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Thread: Conserving Propane

  1. #1

    Conserving Propane

    Wow...what a winter! I've had to plow my driveway every day so far this week from either a big snow storm, a small snow storm, or wind driven snow. The wife crashed her Highlander yesterday into a telephone pole on slippery roads, and I got over 100 miles on my snowmobile...and its not even Christmas yet!!

    After adding onto my house I had no idea what my heating costs would be this year, and so far I am not liking the math. Granted my house is double what it was, but it seems like I am using quite a bit of propane.

    Currently I use have two propane heating systems. One is a Rennia heater in the old part of my house. It is a 30,000 btu unit that is direct vent and blows heat throughout my home. The new part of my house uses an 80,000 btu Munchkin boiler via radiant slab heat. The entire house is on concrete slab with 2 inches of strofoam insulation. The walls have R-19 and the ceilings, R-38, In short this should be a pretty tight house insulation wise.

    For settings we have our new bedrooms set at 60, and to be honest with you I don't think we can go much lower than that. The way radiant floor heat works, you really can't lower and raise the thermostats like you can with other systems; the delay is just too long (I think). But here is my question...

    We set the Rennia on Low Heat at night. This allows the heater to put out a little heat, but not to any temp setting. In 8 hours or so, it will go from our preferred temp of 62 to 52 or so. That is kind of chilly, so when we get up in the morning, we turn it back up to 60 for a few hours, then if we head to work, or go somewhere on the weekends, we drop it back down to low again. (54-52). My question is, are we conserving propane or using more? When we do eventually turn the heat up, the heater kicks into overdrive and warms the house up. But does this use more propane to do that (more of a degree rise) then leaving it at say 60 all the time. In that capacity it would run more often, but in shorter bursts.

    I'm not sure where the answer is, but I firmly believe that this house is pretty tight insulation wise. Still do you think another layer of insulation would really help? (The wife thinks so...I am undecided). Either way the propane costs are starting to worry me. Propane right now is pretty cheap still ($2.30 a gallon as compared to heating oil which is $3.40 a gallon), but we just went through 35% of a 500 gallon tank in a month. Granted its been down to -6F and -7F below for the last few days, but man I know there are a lot more of those nights ahead of us. Its only December and we typically don't shut down the furnaces off until May.

    PS...Anyone know where I can buy some wool sweaters on the cheap
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    hey travis dont have the answer for ther propane use i would quess that its the constant temp is better than hittin the gas and then shutun it for the wool dont u have llbean out near you ?? they got good stuff and reasonble.. or you could just go by a sheep or scavange the skins from your deer hunters sucess and tan your own
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Brentwood, TN
    While I'm no expert on you situation I have been told by people that claim to be experts that when using radient heat such as in your slab, that turning down the temp while away is not cost effective. With forced air heat you feel the warmth and the change is rapid so, turning down the heat is an effective way to reduce costs when you aren't home. Radient heat warms the objects in your home and in turn, the air. Cycling it down and up means that you are constantly warming and cooling these objects that will eventually warm the air and it's not very efficient. Maybe you could turn up your radient floor heat a bit and keep it constant and cycle the forced air for the extra heat as needed or add a supplemental heater in the bedroom.
    Member; Society of American Period Furniture Makers

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Move south. Uh-Oh, no, no, no. Don't do that! We are trying to talk you out of doing that.
    Hope wife is OK, crashes are always bad news.
    I don't have any suggestions. Wool socks, long underwear maybe?
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Inside the Beltway
    More insulation. You think energy's expensive this year, wait till next year. And the year after that...



  6. #6
    Well Travis, the first thing I would do is to sharpen up my meat axe and go looking for the "expert" that talked you into a radiant floor heating system. There you are in an area where the ground freezes 3 feet deep. Putting 2" of Styrofoam under the concrete is like peeing in the ocean, you feel better but no one notices. But this is ancient history, what to do now....

    In your neck of the woods, I would be looking for a soapstone heater/furnace. As I recall, Maine has more than a couple trees so fuel would not be a problem. The good thing about the soapstone heater is that the stone will hold the heat for quite a time after the fire is out, and translates into warming the house. Another option is coal stoker. I don't know the cost of coal in your area, so this option may cost more than the savings of not using propane. You could also install a slip-in wood-burning stove in your fireplace. Put it in in the fall, take it out and store it in the summer, perhaps. I have a friend that heats his house with such a fireplace insert, but we seldom get below 14 F.

