Choosing Central Heating

June 10, 2010


I’d mentioned that we were getting rid of our forced air furnace. I hate forced air, always have. All it does is blow around dusty, moldy air. In an old house, it’s terrible. We were always coughing and getting sick. We finally tore out a 60-year old WOODEN duct a few weeks ago… and the inside was caked with almost an inch of disgusting dirt and dust. To think that we’d been breathing all that in, all these years.

I pondered going with hydronic baseboard heat (the best there is, in my opinion). But the system is wildly, wildly expensive; to retrofit it into my home would cost the tens of thousands. After some thought, the only kinds of heat we can go with are electric baseboard and wall-mounted gas heater units. I’m going to go with both. Electric baseboards are going upstairs. The forced-air furnace was so bad that it hardly pumped ANY heat at all for us– we had to use electric space heaters in the bedrooms, even with the forced-air furnace running. Ridiculous! But because electric heaters are so expensive, I really can’t install them throughout the house. So we’re going with natural gas wall-mounted heaters. I’ve seen the vent-free models in action, and they do a good job keeping the houses warm, it seems. However, I’m not going with the vent-free models. They pump a ton of moisture into the air, which can lead to mold, rot, and respiratory problems. The direct-vent models are installed on exterior walls (or chimneys), and get their intake and outake air from outside air.

The direct-vent heaters are still pretty expensive– $400 a unit for the very basic 8,000 BTUs (which supplies a 200 square foot room). I’ll need three of them, one for the living room, one for the kitchen, and one for the dining room. This will enable us to have zones all throughout the house, where we can control the heat for each individual room. And since they are gas-fueled, they will save us a little. The really nice thing about them is that they do not require electricity to run, so if there is a power outage, we will still have heat.

Of course, this change in the heating system alters my home. My basement will no longer be heated (the forced air furnace ducts leaked like crazy into the basement, creating a rather balmy atmosphere down there). So I’ll need to insulate the basement ceiling to keep my first floor floors warm. But at least we won’t be breathing in decades-old mold and dust….

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