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what is the heating solution for an old house
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Nicky Colour it green



Joined: 25 Jun 2007
Posts: 9183
Location: Devon, uk
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 21 2:54 pm    Post subject: what is the heating solution for an old house Reply with quote
    

so its all over the news - we need to change our gas boilers - but what is the best solution for an old house? I keep reading how heat pumps work best with modern super insulated houses, probably with underfloor heating.

The attic is very insulated - we had to up it to regulation when we did the roof. The windows are double glazed. The walls are 2 ft granite/river stone. The downstairs floors are solid and foundations and DPC were not considered at the time the house was built, so underfloor heating seems unlikely - wouldnt want to dig into the ground, and the ceilings are a bit too low to want to bring the floor upwards.

I have a woodburning esse in the kitchen - and yes I know wood is now frowned upon - though I despair over this as it isn't for whimsical prettiness but it's functional - and makes hot water and I can cook on it, plus I am using wood grown on my own land. cut by yours truly. And I live on the edge of the moors, not in the city....

However I dont always use the fire - days like today that are mild but become colder later.. ideal to use the ch - currently gas

soooooo what is the best solution to eventually replace that gas boiler?

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 42484
Location: yes
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 21 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

solar thermal water is a useful tool to reduce other inputs for hot water

it was built for wood fires, the walls and chimneys are the designed-in heat store, you have wood, it is a restore option if you adjust the ventilation, heat exchange, etc

to get a bit more modern, wood+solar water boost can give year round heating and water

retrofit heating in old properties is as much art and artisan as science and technology
both have useful approaches to the problem

one of the best retro rigs i have ever lived with was open fire, backboiler, hot water tank, 5 radiators and a pump + leccy immersion heater for summer
cosy house, lots of hot water, low costs, fairly low impact
if it had solar water the energy costs would have been even less

with modern kit, and local tweaking for your house, something along those lines might be worth looking into

massive walls they need to work for you rather than against you, a good asset or a huge problem depending on how well you use them

Nicky Colour it green



Joined: 25 Jun 2007
Posts: 9183
Location: Devon, uk
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 21 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

dpack wrote:

one of the best retro rigs i have ever lived with was open fire, backboiler, hot water tank, 5 radiators and a pump + leccy immersion heater for summer
cosy house, lots of hot water, low costs, fairly low impact
if it had solar water the energy costs would have been even less

with modern kit, and local tweaking for your house, something along those lines might be worth looking into

I have this - my wood fired esse has a back boiler (well it's a side boiler) I have an immersion heater but never use it cos currently the system tops up the hot water in the thermal store via the gas boiler. It is cheaper to run gas than the immersion on a timer. I think I will need something to run the heating on days I don't light the wood fired esse - I'm getting older, my son is disabled, lets say I am ill or something, need to be able to heat the house without lugging logs around. We did have an extra coil put in the thermal store for potential solar water... but never got around to it. then i got busy with grief etc so it hasn't happened.

Quote:
massive walls they need to work for you rather than against you, a good asset or a huge problem depending on how well you use them
yes, my house is like a cave and seems to maintain a cool temperature - a blessing in summer. But that cool ambient temp seems a lot worse in winter! and there are mysterious drafts despite the loft insulation and double glazing. Also damp. we have lots of it.

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 42484
Location: yes
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 21 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

We did have an extra coil put in the thermal store for potential solar water

that would be my first move
whatever else you do, warmer water in a tank is always a bonus and iirc pays for the kit and installation fairly quickly

most damp is penetrating water, leaks or bridging
have the house eyeballed for that, fix if needs be
some damp is condensation, have it eyeballed for that etc

hard stone with decent mortar is unlikely to wick much, but some replacement plaster will, as above get it eyeballed

dry is easier and uses a lot less energy to heat

drafts bad, ventilation good
very site specific

best options can be high or low tech

the place was built for open fires and plenty of airflow, changing that needs care and skill, done well it can be easy, cheap and cosy

Nicky Colour it green



Joined: 25 Jun 2007
Posts: 9183
Location: Devon, uk
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 21 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

dpack wrote:


most damp is penetrating water, leaks or bridging
have the house eyeballed for that, fix if needs be
some damp is condensation, have it eyeballed for that etc


yep we fixed all the places water was getting in from above - we had to have a new roof - this is why the solar water was delayed - then as I said life got complicated. But part of the problem is part of the house is below ground level - about 4-5 ft on one side. Theory is this wasn't the case when the house was built 400 years ago, but since then other buildings went up, the road was definitely raised ( the fact the granite doorstep is now level with the ground is a clue) and tarmacs so water has no where to go. Cant put a French drain in as now our land. Ventilation, as you say, does help. But this I feel is not compatible with air/ground source heat pump.

