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Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

Posted by cindywhitall (My Page) on
Mon, Jan 21, 13 at 14:18

A relative has a condo, it's no more then 1000 sq ft-maybe closer to 800, it's the middle floor unit of 3 floors, windows only on one side, about 25 years old.

The a/c has failed and also the heat. I believe something was leaking gas in the heater and they were told not to try to use it. She has used some kind of amazing space heater that she says keeps them warm. No idea of electric bills for that. (might be one of those "amish" ones). The a/c sort of worked last year. I think for the last years it has cooled them, but has iced up and then they wait for it to thaw and then they can run it again. Her electric bills for a/c this summer were over $400/month, more than my 2800 sq ft single family.

She has ZERO money, she lives paycheck to paycheck figuring out which bills to pay each month. The extreme electric bills didn't help. Hopefully there will be some $ from tax refund but there is no way she can afford to replace the whole system, and the mortgage is underwater.

Is a heat pump a cheaper alternative to the traditional a/c-furance? Can she just get a heat pump with heat strips cheaper than an a/c with furnace? I think she'd be ok w/ just an a/c and use her electric heater in winter, but I'm not sure what that's costing. She can't use window a/c due to condo rules.

She won't qualify for any of the assistance that's out there because she makes too much for that, it's her bills that are the problem...not her income.
Any thoughts?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

What size and type system does she have now-package unit or split system? Nat gas fuel to condo is available?

Location?

Post back.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

natural gas is available (furnace has a gas leak or some problem that is unsafe).

She is in South Jersey, I think it is Atlantic County, close to Richard Stockton University where the AC Expressway meets the GSP.

I don't really know what a package system is, but I've heard her mention the outdoor unit. If there was a "typical" type used in low-mid condos in the 80's, in NJ, I'd say that what she probably has.

She doesn't care a lot about high efficiency,she just needs something installed that she can afford. Anything will be better than what she has. She keeps making do because she doesn't think she can afford anything. I was hoping to make a suggestion to her of what to look at for the cheapest price. I thought maybe a heat pump would work if it meant she didn't need the furnace equipment also. It would be nice if she could add it down the line, but hopefully she'll find a way to move out of there within a few years. It's too small. She has bad credit, minimal savings but maybe a little she can tap into through her job. Not enough income, but the hvac bills are making it worse because they are crazy due to broken equipment.

I can ask her if she has split or package if it makes a big difference in any responses.

Thanks.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

Besides cost, Her biggest challenge will be to find a furnace that is not oversized for her condo.

It might be helpful to know exactly what type of system she has now, especially size and efficiency of furnace.

The cheapest in the marketplace are Goodman and Payne.

As you know NJ is one of the most expensive states to live and highest taxed. You might want to investigate if there are any state programs that are available to help low income persons with HVAC needs and emergency.

Best of luck...

IMO


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

Besides cost, Her biggest challenge will be to find a furnace that is not oversized for her condo.

It might be helpful to know exactly what type of system she has now, especially size and efficiency of furnace.

The cheapest in the marketplace are Goodman and Payne.

As you know NJ is one of the most expensive states to live and highest taxed. You might want to investigate if there are any state programs that are available to help low income persons with HVAC needs and emergency.

Best of luck...

IMO


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

I'm not in the trade, but I'd wonder about whether she has the required electrical service capacity to add heat strips and what would be the cost of adding the required feed from her panel to support heat strips (Particularly if her panel is located in a common area.)

Just wondering.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

She doesn't qualify for low income....her problem is not an earning one (well--a little bit) but more of a spending problem. Her bills are too big for her budget, but that's another story.....

Good point about the electric since it wasn't designed for that, and I do't know where her panel is.

Can she put in a heat pump without backup strips and just use her space heater if she needs to? Her place probably holds the heat well being the middle unit. This would give her working a/c and some heat without the cost of the furnace.

I'm trying to get some info so when I see her I can bring it up. She really needs to put her tax $ into this rather than something else. She hasn't asked about it, but those summer bills will knock a lot of $ out of her pocket. Seriously, $400 for a/c for a condo in NJ??? Trying to make her see that she needs to spend it now to save it later, and to be more comfortable. The a/c could also finish dying at any time.

I'll ask her for more info and post back after a bit. Thanks for steering me towards what to ask.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

I would not recommend a heat pump. She needs a correctly sized gas furnace 80% eff because this is a condo unit. Her heating load is probably small because of the location of the unit.

And heat pumps should have strip heat because of supplemental heat, emergency heat, and to temper air on defrost calls. Still noway I would recommend a HP system.

IMO


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

Who shut off her furnace? Is it a gas leak or a cracked heat exchanger?

The cheapest option would be to repair the current gas furnace. If it is a gas leak then she can call the gas company to come in and fix it. If it a cracked heat exchanger, then it still may be worthwhile repairing it.

Electric rates in NJ are about 17 cents per KWH. You want to avoid electric resistance heat.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

Least costly option will be a basic 80% furnace for heat. Replace furnace only now.

She can add a cooling coil and AC outdoor unit later. If she wants to make do, and save up, she maybe can live one summer with no AC, but you can't really live a winter with no heat.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

juliekcmo,

She's not complaining about the heat. I don't know what her bills are, but her "amish" style heater is doing ok. The a/c is what killed them. She is a large girl. Large people feel the heat more, and she has a toddler. They don't think they can go without a/c! (or WON'T go w/o it.) You suggest she "make do, and save up"..we have spoken those words plenty of times...doesn't happen.

I emailed her to get more details on her setup. I will suggest they do at least one or the other when they have cash in hand.

We have made suggestions before. Some people just don't follow advice well, and of course we don't know what the real situation is... Hoping she will make a good choice this time. I wish we could help her, but she needs to take some control of her situation so for now all we can do is give her advice and hope she listens.


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RE: Heat/ac options for extremely low budget

Thanks for the advice. Turns out she has a more important issue of a bathtub leaking....it leaks into the condo under her...It's more than just leaky grout I think and might involve work on the subfloor...So she will worry about the heat later. I'll ask again if I ever get more details.

Thanks again.


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