    If you decide on some other additional or replacement heating system, DO NOT use a hot water boiler with the associated piping. For some unknown reason, people east of the Hudson river think that hot water heating is so neat. I guess they like to spend their money heating water and wasting that heat on the way to the radiator. But heck, what do we know out here in Indian territory.

    Travis, the only thing you did wrong was to listen to the guy that recommended radiant heating.

    Shapton make good stones for sharpening meat axes.

    That is my story, and I'm sticking by it.

  7. #7
    So far no wood burning stoves for this guy. As of right now, the insurance company I am with bans woodstoves, at least in outbuildings. That means propane heat for my shop to. You can have a wood burning stove in the house, but in doing the math, so far the cost of the wood stove, added with the extra cost of insurance, its cheaper to just buy more propane. Seems kind of silly with a 300 acre woodlot just outside, but the math doesn't lie.

    As for the radiant heat, its the best heating system I have seen thus far. We have it at work and whatnot and it works exceedingly well. I am not sure what the frost depth has to do with anything though. Here its four feet deep, not 3, but with just a sheet of Styrofoam insulation on the ground, the ground won't freeze under it. This is not the cheap 2 inch Styrofoam you can get, but the 25 buck a sheet Styrofoam. As it is, my slab runs about 86-90 degree water through it, and the ground is 47 so that is only a 40 degree rise. Not bad. Around here radiant floor heat is the way to go and I don't know of anyone who dislikes it. Just expensive to install, but considering your concrete slab is your homes foundation, a major portion of your heating system and your floor to, well that 9800 bucks I paid is pretty cheap.

    As for one of those outside woodstoves...ain't no way I am getting one of those wood burners. My dad had one and went from burning 8 cords to burning 20 cords. Then it burned his house down. In the last month there has been three other homes in this county alone (Waldo County Maine) whose outdoor woodstoves have burned to the ground. I know of two more on the way to work that are more than likely to burn the house down.

    One thing Patty and I discussed was getting a service guy to come out and just do a double check of all all the propane fittings. In the last month or two we have had our entire heating system changed over. From adding a new boiler to redoing our tank. They checked everything then, but maybe there is a leak somewhere that they missed. 175 gallons seems like a lot of btus to be going through. Granted it has been cold with temps a bit below zero for a steady week.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  8. #8
    Radient is a great heat and very comfortable, BUT i is not effecient when it is in a concrete slab, Mother Earth is a mere 54 degrees and she wants heat as well so she gets most of it. It is better put the temp level at a constant and leave it there. as for the forced air device, use a programable thermostat to kick on in the early AM before you rise and down after you leave for the day and back up just before scheduled to arrive home again, back down in the evening as you deline for bed.

    I have the opposite problem. My Elderly aunt (92) fiddles with the thermostat constantly, last year she distroyed her last one by changing from heat to cold and extreem in each direction. I installed a programable one that she cannot find the controls as they are on the inside and I haven't shown them to her. She can raise or lower the temp if she is cold or hot but at a preset time, it will revert to the setting I provided. Right now it is set at 80 degrees but she is happy ... I pay the bills, she is content... I'm broke

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan

    just curious

    how does a seperate outside wood burner cause a house to burn down my brother has one and there are several around me and knock on wood there havnt been afires becasue of them..the wood consupmtion does go up drastically and that was why i didnt get one... for my remodel and addition shop space...
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Monroe, MI
    I don't think your usage sounds bad considering how cold it is up there. In the coldest period since we've lived in this house we used about 250 gal in just over 3 weeks. Our house is 15 years old and is relatively energy efficient (could use more attic insulation) and we have a 95% efficient furnace and hot water heater. Our house is a 1950 sq. ft. ranch with a full basement. For the house and shop we use right about 1100 gal per year, each year for the past 4 years.

    I don't understand the comment on the outdoor woodstoves burning a house down. The one my aunt and uncle have is a boiler unit that sits about 50' from their house. About the only way I could see it causing a fire is if sparks blew on the house--but spacing it away from the house and putting a spark arrestor on it should should mitigate that. The only connection between it and the house is a super-insulated set of tubing carrying a glycol mix and an electric circuit for the controls that open an close a damper to control the burn rate. That runs through a heat exchanger above an air handler to heat air that blows through duct work. It could also be plumbed through the radiant tubing. Theirs also heats their hot water, and as I understand it, they basically only need to feed it wood twice a day. Granted they are in Missouri, but the winters still get pretty cold there, just not as long.

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