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 42484
Location: yes
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 21 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

the 4 or 5 ft is plausible backfill, if it cannot be dug out the best way to tackle the damp on the inside is to strip the wall and use a multi layer tanking render to give a moisture proof barrier.

one way to test how the ventilation is now is to use something like an incense stick and eyeball where the smoke goes out or in and where it can be detected by nose.
it takes a few goes and changes of flavour to cover a house, and it will be different depending on outside conditions, inside activities etc
this is not an exact science with numbers and best practice calculations but it might find unwanted drafts and unventilated spaces that can be remedied

hvac is a tricky game even if you start with a drawing of a new build on a pooterscreen and a load of tables, "best practice" can make for uninhabitable buildings even if they are efficient in theory

i do not know much about heat pump systems, especially if they will work in a building like your one

something to consider is any disused chimneys need to be dry(vented rain hat and a trickle vent at the base)
"disused chimneys" do have the advantage of being available as vertical ducts

i am not a fan of closed systems, even less so in a building designed for a very different hvac regime

just a thought but the way things are going having the capacity to use your own wood seems wise whatever the primary systems become

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 14102

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 21 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

My feeling on wood burning is that it is better to keep it going if possible, rather than only occasional. Like you, at present, we are using ch in the evenings if it is cold, but in winter we keep the wood burner going the whole time. It has the advantage of drying things out, a warm chimney is more efficient than a cold one, and it keeps an air flow through the house solving any problems there.

Wood burning is recycling carbon dioxide, not creating it, and the particulates given off are far less (in spite of propaganda) than from a moderately busy road. For the first time yesterday, I saw an admission that brakes produce particulates, so even if we go all electric we will still get them from cars.

It sounds as if there could be penetrating damp from the raised ground, so would agree with Dpack on all of that. I also agree about solar water heating. Something we have been thinking about for a long time but other things have got in the way.

Nicky Colour it green



Joined: 25 Jun 2007
Posts: 9183
Location: Devon, uk
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 21 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Mistress Rose wrote:
My feeling on wood burning is that it is better to keep it going if possible, rather than only occasional. Like you, at present, we are using ch in the evenings if it is cold, but in winter we keep the wood burner going the whole time. It has the advantage of drying things out, a warm chimney is more efficient than a cold one, and it keeps an air flow through the house solving any problems there.


yes I agree - in winter I tend to keep the esse going all the time - I cook on and in it, it keeps the kitchen cosy, which is where I live when I am indoors. But I need a back up boiler / alternative for those in between times - like now it's far too mild to want the fire on day and night, I just want to warm things up in the evening. Plus if I am out of action for any reason, we need something in place to keep a warm house without lighting fires.

gz



Joined: 23 Jan 2009
Posts: 7846
Location: Ayrshire, Scotland
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 21 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Really positive advice.
I don't think that our 1940s metal framed rented semi would benefit from a heat pump!
It has been wrapped, we are considering increasing the roof insulation.
Double glazing would help but the landlord wouldn't wear that! Heavier curtain making coming up as well as the window cling film

Treacodactyl
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25755
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 21 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Firstly I'd ignore most of the news. It's either cheap sound bites or ill thought out ideas that are going to go badly wrong at some point. One would hope the current gas price rises due to the overreliance on wind would go some way to making the powers that be see some common sense but I doubt it.

I'm not at all convinced by heat pumps are they are costly, don't see overly reliable and with the prospect of powercuts they may not even work when you need them most.

As I have my own woodland then wood is the obvious choice for heating for us. I'm just keeping an eye out for proposed changes in legisaltion so I can install a new stove before any ill though out bans come in. (Most of the current bans seem to be aimed at city/town use so we should be ok for several more years).

