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Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Posted by cottagecindy (My Page) on
Thu, Sep 20, 12 at 13:45

here's the scoop:

rent an OLD 1930's bungalow about 500 sq feet max,5 rooms (kitchen 2 bedrooms,living and bath)-lath and plaster. bad insulation (house is GREAT in summer-nice and cool) but in the winter...

live in bay area, only need heat maybe late october till end of feb. (it is a strange climate now, getting colder at night, who knows what's happening...)

my only source of heat is a floor furnace smack in walkway between kitchen and living room. it blows hot air, dust,cat hair,etc when it runs-can't tolerate it. (one cat has asthma , I have allergies, and the cat toys at night can end up on it and could really cause a fire. plus....I have to relocate HEAVY furniture if I use it.

so, last winter (first one here in this house) I used electric oil type heater, and bill went from 60 bucks month to 300. (for only 4 months)

how much would it cost to put in forced air heat or any other kind? crawl space under house, and of course attic access . landord is a contractor so he could do some of the work-but I think I'd have to plunk down $$ for him I'm sure cuz he'll say he floor furnace works. :(

I plan to live here for as long as I can, unless they sell the property. (the house itself is solid-not sellable but land is valuable-, some damage over the years (termites,earthquakes)
I've been told the property will not be sold for long time, a good source of income to kids (only 3) and they have other properties too.

so.....what would you guys do? seriously. I love it here, close to my family I take care of. I'd LIKE to retire in this home-and the family owners know that. (i'm 52)
We've already done lots of upgrades (thousands of dollars) to the cottage.....
he has fixed a lot-he buys and I help with the work (I'm good at it too!!)

ok, sorry for the long lecture, --zzzzzzzzz......-
but i really want good advice. the house gets down too uppers 40's at night in winter.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

oh forgot but probably obvious to you'll--
cottage has no duct work.
house is about 25' x 30' at most. 3 closets in house, one smallllll one for each bedroom NEED to keep both, and one small one in kitchen with water heater in it. and no place to relocate that.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Do you still have gas utilities in the house?

What kind of budget are you talking about?


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

the house has the old style double basement outside doors you walk down to a small area that you can stand-about 6x8' and the rest is open crawl space, I've seen landlord go from entire corner to corner -plenty of airflow, not damp but a musty smell.
the gas water heater is in the kitchen in a closet, and about 5' from that is the gas oven. and of course the floor furnace is gas. The exhaust pipe from that goes out the side and up once outside the house/crawlspace. 2 air vents give plenty of light down there-plus a light bulb- and it never gets hot or cold in this basement/crawlspace.
the pipes are all visible under the house. water,gas,electric wires,cable,etc (including the floor LOL which is why the house is so cold on your feet).
so anything is accessable under the cottage. I asked once if we could move the water heater down there and he said there is no room. (?) maybe since there is so much stuff down there. and i guess a pump of some sorts if it leaked.

I was also reading about water hydronic radiators? I can heat the front bedroom very toasty with the one electric heater I have, if I got another electric heater for the living room it would be nice, but they'd both have to be set on low (900w)-I'd blow the main fuse if more than that- and then there goes the $$$ bill. I figured last year I spent 1k on electric bill in the winter, so over 5 years I will be spending 5k.....and more since I plan to live here quite awhile.
so the budget.....well, first I have to see if it is even doable in this old home, and then how much $$
the rest of the house (other 2 rooms (bathroom is barely a room so I don;t count it) but the other rooms were freezing -literally- in the winter.

the last renter who now lives in the cottage behind me told me the floor furnace WHEN he used it only heated up the living room not the other rooms. plus I installed a bifold door between the kitchen/living room to keep the heat in that room (but it IS next to the floor furnace.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

didn't we do this last fall?
same issues only including insulation?


