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Heating & Cooling options - no Natural Gas Available

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  1. #1
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    Default Heating & Cooling options - no Natural Gas Available

    Looking at renovating our home which is currently set up with Hydronic Heating - wall panels but has not been used for about 20 years due to costly running expenses (oil). The house is elevated with a timber floor and located in Nrthn Victoria.

    We are looking at double insulating all the windows and the walls for reduced heating and cooling costs.

    As no natural gas is available in the immediate area, and with electricity most likely to increase significantly in the coming years can anyone help with some suggested cost effective heating and cooling options for about 20 squares.

    Looked at the option of geothermal energy but thinking with temps from -3 to 45 might need an additional heat and cooling supply. We will be doing alot of earth works and increasing height of ground level so could be a good time to install?

    Any suggestions?

    Many thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    A wood buring stove is a goodly heating option for your area. Especially if you put a wet back into it to heat water.

    If you have the land area you can try the ground based hydronic heating/cooling option but it is based on pumping water through kilometres of pipes buried nearly a metre down.....big $$ to install and possibly operate since it needs to be pumped. Also works best as an underfloor heater.

    Simpler, slightly cheaper version involves burying a few long lengths of 150mm+ PVC pipe 600 to 1000mm down and blowing/sucking/convecting air through into floor vents in the house.

    Incidentally, some weather stations on the BoM site have soil thermometers down to 1m depth....here's the link for Victoria http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDV65176.shtml

    Sun Lizard (or similar toys) is another great heating/cooling option for Nthrn Vic.
    Joined RF in 2006...Resigned in 2020.

  3. #3
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    Hi Silentbutdeadly,

    Many thanks for your reply and suggestions, their products look quite good, also many thanks for the website with the ground temps, gives a good indications of what we would be looking at temp wise.

    Many thanks again.

  4. #4
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    there is also a geo thermal version which is "vertical", well almost. One mob uses a poly loop per bore hole coming back to a manifold and another mob use a loop of small bore copper tube in the bore holes coming back to the manifold . Both circulate a liquid through the pipes to a heat exchanger. Our ski club at Hotham is doing a pilot project with the second technique. Only problem was they started late and the drill rig blew up because of a crap diesel engine so it's only partly done.

  5. #5
    Old Chippy 6K
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    If your hydronic system is still in place (and in OK condition) then I would be looking at simply replacing the heat source (oil furnace) with solar using 3 or 4 panels of evacuated tubes.

    An article on this is in the latest ATA Renew magazine, see:

    http://www.ata.org.au/ and copies are available in most newsagencies.

    Very much depends on the condition of the piping and radiators etc, but if it was made as well as many were a life of 50 years or more is not unreasonable.

    But modern and efficient wood burning furnaces are also available to use with the existing system or to create a new one. These are designed to use wood as a renewable resource and burn reasonably well, but still produce CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Of course if you use hardwood that is not from a known sustainable resource then that isn't a great idea either.

    Much of the work can be done by a competent DYIer and all of it if you have a few other skills and/or access to a friendly plumber.

    Geothermal systems for are in their infancy in Oz especially for residential use. They will come, but are expensive right now. Ground based systems do not involve kilometres of piping, rather metres, but generally go down below a metre - usually 2-3 metres at which the ground temperature is stable all year round - and run horizontally. If a vertical system is installed then the holes can be from 25m-120m deep - fewer pipes are involved, but the drilling gets costly (at around $75-120 a metre and more if it is through rock).

    There are also water based systems that use temperature stability of a large dam or tank and have multiple coils of piping under many ML of water.

    Both systems use heat exchangers in the house and these can range from quite simple radiator types to very complex ones using refrigerant gases or special fluids in closed systems - with costs and complexity changing accordingly.

    Google is your friend - and there are quite a few sites with good information on alternative and renewable home heating systems. The ATA site has a good primer at:

    http://www.ata.org.au/projects-and-a...ced-heat-pumps

  6. #6
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    I'd agree with the idea of reusing existing hydronic with solar. Being in northern vic, you probably get a lot of sunshine, might as well use it! There's a mob in Melbourne who specialise in this kind of work, http://www.solarlord.com.au I'm sure there are others.

    GSHP (Ground Source Heat Pump) is what you are talking about with the underground loops. You can use these to heat/cool air inside the home, as in a normal A/C system, or heat water for the hydronic system.

    It is not really correct to say that it is in it's infancy for residential, but it is true that it hasn't been well marketed or accepted in Australia to date. It's simply been a lot cheaper to put in an air-source unit, and with cheap energy, that's what we have been doing. Times are changing though. Rest of the world has been using it for many years, and the units are very efficient, and substantially more so that a normal AC plant. It all comes back to the time taken to achieve payback for the extra capital invested at the start.

    woodbe.
    Last edited by woodbe; 30th Jun 2008 at 05:38 PM. Reason: fix url monkey business

  7. #7
    Old Chippy 6K
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodbe View Post

    It is not really correct to say that it is in it's infancy for residential, but it is true that it hasn't been well marketed or accepted in Australia to date.

    woodbe.
    Semantics maybe, but I was referring to the installed base and the number of retail sources - and given you say it hasn't been marketed or accepted well and the numbers installed are trivial then it is correct to say it is in its infancy in Australia - for both residential and commercial, but quite a few commercial buildings have gone at least part that way in the last few years and residential is moving that way , but slowly.

