Heating with propane?? Good idea?

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Agon
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Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Agon » Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm

[This thread is now in the "Personal Consumer Issues" forum. -- moderator oldcomputerguy]

Good day. We live in a very rural area northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. We currently have an air heat pump system to heat our house. I'm not a big fan, because even when it gets the house to the thermostat temperature, the house still feels cold. It switches over to electric when the temperatures falls past a certain level. This, of course, gets expensive. I am contemplating installing a propane furnace. Is this a good idea? I have messed around with a couple calculators online. Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Mon May 13, 2019 1:34 pm

You may want to also look into oil. Where I am (New England), propane can be expensive compared to either natural gas or oil. Electric here is a little less than double what you pay, so that's not a good option here.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by JoeRetire » Mon May 13, 2019 1:41 pm

I had natural gas in my last house - that would be my preferred option if it were available here.

We now live in Maine and have propane. It's currently more expensive than natural gas (which isn't available in my town) but less expensive than electric. Other than that, it's just fine.

My preferences (from most preferred to least preferred) would be:
- Natural gas
- Propane
- Oil
- Electric
- Dung

bhsince87
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by bhsince87 » Mon May 13, 2019 1:50 pm

Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm
Good day. We live in a very rural area northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. We currently have an air heat pump system to heat our house. I'm not a big fan, because even when it gets the house to the thermostat temperature, the house still feels cold. It switches over to electric when the temperatures falls past a certain level. This, of course, gets expensive. I am contemplating installing a propane furnace. Is this a good idea? I have messed around with a couple calculators online. Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.
That's a very common set up here in Southern PA, where Nat gas implementation is spotty. Some houses just have a propane fireplace to take the edge off on colder days when the heat pump struggles. The furnace would be more efficient, of course.

Oil is still common as well, but lately, propane has been cheaper.

Wood pellet stoves are pretty popular now too as a supplement.
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Spirit Rider
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Spirit Rider » Mon May 13, 2019 1:58 pm

You need to indicate where you live. it changes the economics. As Jack said, propane tends to be the highest cost petroleum heat source. However, in most areas of the country electric resistance heating is the most expensive. Heat pumps have a wide range of cost depending on their coefficient of performance COP at a given temperature range.

In some places where natural gas is not available a hybrid heat pump/propane heating system is economically cost effective. Typically, the propane replaces the electric resistance backup heating when the outside air temperature gets too low. Often, the HVAC company will install an outside thermostat that will lockout the heatpump below a certain temperature, such that the propane becomes the only heat source.

However, that is usually from the point of view of a new or full system replacement. With only a heat pump system, you will likely have a single unit air handler with an embedded heater coil. That is not conducive to an integrated system with a backup propane furnace.

This forum is not going to be able to tell you what your best options is. You need to contact a few heating contractors to give you options and quotes.

Don't forget to think outside the box. Wood stoves, pellet stoves, fireplace inserts (wood, pellet and propane), permanent localized direct vent and ventless (except in bedrooms) propane heaters are all possible options. All of these will have a higher temperature delta than heat pump vents. Sometimes the temperature of the source is more important than the overall temperature for warmth.
Last edited by Spirit Rider on Mon May 13, 2019 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

slowneasy
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by slowneasy » Mon May 13, 2019 2:06 pm

I agree with others, but it does vary regionally. I use natural gas if available and propane as my second choice.

I will say be careful about the lease (rent) vs buy. When I first had propane many years ago the local rep said that the tank was free and they normally charge $0.10 extra per gallon for the gas if you used their tank. After a year I found the actual upcharge was normally $0.25 or more per gallon and that the price varied among suppliers on any given week. This changed the calculations and I quickly bought my own tank so I could purchase from any of the available propane providers. Owning the tank saved me money in the long run.

hicabob
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by hicabob » Mon May 13, 2019 2:11 pm

That's really cheap for propane. Propane would cost about 1/2 of resistance electric per btu at your prices.
This type of calculator is useful.
http://www.maxmcarter.com/fuels/fuelscalc.html

Van
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Van » Mon May 13, 2019 2:20 pm

We have a hybrid heat pump/propane system. When the propane is on, it feels noticeably warmer in the house at a given temperature setting than when the heat pump is operating. Also, the propane system heats up the house much quicker than the heat pump. However, the propane gets very expensive during the really cold winter months here in the north east.