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

YES ! :)
however, my landlord walked me thru it all. house no insulation at all, just a thin blown in layer in attic. He said due to knob and tube wiring, the attic can't be much more. besides he said there is none under the floor or in the side outside walls, it would have to be done the whole thing or it'd be just a waste --one of you said that too,-the whole house needs it or air just escapes out the unprotected side.
He didn't have the time or resources to do that but a bit at a time. like the fence is next project after the winter,( I live in a fish bowl)
so if I wanted it done t the time, it would have cost me big bucks-didn't have.
however i froze to death, and I don't want to go thru that again. so.....
it's either do something to house, some kind of heating
or just paying PG&E big bucks each year. :[

In a year, I think I will have him blow in insulation in the sides, and whatever he said under the floor. It has to be done when he has no projects. He's a busy contractor remember and it's busy time.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

YES ! :)
however, my landlord walked me thru it all. house no insulation at all, just a thin blown in layer in attic. He said due to knob and tube wiring, the attic can't be much more. besides he said there is none under the floor or in the side outside walls, it would have to be done the whole thing or it'd be just a waste --one of you said that too,-the whole house needs it or air just escapes out the unprotected side.
He didn't have the time or resources to do that but a bit at a time. like the fence is next project after the winter,( I live in a fish bowl)
so if I wanted it done t the time, it would have cost me big bucks-didn't have.
however i froze to death, and I don't want to go thru that again. so.....
it's either do something to house, some kind of heating
or just paying PG&E big bucks each year. :[

In a year, I think I will have him blow in insulation in the sides, and whatever he said under the floor. It has to be done when he has no projects. He's a busy contractor remember and it's busy time.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Cindy, it sounds to me like he's stalling and you're letting him get away with it. If work needs to be done, it needs to be done, why would it be that your needs are always his last priority? With the heating, he's much happier having you spend your money so he doesn't have to spend his.

Can you afford to live somewhere else? I'd move, he doesn't sound like the kind of person I'd want as a landlord.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

I really have it made here.........

1-i have to be within walking distance of my sister's/parents house (they live under one roof) I'm one block over 4 houses down.(2 minute run) my sister and I take turns with the kids and folks. She's a single parent with 2 young kids --one autistic , both my folks have illnesses where someone always has to be there.

2-i do love the area (those in the bay area/peninsula know all around me are million dollar homes, and I feel blessed I can be here-trust me I don;t make that money and this cottage is cheap rent)

3-my landlord allows me to have 4 yes 4 cats (no I'm not a crazy cat lady)

4-he does fix everything I ask for, I had a long list, but didn't think about the insulation/heating issue. I believe he thinks I actually use the floor furnace.

5-and there are more things to fix/change but waiting till next spring (like an entire backyard fence) but he has contracts with fancy homes -which obviously pay big-money , and when he does stuff to this house, it's on his time and his money. the rent is low, and they could ask for more since a lot of the renovations........I have to keep telling myself i am just income for the family that owns this house :(

so................. am I stupid? I maybe expect too much? (yes , i grew up with a golden spoon) so I'm trying to decide if it's worth my money to fix the insulation or add heating of some sort.... if it was just warm here year round.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

sorry i just rambled on.... but for those of you who own rentals,
what should I do to ask him to fix/warm up the house? Do I have the right to tell him I need this stuff done-since I 'technically" have a floor furnace?
or should I just suck it up and fix this stuff on my own?
and how much is it going to cost me? I want the heat --most important.
or....just pay more on the electric bill and deal with this next spring.
lord I need advice
thanks guys & gals :)


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

ok..invest in an energy rating.
someone unbiased (unlike free utility company audits)

they will test the house for air leakage.

this matters. if the house you are trying to
heat and keep allergies down in leaks like a sieve,
then it costs more to heat.
if you seal the holes then it is less to heat.
this rater will show you where the leaks are
(keep notes..put pieces of tape on leakage areas)
and hopefully give you information on how to seal
these leaks. if not..we will.

options like adding insulation..rater will evaluate
what you have, making note of things like K&T wiring
and what can safely, affordably be done.
some raters use thermal scan cameras, which in
conjunction with the blower door takes pretty
pictures of leakage sites. nice visual for homeowner
but not necessary if rater knows their job.

then given what you would like to do to the home
the rater will give you reports showing how much
you will save for each upgrade.

granted your place is only 500 sq ft, but air
leakage can be huge. for instance my 1000 sq ft
house (on piers) the first time I tested it was
over 8000 cubic feet per minute of leakage.
not now, but it has taken a lot of effort to
keep reducing my utiity bill, and the comfort
now is huge compared to when I first bought the house.