    In any case I was not referring to the state of the technology which has many many years of experience in Europe & North America and is mature, highly regarded and widely used.

    While ever we had access to too cheap energy from fossil fuels or wood, in most of Australia the cold is not cold enough to use more insulation or more innovative heat sources, but as I said - as we move ever so slowly to sustainable technologies and start paying real prices for a finite and dirty resource these alternatives will become more common.

    At present Return on Investment (ROI) payback periods are way too long for most people at 14 or more years for some ground source systems and up to 27 years for others. But as energy prices rise these ROIs will fall and economies of scale for production and installation will also drop the capital prices.

  8. #8
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    We basically agree then.

    Being an early-adopter (actually, it was the most reasonable option at the time, if a bit pricey) I installed one of these beasts with all the drilling and ducting etc.. back in 1994. We must be at payback by now, but there is really no way of telling.

    Sadly, they are harder to buy, and a lot more expensive now than then. This is the reverse of the northern hemisphere experience, where they are de rigeur for almost any domestic AC plant. Hopefully, a whole lot of sales interest will change that in Australia.

    http://www.geoexchange.com.au/links.aspx
    This is the WaterFurnace distributor for Australia. Check the Residential viability assessment PDF from that webpage, and read the table on page 5. It basically says a standard construction house needs 120w per square metre - say a 250m2 home would need 30kw, budget price = $65k. Ouch. You could zone it, or reduce the coverage, but the minimum system (10kw) is still $27k...

    woodbe.

  9. #9
    Old Chippy 6K
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodbe View Post
    We basically agree then.
    woodbe.
    Yep - in furious agreement!

    My Dad installed a combined solar HWS and hydronic heating system in Cowra NSW in 1956 and it is still working fine. Constructed from scratch by his plumber on detailed plans from a Swedish magazine my Dad had been sent by a friend (and yes the text was in Swedish!).

    The second owners connected up the Rayburn slow combustion stove to it to use as the backup in winter and when there were too many cloudy days.

    I got a quote in 1995 for my then new house for a vertical geothermal ground system - the special deal was $23K. Didn't have the cash so went central natural gas instead - wouldn't have made my money back yet on the prices since then, but that time is not far off.

    I am generally an early adopter, and we pay a price - but get to have bragging rights, be pius and self-righteous too - so there are some benefits . . .

  10. #10
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    Unless you're in a very cold region with temps below zero, a properly sized and installed conventional air sourced heat pump (reverse cycle air-conditioner) will keep you warm fairly cheaply.

    Certainly in Tasmania they are the preferred means of heating these days - it's hard to find a newly built house with any other heating sytem.

    Your other main option is wood if that is cheaply available in your area as well as solar as others have mentioned. If the trees are regrown, wood's not a bad option in terms of CO2 although it does add to localised air pollution (which is an entirely different issue to climate change).

    Anything based on oil - diesel, kero, heating oil, LPG - seems unlikely to be economic for large scale heating over long periods. Likewise anything that uses a lot of electricity - which is any system other than a heat pump - also looks likely to be expensive in the long term.

    Me? I've got a wood heater plus a built-in electric heater (not a heat pump). If I need to replace them then I'll be getting a reverse cycle air-conditioner but for now the wood heater's going fine and I only use the electric one when it's not cold enough to warrant lighting the fire so the power bills aren't too bad.

  11. #11
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    Smurf,

    Floor insulation?

    woodbe.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodbe View Post
    Smurf,

    Floor insulation?

    woodbe.
    You mean do I have it or should Flower put it in?

    I don't have it. Was looking at it, still am sort of, but haven't done anything about it yet. I want to do some electrical work (yes I'm licensed) under the house first then I'll look at it more seriously. Maybe next year. That said, it's enclosed under the house and I have carpet so that would be helping a bit already.

    As for should anyone put it in, I'd say ideally yes but I'm still not convinced as to what type is best. Foam and batts both seem to be serious options but I'm not convinced that either will be trouble free (unlike ceiling insulation where not much ought to go wrong).

    The problem I can see with foam is that, in my house at least, all the gaps aren't exactly the same size. That means an awful lot of cutting, doing of which will remove the boards' self supporting mechanism thus requiring the use of clips. Not impossible, but it sounds like a huge amount of hassle.

    With spray on foam well that's going to totally cover all the wiring and pipes. Makes it harder to change anything in the future without ripping some of the insulation off. Also I've got a lot of stuff stored under the house that I really don't want to move out prior to spraying foam. Other than that though it seems a reasonable option.

    With batts, the only real problem I can see is keeping them in place especially during installation. I've never tried installing them this way, but I can imagine that you need 5 pairs of hands to hold the batt in place whilst affixing the supporting wire etc. I could be wrong on that point but it's what I'm assuming.

    So all up it seems like quite a lot of messing about. Hence I'll get around to it but not yet. Anyone know for sure which is the easiest / best way?

  13. #13
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    Smurf, I was just idly browsing here and came across your question about floor insulation. I've been going through the same thinking process and have decided on concertina foil batts. I have them on order so have neither installed or tested them yet. I like the price $5/sm and the fact that I can install them between joists with irregular spacing, just using a staple gun. No vermin nesting problems either.

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