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Ask the Experts!

16 July 2008

“Will you have another energy makeover? I would really love to get solar panels, geothermal, etc. but I work at a nonprofit and can’t afford it. I do need to get a new heating system: I have an old boiler and radiators. The geothermal company I called said that the temperature of geothermal isn’t high enough to get the water through the radiators:is that true? What about those solar heaters that attach to the south side of a house? Are they good in Minnesota? Other thoughts, ideas?”

Solar panels and geothermal are good ideas but a better investment is to first make your home as air tight as possible and insulate it as well as possible.  Your old boiler is likely about 60% efficient, so replacing it with a 95% boiler will make a dramatic difference on your bills.  These are more practical things that will cost a lot less.

Answer provided by Paul Morin, Senior Building Analyst at the Center for Energy and Environment.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Norm Tesmar permalink
    28 July 2008 8:45 pm

    To save about 20%-30% of space heating over the radiator distribution system(radiant/convective heat distribution) is to switch to Radiant Panel (floor,wall or ceiling) using the Pex, aluminum plate sandwich system. Now You have almost a pure radiant heat system that saves more energy and adds more comfort. Instead of a boiler a standard tank water heater sized to the envelope heat loss would save on an expensive boiler replacement and because its used in a closed loop sytem it will last far longer and it’s efficiency will increase as a heat plant instead of a potable water heater.
    Some retrofits are next to impossible to very easy to install the radiant panel in each room. It will save more energy by making each room a zone which is very easy with todays manifolds and actuators hooked to a thermostat in each room. High activity rooms can be turned down and low activity rooms kept at its comfort level and unused rooms can be turned way down until it will be used.
    Installing full whole house radiant heating will save 35%-50% over a forced air system.
    If You purchase an expensive high efficiency boiler but don’t get the Btu’s distributed efficiently to everywhere You need it what good is it? Radiant panel heating is as perfect as You can get. Just circulating warm water through the slickest and longest lasting tubing there is.
    Hydronic solar panels or heat pumps(heat extractors) are ideal to hook up to radiant panel since both like moderate volume at moderate temperatures to do the job. The radiant only needs between 85F(Fall & Spring) to 130F(winter) water for most homes.
    That’s it in a nut shell and enough for now.
    Norm at: 763-789-5349 Certified Energy Auditor

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