insulation in the walls is costly. to blow insulation
in walls holes are drilled, insulation is pumped into
stud bays. if there are firestops in the walls or
any obstructions..it makes it harder to fully fill the
stud bays. in my area..we don't usually do this.
not only is payback & utility cost reduction minimal
but there are more than one way to solve this issue.

air sealing. the reason insulation doesn't work as it
should is that air is moving through it.stop the air
movement..the insulation performs. even air at rest
has insulation value. so rather than putting money
towards insulating walls..air seal them.
ceiling molding caulked to ceilings at top of moldings
and to walls at bottoms of moldings. caulk cracks & cuts
in moldings. with pets in the house you don't want to caulk
the floor moldings to the floors..pet hair loves caulk..
wish I'd never done that. instead take floor moldings up
and seal the gap between sole plate and floor. put moldings
back down. do one wall one room at a time.

window frames to walls. sections of window frames caulked
to each other. apron to sills ..every board caulked.
take backer rods and stuff them inbetween window sections
when you stop opening windows for winter.

people worry in existing homes about tightning the
house too much. LOL! maybe if you foam insulated
walls roofline & floors, but it hardly ever happens.
if your rater comes back to test again after work is
done, they can determine air changes per hour. if the
house is too tight then that problem can also be safely
addressed. but believe me..in existing homes..it rarely
happens.

I believe last year we went through multiple secnerios
about insulating your floors.
perhaps its time to change wiring so that you can
safely insulate.
if so..then once that cost is recovered foam insulating
the floors and attic floor would be your best investment.

to get you through this winter..IF you put co moniters
you could install unvented gas heaters..if that is allowed
in your area. central heating is an option, but in 500 sq ft
the question would be how small of a unit can you purchase.

this is just online troubleshooting..what you
really need is someone like me to do a rating
of the house. seeing it firsthand and knowing the
limitations is what you really need.

instead of every year having the same questions
an energy rating would give you a specific to your
home & budget a plan of options & efficiency.
which you could implement as you can afford it.
knowing where you are and where you plan to go
gives you direction to achieve the answers to your
specific issues.

check with Resnet for an rater with experience
in existing homes.

best of luck.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Cindy- you've said the cottage is termite and earthquake damaged and so a knock-down, drafty, you have a landlord who stonewalls you, you can't use the heat (I understand why) the alternative you use is VERY expensive and inadequate, you've reached out for help with some urgency, AND.....you say you have it made where you are. This makes no sense.

I too live in the Bay Area, it's not so balmy in the winter that heat is optional. Energy's suggestion of installing a vented gas wall heater or two on outside walls is probably the best and cheapest quick solution. BUT, that's something for the landlord to pay for, not you. You'd be a fool to pay for that in someone else's property. So long as you accept his excuses, he'll continue to offer them.

Energy - As described, this is a ramshackle old cottage that probably isn't worth the efficiency efforts you suggest. Bay Area weather is temperate, but OP is paying PG+E 30 cents per KwH for her top tier usage. Electric resistance heating is too expensive at the rates we pay.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Cindy we lived in a very similar cottage built in 1940 as a summer cottage (also no insulation and a scary floor heater). We bought 2 "micathermic" radiant heaters made by Delonghi. Radiant heaters are better for poorly insulated spaces because they heat the surfaces by radiant IR heat rather than blowing out hot air which just quickly makes it's way out all the cracks and drafts. The oil filled radiators would also be a good choice - and these types are safe for pets because they do not get burning hot to the touch. It cost us about $200/month in electric bills in the coldest times in January to keep the cottage nice and cozy all winter long.

Your landlord has technically provided functioning heating so I don't think you can make him do anything.

So I recommend that you just go and buy yourself some radiant heaters and use them. You can also get fire-safe appliance cords (they shut off if there is any current loss) to be extra safe.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

personally I think Cindy has a good working
relationship with her landlord. doesn't really
come across in this particular thread, but it
did last fall in the thread(s) she had then.

she apparently LOVES the place & is willing
to invest time & effort to make it comfortable.

this is a link to a very similar heater I have
make sure you don't buy one too large, if you
chose this option. I've only had used mine on low
as high is too too hot!
and of course mine is propane. I left it in place
cause I hate cold, and if electricity goes out
in winter I have another option.
I think I paid $125 locally for mine a couple of
years ago.

http://www.benfranklin.com/item.php?id=HH-17106295&c=h&s1=Heaters++Furnaces+And+Boilers&s2=Gas+Room+Heaters&gclid=CL-fp6nnx7ICFQsFnQodklcAGw

or just google kozy world gas heaters if the cut
& paste link doesn't work.

research which type of heater(s) you chose.