Back up for us will have to be electric. I decided several years back when I was just looking at the costs for a new central heating systen and the annual running costs.

The daft thing is I keep being sent offers/grants from our local council about installing a new oil boiler.

And with all the money being poured into solar and wind I'm still somewhat puzzled that there's so little being invested in domestic hydo - I have a ready source of water but there's no off-the-shelf hydo option to use.

jema
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 27571
Location: escaped from Swindon
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 21 4:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

I was going to post on heat pumps myself this morning.

I know the round retains heat, but enough that rows of terraced houses are not going to drain that heat as they struggle with poor insulation in winter?

I prefer to be keen on new green technology, but heat pumps seem mega useless without a major insulation effort first costing 10k+ if not 20k+ for most homes build to still useless building standards.
Then even with the insulation, hundreds of big fans in little backyards all trying to eat the same heat seems unlikely.
Lets have the insulation, but then maybe electric boilers powered with renewables.
Leave the heat pumps for where they do work, which is quite a few places but not for all.

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 14102

PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 21 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Treacodantyl, i agree with you about wood, and Nicky, I understand your problem. We have been thinking for many years about a wood burning cooker, but we have been thinking too long, and now we are either side of 70, feel that it might be a bit much to deal with especially as we still have to get a flue dealt with professionally. I compromise by using the top of the wood burner for anything that takes a long time, like bolognaise sauce, cassoulet or melting wax for candles.

I think insulation without air movement is likely to cause many problems, so each house really needs to be improved in both directions, which is a major installation in many cases.

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 42484
Location: yes
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 21 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

from cragside to the three gorges there are options for water+gravity, they do need to be chosen for site conditions

water has a huge specific heat capacity and is ripe for harvesting with heat exchange kit, if the water does not freeze it also needs a reliable leccy input(pv and battery perhaps)

the CAT folk have some useful info, but teccy stuff is available

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 6271
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 21 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Much on your side of the pond needs insulating was an observation I've had for a long time. Difficult in old buildings.

My cousin was an engineer specializing in these systems. He had solar thermal evacuated tubes on his house and recommended against buying them because solar pv was getting so cheap it made more sense to just get more solar pv and an air to water heat pump for domestic hot water. This was nearly ten years ago, so I imagine it's only gone more in this direction (at least here). Also has the added benefit of grid power when your solar is low, and if net metered you can bank solar credits when your solar is high. Solar thermal needs a backup for cloudy stretches, and works best with a large super insulated storage tank.

Not sure about sizing a pv system and air or ground to water heat pump for heating demands.

If sticking with cordwood, there are very efficient combination boilers to be had. My aunt and uncle have a system put in by said cousin that they only load with wood twice a day in the coldest weather (and we get colder weather than you, and their house is over a hundred years old, so not well insulated). Another uncle (father of engineer) has an old wood boiler that he hooked up to a homemade heat exchange in an old milk bulk tank. A second heart exchange brings that heat up to his hot water radiators, using only convection!

Around here, an air to air heat pump is among the cheapest options for a retrofit, but we don't have many stone houses, so I don't know about compatibility.

Personally we going enough that I want the exercise, so we burn cordwood in our wood cookstove, and have an air to air heat pump as a supplement. We also have a small propane heater that we only use on the coldest nights. Maybe burned 10-20 gallons of propane? With our solar powering heat pump air heat and domestic hot water, that propane is only fossil fuel we heat with. (Just need to upgrade vehicles to electric!)

Last edited by Slim on Thu Oct 21, 21 11:28 am; edited 1 time in total

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 6271
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 21 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Mistress Rose wrote:

Wood burning is recycling carbon dioxide, not creating it, and the particulates given off are far less (in spite of propaganda) than from a moderately busy road. For the first time yesterday, I saw an admission that brakes produce particulates, so even if we go all electric we will still get them from cars.


MR, I agree about the benefits of wood, and realize you're concerned about your livelihood being impacted by air quality concerns, but we've talked about brake dust before... EVs, though heavier and therefore a higher potential for brake wear, need brake replacements less frequently than ICE vehicles because of their regenerative braking.

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