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deanbrew
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by deanbrew » Mon May 13, 2019 2:34 pm

Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm
Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.
Are you sure about that propane price? That seems extraordinarily low. Here in PA, propane generally costs just a little less than gasoline... right now it's just under $3.00 per gallon. Heating oil is about the same.

Dot-gov shows the average Ohio propane price is about $2.60 per gallon. https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafH ... OH_DPG&f=W

Looking at this chart, I'm surprised by the significant difference in prices from state to state. Is this due to state taxes, or something else?
https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_wf ... pgal_w.htm

I don't believe there is a huge cost advantage regarding propane or oil. Propane has less odor, but is similar in terms of having to have it delivered to your house by truck.

A modern high-efficiency heat pump is supposedly pretty efficient, but you won't get that "warm" feeling when the air is moving, since it is heated to under 100 degrees and runs much longer.
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Agon
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Agon » Mon May 13, 2019 2:57 pm

Good stuff so far. THANK YOU. We live northwest of Cincinnati. That was price that I was quoted. We live on the border of Indiana/Ohio and the propane would come from Indiana. The quote was for $1.50 per gallon. First tank for a new customer would be $1.25. Again, I really appreciate everyone's help.

ralph124cf
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by ralph124cf » Mon May 13, 2019 4:20 pm

Consider a ground source heat pump.

High upfront costs, low operating cost. You do need enough property for the installation.

Ralph

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by bubbadog » Mon May 13, 2019 8:32 pm

ralph124cf wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:20 pm
Consider a ground source heat pump.

High upfront costs, low operating cost. You do need enough property for the installation.

Ralph
I second this.

At least look into geothermal as an option. (There may be some energy efficiency tax rebates available as well)

Higher upfront cost but likely the lowest operating cost.

Might be worth it if you plan to be in the home a long time.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by iamlucky13 » Mon May 13, 2019 10:19 pm

In recent years, based both on figures shared around the web for installation cost and performance, and based on recommendations published by others, it has appeared to me ground source heat pumps have long enough payback periods compared to air source heat pumps, especially the newer variable speed and mini-split units, that payback is questionable, especially if you factor in alternative investment value or financing costs.

Certainly it is an option you could consider, but don't take it as a foregone conclusion it will be the best option.

As for propane, I seriously question the long term availability of $1.50 per gallon delivery. I wonder if this is unusually good end-of-season pricing. $2 or more per gallon seems like a safer rate to base your comparison on.

I would not replace the heat pump with propane. I would turn the temperature up by 1-2 degrees to compensate for the less warming feel of air circulated by a heat pump in order to retain the combined benefit of slightly lower costs in mild weather, and air conditioning in hot weather.

You might find still find modest net savings from replacing the electric resistance auxiliary heat coils with a propane furnace, however. Keep in mind there is a small convenience reduction for the need to periodically have your tank refilled, and potential aesthetic consideration for locating your propane tank.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 4:57 am

Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 2:57 pm
Good stuff so far. THANK YOU. We live northwest of Cincinnati. That was price that I was quoted. We live on the border of Indiana/Ohio and the propane would come from Indiana. The quote was for $1.50 per gallon. First tank for a new customer would be $1.25. Again, I really appreciate everyone's help.
It feels like you could use a propane furnace backup. For the cold days.

I wouldn't go full propane because for the less cold days it does not sound like a cheap alternative. Unless a hybrid arrangement is not possible.

Heating oil brings will it some awful contamination risks (which are very slight with an aboveground tank) plus it's polluting and a messy fuel. Propane is a lot cleaner).

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 5:01 am

Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm
[This thread is now in the "Personal Consumer Issues" forum. -- moderator oldcomputerguy]

Good day. We live in a very rural area northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. We currently have an air heat pump system to heat our house. I'm not a big fan, because even when it gets the house to the thermostat temperature, the house still feels cold.
This sounds like there is heating system problem? Why would it feel cold when you hit the desired temperature?

