GT Braintrust: Heat Pump vs. Oil Furnace?

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Cooper, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. Cooper

    Cooper

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    My wife and I are first time home buyers. Two options for consideration right now are a big drafty old house with an oil furnace, or a shiny new construction home with a heat pump. Comparable in price.

    I immediately voted for the smaller, newer home with the more efficient heat. But was I right? What I'm reading about heat pumps is that they "don't work" under 40 degrees. This winter we had many, many nights in the teens and a few in the single digits.

    However, the new home is in a subdivision, and we've heard from our agent (a buyer's agent who I trust) that other homeowners absolutely love the place. All the houses are the same, with the same heating systems.

    I must be missing something. Who would build a house in the mountains with a heating system that doesn't work under 40 degrees? Would we be better off with the big, drafty, oil-heated house? We currently rent a small oil-heated house with great windows, and we've put $600 in the oil tank this winter. Can't imagine doubling the square footage.

    What do you think, GTers?
     
  2. ricklee4570

    ricklee4570

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    Heat pumps work just fine under 40 degrees. They will work under 0 degrees. All heat pumps have an auxillary heating element in the blower unit that will heat the discharged air in the event that the outside temps are too cold for the heat pump to operate efficiently.

    Oil will cost you a lot in the winter months and is a mess. If the unit is not serviced regularly you will know it because of the smell and soot.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2010

  3. ede

    ede Bama's Friend

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    i changed out my oil furnace for a heat pump a couple of years ago. the oil is a lot warmer feeling. the oil furnace required a fair amount of maintance and at one time oil was 4.30$ or so a gallon. the last year i used oil i spent over 5000$ heating the house. the heat pump i tihnk is cheaper and safer. if i were you i'd go for the newer house and heat pump.
     
  4. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin

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    I had a big older home with a big oil furnace and now I have a new construction home with a heat pump. I would not go back for anything. The oil furnace was a pain and smelled bad at times...and do not get me started on the horror of running out of heating oil in the middle of a 15 degree night. I do miss some of the charm of the older home, but the convenience of the newer home more than makes up for it. BTW, our heat pump worked just fine last year when the temp was in the teens for weeks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2010
  5. ron59

    ron59 Bustin Caps

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    Yes, the heat pumps have an auxilliary "thingy" that you can turn on for the coldest times. Heat pumps are very efficient, and probably way cheaper than oil.
     
  6. Steve0853

    Steve0853

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    I have a small efficient home with a heat pump. It works great and for the most part keeps the house warm.

    For colder times or when we just want some extra warmth, I installed one of the little propane wall hangers. We usually burn about $50 worth of propane a winter. That's a good extra to have with a heat pump. I think you can install one for about $200 to $300.

    About the auxilliary heat or "emergency" heat on the heat pump. Yeah, it will keep you warm if the temp drops too low, but.......when that light is on, its like you're throwing money out the window.

    Also, consider that I live in central NC, which is considerably different than Asheville. However, without knowing your particular situation, I would still say go with the heat pump home.
     
  7. ricklee4570

    ricklee4570

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    There is a difference between "emergency" heat and "auxillary" heat. With my heat pump, anytime the temperature in the house is more than 1 degree below the setpoint, the auxillary heat kicks on to help the heat pump warm the house. Most are set up this way.

    The emergency heat is for when the heat pump breaks down (not working at all--maybe compressor went out or motor burned up), then you switch it to emergency heat and the heating coils in the ductwork heat the house.
     
  8. Cooper

    Cooper

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    Very good info, folks. Thank you so much.
     
  9. hkozzzie

    hkozzzie

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    Heat pumps work fine but my electric bill in a 900sq ft condo is close to $200 a month in dead of winter in Philadelphia. Oil or gas is the way to go.
     
  10. UneasyRider

    UneasyRider C.D.B.

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    The air that comes from the heat pump is warmer than your skin temperature and makes you feel warm. The air from the heat strips that come on when it is too cold for the heat pump to function produce cooler hot air that is not as warm as your skin temperature and will make your skin feel cold.

    For where you live you might want to look at a heat pump that uses earth instead of air to transfer heat from outside to inside as they have no temperature limit. They just bury some pipe instead of using a coil and fan.
     
  11. 2afreedom

    2afreedom

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    From talking to people that have heat pumps it seems they are the way to go if your usual temps are above 30 or so but when the auxiliary heat comes on the power bill starts to climb pretty quick. Being that you're in Asheville I think you would have some fairly cold snaps during winter. At the very least I would want some gas logs or something else to use when it is really chilly. Your neighbors with heat pumps or your local power company can probably give you an idea of what to expect during winter.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2010
  12. rboatright

    rboatright

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    but it's the wrong question.

    The older drafty home is older and drafty. Using the SAME heating system, the older home will consume more energy to heat it unless you invest in sealing it up.

    Except on those nights when the temp is under 20, the heat pump uses less energy to heat the house per unit of heat delivered, AND the new house is better sealed and better insulated, so the new house uses less energy overall.

    HOWEVER, as you said, the new house is smaller.

    Can you negotiate down the older home and retrofit blown in insulation and upgrade the windows? If you need the space, you need it.