Snidely..she & owner have made quite a few improvements
she pays & he installs. apparently it works for both
of them. I would be screaming at .30 cents per kwh.
gripe enough about my .08 per kwh. my neighbor gets
.05 per kwh as he is on an all electric rate & I have
propane water heater & stove. small co-op as compared
to large utility company. makes a big difference in
rates & service. these guys came out during Isaac
to replace a transformer within 1/2 hour of my call.
in the rain & lightning. love my utility provider.

best of luck Cindy lou.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Energy,

I was thinking something like this would be vented and safer for animals and kids. Ones like this and the taller skinny kind used to be THE heat source in small houses and apartments in Calfornia. I don't doubt many are still in use in those same places.

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200362087_200362087

I double-checked my last bill, she's likely paying 33.5 cents per KwH to PG+E to stay cold (as she describes it). Not a good plan.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

I would think a split-system heat pump air conditioner would be perfect - cools in summer, heats in winter, but MOST importantly, dehumidifies which is probably 90% of the 'cold' that you feel...it's a damp cold.

On the other hand, it's a rental, I know you like it, but I bet if you looked around you'd find something else. There's ALWAYS another place you could love equally.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

You wouldn't need ducting with a split-system heat pump - compressor goes outside, then there's a wall or floor mount unit that goes inside. Well placed, one might be enough.

Drying out the air would go a long way. Your saying house is cool in summer suggests it's a bit humid..even a dehumidifier would help, and they actually do a little heating as well. (residual waste heat)


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Hey Alan,

Did you see my comment about electricity rates? Heat pumps are not used in this area, WAAY too expensive. Natural gas is available in all but remote areas, and people in such places use propane or wood stoves for heat. Dehumidifiers are also not required, warm summer days are dry and it cools off at night (unless she's inland a bit, which I don't think is the case from her description).

We have neither cold (compared to most other places) nor damp cold.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

so snidley..how do y'all cool your houses?


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Energy,

My response was specific to OP's situation. She'd described her location as SF Bay area and great in summer. I assumed that meant she was not "inland", and if so, most people in the immediate Bay Area don't have AC. I don't have AC, I cool my house by opening the windows in the evening, we have cool nights on all but a few very hot days.

Look at today's forecast- SF is 70, Berkeley is 70, inland Walnut Creek, 15 miles from Berkeley, is 86, very inland Sacramento is 97 but still dry heat). People who live inland have AC and just bite the bullet with cost.

I'm sure there are many heat pumps in use in rural or remote areas with no natural gas, with people who don't want to use propane or wood stoves. But I know people all over a broad area, and no one I know has one.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

RB is not going to be of much benefit in winter.

the second pic of installing RB over insulation
on attic floor is wrong. dust build up will
reduce reflectivity within a few years.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

Some seem to have canvassed the idea of electric heat, I'm just pointing out that a heat pump will crank out much more heat than an electric heater using the same amount of power will.

As for humidity, I'd think the closer to the water, the more damp/humid.

The heat pump will dehumidify too.

OP can have it decommissioned and take it with her when she moves, too.

For that matter, a reverse-cycle window air conditioner might be an option, too. Hardly any installation required.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

heat pump window unit..that would work..
or minisplit heat pump.
first option would be less costly upfront
but more costly long term
second would be upfront cost & monthly
savings.

if cindy fixes the air leakage of the place
it will be much more affordable to heat and
or cool. paying to heat/cool a leaky building
is expensive.


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RE: Need heat big time--need honest opinions

The OP is probably long gone.

I'm puzzled why you guys remain so enthusiastic about recommending heat pump technology to someone who has gas service, lives in an area with one of the highest electricity rates in the continental US, and who said she has no need for AC.

I suspect there are some Silicon Valley moguls who have solar cell powered ground source heat pumps as an environmental/technological statement, but doing so is uneconomic. They're otherwise rare around here, for people with gas service and buying power off the grid.

Fill me in on your thinking, you're definitely swimming against the flow. Thanks


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