Generally compared to furnaces HP run best "long and low" rather than "fast and hot". The efficiency of a HP falls with a greater gap between input & output temperatures so that drives the setting.

But a temperature is a temperature. Your thermostat does not know what generates the heat it is recording. Is it possible the air is dryer? That would make it feel colder.
It switches over to electric when the temperatures falls past a certain level. This, of course, gets expensive.
Again I wonder if it is set properly - at what outside temperature does it switch to electric bar/ resistance heating?
I am contemplating installing a propane furnace. Is this a good idea? I have messed around with a couple calculators online. Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.
I have read comments that a "free" tank is a bad idea because you are tied to one supplier. So that's something to investigate - whether you want to be in that situation.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by RickBoglehead » Tue May 14, 2019 5:10 am

Call a handful of propane suppliers, don't rely on one quote for price.
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Ping Pong » Tue May 14, 2019 5:29 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 5:01 am
But a temperature is a temperature. Your thermostat does not know what generates the heat it is recording. Is it possible the air is dryer? That would make it feel colder.
The problem is that the air ducts are located outside the house (in the attic or crawl space) and they leak. Since a heat pump takes longer to heat the air, it gives the ducts more time to leak humidity to the outside.

The solution is to design houses with the ducts inside or use mini split heat pumps which don’t have ductwork. Radiators and in-floor systems don’t have ductwork either so they don’t dry the air. If you use heat pumped water, you’ll need bigger than normal radiators since the water temperature is lower.

Another option is to add a humidifier to the ductwork. You can also try sealing the ducts. That might help, but ducts generally always leak. I don’t know why someone doesn’t invent ductwork that fits together like pvc pipes do (high velocity systems might use pipes but they are too noisy).

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Tue May 14, 2019 5:53 am

bubbadog wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 8:32 pm
ralph124cf wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:20 pm
Consider a ground source heat pump.
High upfront costs, low operating cost. You do need enough property for the installation.
Ralph
I second this.
At least look into geothermal as an option. (There may be some energy efficiency tax rebates available as well)
Higher upfront cost but likely the lowest operating cost.
Might be worth it if you plan to be in the home a long time.
I am a big fan of geothermal, and am in the middle of an installation myself. If money is a big consideration, I think a properly sized air sourced heat pump with carbon based backup for really cold days is a better option. If cleanliness, long term savings, and comfort are important, go geothermal.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 5:54 am

Ping Pong wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 5:29 am
Valuethinker wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 5:01 am
But a temperature is a temperature. Your thermostat does not know what generates the heat it is recording. Is it possible the air is dryer? That would make it feel colder.
The problem is that the air ducts are located outside the house (in the attic or crawl space) and they leak. Since a heat pump takes longer to heat the air, it gives the ducts more time to leak humidity to the outside.

The solution is to design houses with the ducts inside or use mini split heat pumps which don’t have ductwork. Radiators and in-floor systems don’t have ductwork either so they don’t dry the air. If you use heat pumped water, you’ll need bigger than normal radiators since the water temperature is lower.

Another option is to add a humidifier to the ductwork. You can also try sealing the ducts. That might help, but ducts generally always leak. I don’t know why someone doesn’t invent ductwork that fits together like pvc pipes do (high velocity systems might use pipes but they are too noisy).
Thank you, that is very interesting.

Not sure about the underlined bit? Doesn't the heating all go on in the heat exchange in the HP?

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by samsoes » Tue May 14, 2019 6:14 am

Be aware that it takes 1.5 gallons of propane to produce the equivalent heat (BTUs) produced by a gallon of heating oil.
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by friar1610 » Tue May 14, 2019 6:15 am

JoeRetire wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:41 pm


We now live in Maine and have propane. It's currently more expensive than natural gas (which isn't available in my town) but less expensive than electric. Other than that, it's just fine.

