Monday, February 1, 2010

Home Improvement Project #1 - heating system replacement

Look at this monstrosity of an oil tank.
I have to be honest, I've never owned a home with oil heat and I wasn't really pleased that the house I fell in love with had this heating system. Firstly, it really stunk. The whole place smelled like fuel oil. The previous owners (who were very, very awesome!) said that the smell went away each year after they had the boiler cleaned. I know I'm really sensitive to smells like this and went into the sale knowing that the smell would never diminish enough for my happiness. Secondly, the boiler was probably as old as the house (1940's or so according to my neighbor, Ron, across the street), and it needed to be replaced anyway....oh, and along with the 30 year old water heater! It was a miracle the water heater still worked! So first things first, and the oil tank was removed. (That's my Brother-In-Law, Shawn, who is a Master Plumber- LUCKY ME!!) He owns his own plumbing and heating business with my Sister, Leigh, called Peabody Plumbing & Heating out of Chicopee (I highly recommend him :)
Shawn organized the whole system replacement, including removing and proper disposal of the oil tank, the water heater and the boiler. Below, he works on taking apart the oil boiler, and HOLY SHIT, I had no idea just what was inside of these things. Huge cast iron parts, all rusty, full of crud, stinking to high heavens. For God's sake, it was nasty. And lo and behold, the boiler had been slowly leaking fuel oil for quite a few years...soaked into the concrete floor underneath. You can see it in the photo below...that brown on the floor below is NOT a dirt floor. That is the oil soaked concrete. I'm still working on scrubbing up that crap with phosphoric acid, so I can finally seal it and stop the stink once and for all (hopefully). If not, I think I'll hire someone with a jackhammer to come and get all that concrete up and refill the hole. Any one know someone with a jackhammer? LOL.

And Viola! Here is the new system, all in place and really pretty! It barely takes up any room at all. I think this shot might have actually been taken before some final touches were done (Shawn probably wouldn't approve!!), but this is the system. It's a wall hung, super-high-efficiency boiler, that is 96% efficient! It's by Triangle Tube and called the Prestige. Fancy! The tank next to it to the left is the hot water storage tank. The boiler manages the hot water in the house, so no separate hot water heater is needed. That tank is 30 gallons. This system is a hot water priority system, so it will give you hot water until the cows come home even if you blow through the 30 gallons. In winter, it'll shift priority over to the demand for hot water out of the storage tank, shifting heating to that instead of to the house. I can't imagine when I'd use more than 30 gallons of hot water....anyway, I haven't run out of hot water yet. And the whole thing heats the house nice and cozy!
Heating bill costs, you ask? So this house is basically uninsulated (except for a layer under the siding...which doesn't really do anything much). There's a breeze in some areas of the house. At first I tried setting the programmable thermostat as I normally would: 60 during sleeping hours and work hours, 72 when I'm home for long periods of time (ya, I like to be warm :). The new boiler is so super efficient that in order to jump from 60 to 72 it takes a really long time. It finds the most efficient way to get to 72. Way too long for my tastes. Shawn suggested just setting it at the temp I like and see what my bill might be like for one month. Set it and forget it. Which I did. 72. For 35 days straight (that was the billing period on the first full month bill that I received from Bay State Gas). Bill: $207. Shawn thought that was high, and maybe it was. He thought it would be half that. Well, if my house was insulated it might be half that, but seriously, I didn't think that was a bad number. I've had $600 bills in some of my homes, and that was keeping the heat down too. For heat, hot water, cooking, 35 days straight, night and day, 72 degrees! That's pretty incredible, honestly. Imagine if the house was insulated? I have the folks at CET (Center for Ecological Technology) coming to do an assessment of the energy efficiency of the house, including insulation. They will give a rebate up to $1500 towards insulation installation. Not sure if I'm ready to spend $4 to 8 thousand dollars on insulation though. The payback would take years. It would be nice to get rid of some of these breezes though.
First project in the new house is nearly complete! Next report will be on bathroom remodel...nearly done as well!

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