wasted), monthly heating bill doesn't change, still have to have oil delivered, bad for resale

    4. DIY radiant floor heating
    A bit of explanation on this one. I have a finished basement with two additional floors. To make this happen, I would have to tear out drywall on two floors and remove carpet in the basement. I don't have the time to remove the drywall, install the lines, replace the drywall, mud the drywall, and paint it, so I'd probably have to hire a large chunk of this out
    advantages: I may be able to heat my house for free (if I can pipe in heat from a woodstove to my water heater), probably cheaper than replacing with new oil or gas furnace? (depending on the cost of a drywaller/replacing the basement floor), it's radiant heat (and thus more efficient), better for the environment, no need to replace the HVAC system (it can serve as a backup)
    disadvantages: massive undertaking, I'm not 100% confident I can do it, I have 4 kids and a wife who would have to tolerate the mess for an unknown amount of time

    5. Woodstove
    Some explanation here as well: I live on 4 wooded acres, so I have plenty of wood (and I enjoy chopping, so that's not an issue).
    advantages: probably will be cheaper than #1 and maybe cheaper than #2, I have free heat for life (though probably not enough to heat all three stories, unless I pipe the heat in to the central air somehow), radiant heat feels nice
    disadvantages: may not be able to heat the entire house (unless I capture the heat somehow through some sort of heat exchanger), if furnace does crap out I will have to replace it with something anyway (not allowed to only heat with wood), expensive (about $6k last I checked, unless I DIY'd a lot of it)

    I could also mix and match (e.g., #4 and #5, or #5 and #3).

    Any thoughts on what I might not have considered?

  2. #2
    LHBA Member loghousenut's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    Grants Pass, Oregon.
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    If it was my place I'd have that woodstove in there in a heartbeat and then worry about those downtown options. I have never bought a new woodstove and have never hired an installation so, in my mind, I think of wood heat as being almost as cheap as I am... and anyone who knows me will tell you that cheap is good.

    PS... Once the woodstove was in, I'd most likely never have another thought about those other options, but that's just me in a nutshell.
    Every time I have strayed from the teachings of Skip Ellsworth it has cost me money.

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  3. #3
    LHBA Member rreidnauer's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Allegheny highlands
    You state "furnace," so I'm assuming that you have a forced hot air system. With or without AC?

    If resale is in your plans, then I would pass on the boiler/radiant. Same with wood. Both because of lack of central AC capability. (well, you could have the existing ductwork set up for dedicated AC, if going with those options) Woodstove alone is usually not a good resale tactic, and often not allowed as a primary heating source.

    So, back to oil or gas forced hot air. If you are staying for the next 10 years, I say take the chance and replace the blower. When you're about to sell, THEN replace the furnace. A brand new furnace listed on the sale, will payback much better than a ten year old furnace. Gas vs oil, the gas is going to be a better seller. Higher efficiency, no oil tank, no deliveries to worry about, stable fuel cost. Can't the added cost be recouped in the sale price of the house?

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  4. #4
    LHBA Member dustinfife's Avatar
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    May 2016
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    I didn't think about that, Rod (higher resale when I replace closer to sale time). Good point.

    If I go with a woodstove, I wouldn't replace the current HVAC system. It would still be there, just as a backup. And since that's still there, the AC will still run like normal.

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