My preferences (from most preferred to least preferred) would be:
- Natural gas
- Propane
- Oil
- Electric
- Dung
+1

Similar experience and opinions during 8 years of living in Vermont. We are no in Mass. and happy with our natural gas.
Friar1610

Ping Pong
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Ping Pong » Tue May 14, 2019 6:16 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 5:54 am
Not sure about the underlined bit? Doesn't the heating all go on in the heat exchange in the HP?
Yes. The problem isn’t the heat pump. The problem is the air ducts which circulate the air into the various rooms in the house. When the heat pump is on, a circulation fan/blower pushes air through the ducts. This increases* the pressure in the ducts which cause them to leak. Once the heat pump turns off, the blower also turns off. When the blower is off, there is no pressure and no leaking. Heat pumps spend more time in the on mode than other heating sources.

*when the blower is on, supply ducts have positive pressure, return ducts have negative pressure. Both of these conditions cause air to leak.

If the ducts were inside the house like they are in many commercial buildings, leaking wouldn’t be an issue.

It’s not just the ducts that leak. When the blower is on, some rooms get pressurized which causes leaking thru the walls as well. This happens to a great extent when someone closes a bedroom door. There is a vent supplying air to the room but no way for the air to get out and back to the return vent which is often in the hallway.
Last edited by Ping Pong on Tue May 14, 2019 6:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

mortfree
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by mortfree » Tue May 14, 2019 6:20 am

If you choose propane, consider:

- Buy/own a 1000 gallon tank - install underground.

- Determine if suppliers have a bulk rate - a different/lower price for orders over 500 gallons.

- zone heating (first floor and second floor, if it is a two story home).

Wellfleet
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Wellfleet » Tue May 14, 2019 7:34 am

Massachusetts has a good guide describing the cost differences of different heating fuels. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/house ... ting-costs

You are lucky that energy is so much cheaper where you are!

unstartable
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by unstartable » Tue May 14, 2019 7:55 am

Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm
[This thread is now in the "Personal Consumer Issues" forum. -- moderator oldcomputerguy]

Good day. We live in a very rural area northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. We currently have an air heat pump system to heat our house. I'm not a big fan, because even when it gets the house to the thermostat temperature, the house still feels cold. It switches over to electric when the temperatures falls past a certain level. This, of course, gets expensive. I am contemplating installing a propane furnace. Is this a good idea? I have messed around with a couple calculators online. Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.
A heat pump with a gas furnace for times with very cold outside temperatures is probably one of the more economical ways to heat a home in most areas. What style of home do you have, how large is it, and where is your duct work? If you're looking for comfort a hydronic system might be worth considering as well.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Sandtrap » Tue May 14, 2019 8:00 am

Propane

Inexpensive
Relatively simple HVAC unit design
Reliable

Valuethinker
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 8:05 am

unstartable wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 7:55 am
Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm
[This thread is now in the "Personal Consumer Issues" forum. -- moderator oldcomputerguy]

Good day. We live in a very rural area northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. We currently have an air heat pump system to heat our house. I'm not a big fan, because even when it gets the house to the thermostat temperature, the house still feels cold. It switches over to electric when the temperatures falls past a certain level. This, of course, gets expensive. I am contemplating installing a propane furnace. Is this a good idea? I have messed around with a couple calculators online. Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.
A heat pump with a gas furnace for times with very cold outside temperatures is probably one of the more economical ways to heat a home in most areas. What style of home do you have, how large is it, and where is your duct work? If you're looking for comfort a hydronic system might be worth considering as well.
Natural Gas is not an option for this householder. Or did you mean "gas" meaning propane?

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 8:09 am

Ping Pong wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:16 am
Valuethinker wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 5:54 am
Not sure about the underlined bit? Doesn't the heating all go on in the heat exchange in the HP?
Yes. The problem isn’t the heat pump. The problem is the air ducts which circulate the air into the various rooms in the house. When the heat pump is on, a circulation fan/blower pushes air through the ducts. This increases* the pressure in the ducts which cause them to leak. Once the heat pump turns off, the blower also turns off. When the blower is off, there is no pressure and no leaking. Heat pumps spend more time in the on mode than other heating sources.

*when the blower is on, supply ducts have positive pressure, return ducts have negative pressure. Both of these conditions cause air to leak.

