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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We live in a rental duplex.

Our heating options are either using the electric baseboard heat that has 4 or 5 zones. Or we can get propane hooked up to the two wall unit propane room heaters. (Odd, I know. I couldn't believe how many rentals we looked at with bazaar heating solutions).

Cost of electricity this month was about 13.8 cents/kwh.
Cost of propane is a crazy $2.80/gallon from the local supplier.

Electric baseboard heat:
$40.50 per million BTUs
5 zones means we can only heat where we want it warm
If power goes out, we are effed and I will be sleeping at work where it wood heat and we have a large generator.

Propane:
$47.16 per million BTUs
2 zone (upper and lower)
If power goes out, I can easily plug them into a small generator and still be warm.

I am also thinking about a portable AC/Heat pump like this to supplement electric heat in the milder parts of the year. My wife almost died (not really, she just doesn't handle heat well) this summer without AC and we almost bought on then. I like the idea of an AC (window units wont work here) and heat pump unit and the reviews seem pretty cool.

Amusing 65% efficiency on the wall units and 100% from electric of course. This website was helpful: http://homepower.com/article/?file=HP123_pg14_ATE_2

I am just thinking out loud. Input?

Also, I miss our fireplace at our last place. Then again I don't miss the 18' vaulted ceilings and the couple of $900/month heating bills.
 

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As you transition from the Midwest, keep in mind this adage told to me by a lifelong resident of New England : heat is for the rich. Seal up your apartment with plastic on the windows and weatherstripping on the doors. I'd go with propane and a thermostat set on 65 or a bit lower, provided you wrap your pipes. Buy sweaters.
 

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Avoid the baseboard heaters.

In theory they sound good, but in reality(where most of us reside) they aren't.

My first apartment had electric baseboard heaters and they were fine until the temp dropped below freezing. Then leaving them off while I was at work wasn't an option. I had electric bills almost as high as the gas bills I get now in my house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I would agree with you Hirsch, but the cost of propane has almost doubled in the past two years. Two winters ago I think I paid 1.25/gallon. 2.80 is darn silly.

I lived in the UP of Michigan for 4 years in old drafty houses. I doubt that NE winters can be much worse. We paid 3-600 a month for natural gas heat up there (Nov-March).

The person in the other half of the duplex said that her electric bills are seldom over 200 in winter we pay 50/month now so that 150 a month in heating. Not too bad.

All of our pipes are in the center wall of the house, so we are good there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
From peoples description of winters here in western Mass they sound less harsh than north east Wisconsins...
 

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My first apartment had electric baseboard heaters and they were fine until the temp dropped below freezing. Then leaving them off while I was at work wasn't an option. I had electric bills almost as high as the gas bills I get now in my house.
What I'd take away from this is you're gonna hafta pay the piper either way. Once the temperature drops below heat pump territory then you're going to be spending a lot of money to keep warm regardless of how you do it.
 

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Go for the propane, keep the temps low, and wear a sweater. Those in-wall propane units (Rinnai, etc) have excellent efficiency, more like 80-90%, not 65%. We had a single one heating our 1000 sq ft apartment the last 3 years. Very efficient.

Now our new house has propane hot water baseboards. I just shelled out $900 to fill the underground tank. We'll see how long it lasts (it's our hot water, too).
 

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FWIW, in our apartment, we had to purchase approximately 60 gallons of propane every other month through the winter last year, with prices around $2.50-2.70/gal.

That equates to ~ $60-80/month in heating costs for a Rinnai wall heater for 1000sq ft.

There are many variables at play here, but I would still lean towards propane.
 

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Amherst is less harsh than back home, but plan for at least a couple of cold snaps. I recall a week of -16 degree days. Aireeca is dead on, though. Winterproof that shit. Heating is expensive and most older homes are drafty-- my place was built in '99 and even with the heat running, it's colder inside some days than outside.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I was trying to find the efficiency of our wall units but can't. From what I found online most new propane furnaces are ~85% but wall units do to their size are much worse.

Both the land lord and neighbor are telling me to just use the baseboards, the math says baseboards and my gut says propane.

even at 80% propane is 39.50 per million BTUs. I want wood heat dang it. or a geo pump...
 

