On January 18, 2012, Mr. Sell sent a letter to inform us about the condition of his house and ask us whether a consultation for upgrading his house would be beneficial. We replied to him on January 24, 2012, that he would benefit from our consultation, so Mr. Sell agreed to have a consultation and let us examine his home to make a consultation more accurate. After examining his house on February 12, 2012, we recognized that there is no heating system or water heating for the basement and the attic, the boiler and the water radiators are very old and broken.
According to the U.S Department of Energy, Americans have to pay almost $1300 for their energy bills each year while “Heating and cooling account for about 56% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.” Therefore, installing one of the latest home heating systems is entirely essential to improving the home environment and saving energy efficiently.
The following informative report will provide the options to improve Mr. Sell’s house in order to satisfy cost-effectiveness, environmental friendliness but still maintain the home’s architectural integrity.
Boilers and Water Radiators
The following discussion will be about three types of energy used for boiler (gas, oil and electric) and the features of water radiators.
According to American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the AFUE is defined as the annual fuel utilization efficiency, and this means a higher AFUE can result in a higher saving for energy.
Energy for boilers: According to the article “Boiler System Efficiency” written in the ASHRAE Journal, the cost of oil used for boilers is more than double compared with the cost of gas while the cost of electricity is just about 46 percent more than the cost of gas. On the market, oil boilers are rated as low-efficiency boilers with 78 to 85 percent AFUE, gas boilers are rated as mid-efficiency boilers with 85 to 95 percent AFUE, and electric boilers are rated as high condensing boilers with more than 95 percent AFUE.
Using oil energy has a lot of harmful effects on the environment because more carbon dioxide is released from oil than gas. Using electricity for heating will not affect the environment, but the installation fee is slightly higher. Water radiators: They are used to heat the area surrounding them and are normally made of iron, copper or steel. The water radiators are safe to use and simple to install because they do not need any wires or electricity.
Therefore, the installation fee is not expensive, and there is no cost of energy or effect on the environment since water radiators use hot water from boilers to heat. In the long term, water radiators can be very economical because they can cut the utility bills for Mr. Sell’s house by up to 40 percent. The boiler and the water radiators in Mr. Sell’s house are broken because the pipes connecting the boiler to the water radiators do not work anymore. Therefore, replacing the old boiler and the old water radiators with the new ones is the economical way to upgrade his house, and there will be no negative effect on structural integrity.
Furnaces and Air Ducts
The following discussion is about the three energy types of furnaces (gas, oil and electric) and the three materials of air ducts (metal, fiber glass and fabric).
Gas furnaces: The Energy Star has clarified that gas furnaces can generate at least 90 to 95 percent AFUE. In other words, 90 to 95 percent of gas is used to produce heat for the house, and the remaining may escape up the chimney or somewhere else. They use natural gas, so the emission of carbon dioxide will be very low. The installation cost and the energy cost are fairly high because gas furnaces are rated as high-efficiency heating systems on the market. Gas furnaces will need a lot of maintenance and checkups since the gas from furnaces can be leaked out and cause fires or explosions.
Oil furnaces: The energy rebate program of Pennsylvania in 2010 has estimated that 85 to 95 percent AFUE can be achieved from using oil furnaces. However, the cost of oil for heating is always high and higher than the cost of gas for heating by approximately 64 percent because the price of oil keeps increasing on the market. Oil furnaces are rated as mid-efficiency heating systems with low cost of installation, but they are least environmentally friendly because they will emit more carbon dioxide than gas furnaces. Moreover, oil furnaces also require a lot of maintenance and checkups like gas furnaces since they can cause burns or fires.
Electric furnaces: 95 to 100 percent of AFUE can result from using electric furnaces, and the article “Pay Less to Stay Warm This Winter” estimated the range of electric heat costs to be fairly high from around $792 to $1,526. Even though the price of electricity and installation fee of the electric furnaces are quite high, they are the most environmentally friendly since they do not emit any chemical component. Electric furnaces also need some checkups and maintenance to keep the systems free from electric hazards.
Air ducts: They have no effect on the environment since they deliver heating air from a furnace to each room of the house and emit no chemical gas to the environment. There are three common materials of air ducts for home heating design: metal, fiber glass and fabric. According to the article “Fabric Air Duct Helps Make Possible Convention Hall’s Cable Roof Design,” metal air ducts are “less effective in even air distribution.” Metal air ducts need special insulation to prevent condensation, so they have very high installation fee.
Using fabric for air ducts can cost less than any other materials, so the total cost including installation fee can be cheaper. However, in the long run, fiber glass air ducts have more advantages because they are “an optimal choice in terms of safety, cost-effectiveness, and performance” according to the article “Sorting out the Options in Fiber Glass Duct Insulation.” Therefore, fiber glass air ducts can save a lot of money for Mr. Sell on maintenance and repair costs. In order to reduce effects on the home’s architecture, the furnaces can be stored in storage outside the house, and the air ducts can be installed in the walls or roofs of each floor. Geothermal Heating
Geothermal heating is basically a system exchanging heat between the house (and buildings) and the ground and storing heat underground. When the house temperature is lower than the ground temperature, the geothermal system will pump the ground heat into the house. Applying geothermal energy to home heating can bring many benefits such as no cost of heating energy and energy conservation.
According to the article “Geothermal Energy Systems for Major Projects –Design and Construction,” there are some advantages to install a geothermal heating such as lower operating cost and better heat transmission, and it has no environmental hazards because it has no carbon dioxide emission. Even though the installation fee is highly expensive, a geothermal heating system can save a lot of money in the long run because it does not use fossil fuel (oil or gas) or electricity. Besides, this system will be installed in the yard, which reduces many effects on the home’s structure.
Electric Radiators and Wall Heaters
Electric radiators and wall heater may use a large amount of electricity to heat up an area, so the cost of electricity is very high. Wall heaters only heat up a small area around 180 square feet while electric radiators can heat up a larger area up to 400 square feet.
The efficiency of wall heaters is about 82 percent AFUE while the efficiency of electric radiators is 97 percent AFUE. The installation fee is variable because they depend on the size and material of the radiators or wall heaters. There is no harmful effect on the environment such as no carbon dioxide emission because both electric radiators and wall heaters just use electricity. However, according to U.S. Department of Energy, it is quite dangerous to use electric radiators and wall heaters because “they still carry hazards of potential burns and fires, and should be used with caution.”
In order to restrict changes to architectural integrity, electric radiators and wall heaters can be installed neatly in the corner of the room, and the wires will be installed in the walls.
For the next meeting with Mr. Sell on February 26, 2012, the presentation with specific illustrations including document, videos and 3D pictures will be prepared to provide him more information about each step for improving his house. In addition, we will give him recommendations so that he can upgrade his house in the most economical and environmental way.