If the ducts were inside the house like they are in many commercial buildings, leaking wouldn’t be an issue.

It’s not just the ducts that leak. When the blower is on, some rooms get pressurized which causes leaking thru the walls as well. This happens to a great extent when someone closes a bedroom door. There is a vent supplying air to the room but no way for the air to get out and back to the return vent which is often in the hallway.
Thank you.

I've always lived (in North America & England) with hydronic systems (hot water rads) operating at much higher water temperatures than an HP gives off (65 degrees C v. 45 degrees C). So I lack familiarity with ASHPs.

A relation had GSHP ("geothermal") on a farm on an exposed ridge in Ontario - minus 10 C in winter was certainly possible, plus windchill. It worked well and was superior to previous electric baseboard - but in truth it was the AC which was most important for liveability - in winter the farmhouse was mostly kept warm from a large fireplace at its centre.

They've now moved into town and have NG furnace, but much better insulation. I don't think they have underfloor (hydronic) heating.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by criticalmass » Tue May 14, 2019 8:20 am

Agon wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:31 pm
[This thread is now in the "Personal Consumer Issues" forum. -- moderator oldcomputerguy]

Good day. We live in a very rural area northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. We currently have an air heat pump system to heat our house. I'm not a big fan, because even when it gets the house to the thermostat temperature, the house still feels cold. It switches over to electric when the temperatures falls past a certain level. This, of course, gets expensive. I am contemplating installing a propane furnace. Is this a good idea? I have messed around with a couple calculators online. Our electric co-op charges us 13.5 cents per kwh. The current price of propane in the area is $1.50 per gallon. The tank would be free to lease if we filled up enough. I would greatly appreciate your input in helping us decide.
Be forewarned that 68 degrees F with heat pumps feels like 68 degrees F with propane. You could use propane as the auxiliary heat source when the heat pump efficiency deteriorates in cold weather. This would you to use the cheapest source for current conditions. Use an outdoor thermostat or sensor to control staging.

Beware using a company owned propane tank. You will pay higher prices and be completely prevented from using another supplier, that may offer much lower prices. The owning company may charge you a substantial fee to remove their tank when you get tired of being locked into one supplier with higher prices. They know when they got you. Repeat: no supplier or company will fill or touch another company’s tank.

Also, don’t base your economics based on the spot price of propane in late May. You will be quite surprised in January.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by pshonore » Tue May 14, 2019 8:49 am

samsoes wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:14 am
Be aware that it takes 1.5 gallons of propane to produce the equivalent heat (BTUs) produced by a gallon of heating oil.
Quite true, but Propane is more "efficient" than oil. Probably in the mid 90% range compared to high 80s% for a new oil burner.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by criticalmass » Tue May 14, 2019 9:51 am

pshonore wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 8:49 am
samsoes wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:14 am
Be aware that it takes 1.5 gallons of propane to produce the equivalent heat (BTUs) produced by a gallon of heating oil.
Quite true, but Propane is more "efficient" than oil. Probably in the mid 90% range compared to high 80s% for a new oil burner.
That depends on the appliance. An 80 AFUE oil heater will have the same efficiency as an 80 AFUE propane heater. But you can spend more money and get a 96+ AFUE gas/propane heater, while getting that high efficiency is difficult with oil since it requires condensing the exhaust steam. Oil exhaust is much more dirty than gas/propane, causing issues for a condensing oil heat exchanger and condensate handling.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Spirit Rider » Tue May 14, 2019 10:20 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 5:01 am
But a temperature is a temperature. Your thermostat does not know what generates the heat it is recording.
criticalmass wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 8:20 am
Be forewarned that 68 degrees F with heat pumps feels like 68 degrees F with propane.
The temperature at the thermostat is not the only relevant temperature in the house. The temperature of the air coming out of the vents can be a significant contributor to the feeling of warmth throughout the home.

Gas furnaces typically operate with an average 60 - 65 degree temperature rise. Heat pumps typically operate with an average 30 degree temperature rise @47 degrees outside ambient and an average 15 degree temperature rise @17 degrees outside ambient. Also, below freezing, the heat pump will periodically go into defrost (air conditioning) mode to heat the coils.