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We used propane for water heating, and #1 heating fuel (somewhere between kerosene and diesel) and wood for house heating. Now we are switiching to electric heating for the water. Propane is $3.60 a gallon here, heating fuel is $3.20. Our usual heating bills are about $300 a month during the winter (down to -35 F outside the home) for heating fuel, plus I go through a cord or two of wood, mostly I cut it myself. Propane used to run us about $300 for three months, I hope switching to electric will be a bit cheaper, but electricity is expensive here.

A lot of people save money here in AK switiching to a pellet stove, they are really efficient, heat up a home very well. I still have a 40 year old wood stove, but switching to pellet might come next year.

Even though outside it gets to -30 and lower inside the home it's always 60 or higher. The house is well built, 1 mile up a hill, half of it buried in the hill, the south facing side has a two story glass pane for harvesting what little solar energy we get in the winter. The walls are 18" thick with wood and foam insulation, all glass panes are double stack and there is an arctic entrance. I am glad that I don't live in town, however, wher it gets down to -60 and heating bills are even higher.
 

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Why just propane and electric? I'll assume if you're talking propane, natural gas isn't in your area. We're in the same boat. We currently heat with light oil (which has come way down in price).

We're actually in the process of having our 1920's-era converted coal boiler replaced with a modern more efficient unit. We have steam heat and a huge house so we have another monster boiler going in there. (don't even want to say how much that is costing). We have huge old ornate radiators like these jobbers:



...which will drive you out of the house once the system gets going. In my opinion, radiant heat is the way to go. We have the system connected to a programmable thermostat so we can alter temps throughout the day based on our lifestyle. We also have an antique pot-belly stove in the kitchen which has a ventless gas logset in it (no need for a chimney). That uses propane. Lastly we have a monster wood-burning insert in the fireplace in the parlor. All our windows have exterior storms and the larger windows (some are 7' tall) have internal thermal inserts (Window-Therm units)

If you've got some empty older fireplaces, you'd be surprised how much heat the ventless gas log sets give off. You could also consider a pellet stove.

Our old duplex (upstairs/downstairs) had natural gas. Our unit had a radiant basebord hydronic system with a boiler. The rental had a gas furnace. The furnace was installed in the attic and heat came down through the ceiling via vents. The only thing I didn't like about that setup is that the ductwork ate up the whole attic. It heated very well though.

Lots of people are putting in exterior wood boilers in our area. They aren't allowed everywhere though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The problem is, its a rental. We have limited options. I would buy an outdoor pellet stove if I could.
 

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Sorry, I guess I misunderstood. When you said your "rental" I thought is was in a place you owned that you were renting out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Wish I owned a place...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Found these interesting. Thanks wunderground.

Chicopee, MA (closest with these averages) (current location):


Green Bay, WI:


Houghton, MI
 

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What I'd take away from this is you're gonna hafta pay the piper either way. Once the temperature drops below heat pump territory then you're going to be spending a lot of money to keep warm regardless of how you do it.
Not really.
I'm old, I got my first apartment 20 years ago. Plus I was heating a 700sqf 3rd floor apartment as opposed to the 2000sqf house I heat now.

With the way my gas and electric billing is set up now I don't pay for gas during the summer. The only thing that uses gas in the summer is the water heater. During this summer the gas portion of my bill has been less than $50 a month while my electric is usually around $250.

When my dad had our house in Indiana built he had both a heat pump and a gas furnace installed. We'd use the heat pump until about the middle of December then switch to the gas furnace, which ran on LP.
 

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Found these interesting. Thanks wunderground.
I looked for these months before but couldn't find them, somehow today I did. They somehow don't seem accurate, as it gets much colder here in Fairbanks than they indicate:

 

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The AFUE of a Rinnai direct vent gas space heaters (depending on model) is 80-83%.

http://www.rinnai.us/direct-vent-wall-furnaces/

Wall units are more efficient than you think. Hot water based propane furnaces, such as the Weil-McLain in my new house approach 90% AFUE.

It gets colder here in VT than it does in Amherst and I paid the gas bills at our apartment. I would definitely consider propane, or mix use of both.
 
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