In the latter two cases, backup resistance heating will try to compensate, but the air coming out of the vents can be < 100 degrees. Any air movement < your body temperature will feel chilly in the winter. While the air coming out of gas furnaces will typically be 130 - 140 degrees. Which do you think feels warmer? People in a home do not spend their time standing next to the thermostat.

This is one reason why supplemental radiant heat sources such as wood stoves and electric/gas heaters can be so comforting. They have high temperatures as the source radiating outward without significant airflow.

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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by megabad » Tue May 14, 2019 10:28 am

At normal propane prices, propane is about the same cost to run as electric resistance heat (in general, roughly). Going from a heat pump to propane would likely double your heating bill. At normal propane prices. At 1.50 (half the going retail winter price), you would likely get close to breaking even. In short, no reason to change for energy savings. This assumes that you only rarely use aux heat or emergency heat. A modern properly designed, installed and operated heat pump will almost never need aux heat if properly sized and can operate efficiently into the teens and lower. If you want cost savings, it is likely a better idea to upgrade your heat pump to something more efficient than to go to propane (maybe not geothermal, but just a high end air to air unit).

However, if you want faster heating (generally at higher cost), than propane is the way to go. Many folks enjoy the blast of 100 degree air that comes out of there NG or propane furnaces and are more comfortable. Heat pumps generally result in more air motion (less cycling heat blasts) in comparison and so some people feel cooler if they sit near an air vent. The average temperature in the house is of course no different though and generally it is easier just to move away from a vent away from the air motion. But combustion furnaces are definitely a lot faster than heat pumps at heating. Also if you like to turn off your heat or set it back, you would want propane or gas. Heat pumps should generally not be setback much as most cheap thermostats foolishly engage the electric strip when you turn them back on (to avoid the very slow warm up time).

Additionally, anecdotally and logically, a propane or gas unit with separate AC will likely last longer than a heat pump. In my case, they have lasted about 3-4 years longer. So there may be some cost savings there to help balance out the increased energy use.

brianH
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by brianH » Tue May 14, 2019 11:29 am

It's worth noting as well that a hybrid setup (e.g. heat pump + propane/oil furnace) is difficult to tune to achieve the lowest energy consumption, because typically when the furnace is on, the heat pump can no longer operate. With the electric strips on a HP, the HP and electric can work in concert, but with a furnace, the HP is totally off at some predetermined cutover outdoor temperature.

So, without the furnace, your HP may not be able to provide 100% of the heat below, say, 30F, but it can provide 70% (and decreasing as temp goes down) and let the strips pick up the remainder. At some low temp, the strips may be doing the bulk of the heating, but with modern HPs, that's going to be polar vortex temps. With the furnace, however, the cutoff at 30F would now be using 100% fossil fuels instead of the HP.

I've spent months tuning my hybrid setup, and thermostats like the ecobee have a feature that can switch to the furnace only after the HP has run for a while and 'tried' to get the heat up or the indoor temp drops below some ultimate threshold. Most HVAC installers will not be tuning to this level; they'll optimize for comfort, even if it means 'throwing out' the heat from the cheaper HP to prematurely switch to the furnace.

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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Tue May 14, 2019 11:43 am

I've spent months tuning my hybrid setup, and thermostats like the ecobee have a feature that can switch to the furnace only after the HP has run for a while and 'tried' to get the heat up or the indoor temp drops below some ultimate threshold. Most HVAC installers will not be tuning to this level; they'll optimize for comfort, even if it means 'throwing out' the heat from the cheaper HP to prematurely switch to the furnace.
That’s one of the “off spreadsheet” factors that I use as a rebuttal to my ASHP friends when I explain why I went to a GSHP. They like to tell me that I could have had 90% of the benefit for half the cost by going air sourced rather than ground sourced, but it all depends on what goes into the spreadsheet (eg, cleanliness, quiet, etc).
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

Big Dog
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by Big Dog » Tue May 14, 2019 11:55 am

The problem is that the air ducts are located outside the house (in the attic or crawl space) and they leak. Since a heat pump takes longer to heat the air, it gives the ducts more time to leak humidity to the outside.
Sounds like you need a quality HVAC firm to redo/replace your duct work. We had our ducts replaced (attic space mainly) when we replace our furnace and the difference in the new duct work is amazing. Formerly cold rooms are now warm (with a smaller furnace blower).

The temperature at the thermostat is not the only relevant temperature in the house. The temperature of the air coming out of the vents can be a significant contributor to the feeling of warmth throughout the home.
Sure, but only when the furnace cycles on. There plenty of times during the day when they furnace has cycled off, and 68 degrees feels like 68 degrees (depending on humidity). Instead of spending money on a backup system, why not just raise the HP t-stat to ~70 degrees? Or, before spending money on a backup, at least measure the internal humidity first. Perhaps a simple humidifier will help in the winter.


In either case, I would recommend the OP get a half dozen bids from HVAC companies to see what they recommend. Make sure that the HVAC company performs a full load calc Manual J -- if they only eyeball it, or 'based on my 20 years experience, you need 5 tons' -- find someone else. And consider a Manual D for calculating ducting needs.

P.S. this is a good site for info:

https://hvac-talk.com/vbb/forumdisplay. ... ntial-HVAC
Last edited by Big Dog on Tue May 14, 2019 12:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

hicabob
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by hicabob » Tue May 14, 2019 12:21 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 11:43 am
I've spent months tuning my hybrid setup, and thermostats like the ecobee have a feature that can switch to the furnace only after the HP has run for a while and 'tried' to get the heat up or the indoor temp drops below some ultimate threshold. Most HVAC installers will not be tuning to this level; they'll optimize for comfort, even if it means 'throwing out' the heat from the cheaper HP to prematurely switch to the furnace.
That’s one of the “off spreadsheet” factors that I use as a rebuttal to my ASHP friends when I explain why I went to a GSHP. They like to tell me that I could have had 90% of the benefit for half the cost by going air sourced rather than ground sourced, but it all depends on what goes into the spreadsheet (eg, cleanliness, quiet, etc).
It seems geothermal heat pumps are more efficient for heating than air heat pumps under 45 degrees and less so above ...
https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=ht ... AHoECAYQBg

For cooling they would always win over air sourced.

RetiredAL
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by RetiredAL » Tue May 14, 2019 12:49 pm

Wellfleet wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 7:34 am
Massachusetts has a good guide describing the cost differences of different heating fuels. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/house ... ting-costs

You are lucky that energy is so much cheaper where you are!
I strongly dislike their methodology. It's VERY misleading. The electric model used 11 million BTU, the Natural Gas model is 64 million BTU. If the typical gas user switched to electric, expecting a savings, their heating bill would increase by an approx factor of 6, to $4800 vs their current gas cost of less than $1000. OK, they do have a disclaimer about the quantity differences, apt vs home, but what the average person sees and remembers is the data table and what's the cheapest.

iamlucky13
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Re: Heating with propane?? Good idea?

Post by iamlucky13 » Tue May 14, 2019 4:04 pm

More on the side-topic about why heat pumps feel cooler at the same temperature:

It's not due to leakage. That is simply an efficiency loss that applies to any ducted heat source. And although heat pumps run longer, they also run at lower flow rates, and if the ducting was sized for an auxiliary heat source, lower pressures, which means a slower leakage rate.

So the answer is mainly that air coming from the ducts for a gas furnace is often up around 120 degrees - well above body temperature. The moving air feels very warm.

Air coming from the ducts for a heat pump is usually around 90 degrees - below body temperature. As a result, moving air while the heat is on doesn't feel warm. It feels like a slight draft.

Heat pumps also run at a lower heat rate, but for a higher percentage of the time than gas furnaces, so the effect is prolonged.

And, I believe the effect actually persists after the heat pump has turned off, probably mainly due to a slight decrease in your body temperature while it was running. Turning the heat up by a degree or two especially helps compensate for this by helping you warm back up faster than if the air temperature is right at the point that keeps your body roughly at equilibrium.

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