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Newsletter #225

New Home Heating

New House Building: Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips

James Todd
May, 2004

Beginning with this edition, newsletters will now be archived
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1.Heating your home – Electric, Oil or Gas
2.Constant Air Circulation
3.Location of Electrical Outlets
4.Thought for the Day
5.Subscription Information

Please forward this newsletter to anyone whom you think may be interested!

1. Heating your home – Electric, Oil, Propane or Natural Gas

Whether you are building a new home or have an existing home that needs a new furnace, the issues are the same when it comes to deciding what kind of heating system you should choose for your home.

When building a new home, the amount of input you will have in the selection of a heating system will depend upon the circumstances of your new home building project. If you are buying a home from production builder, then you may be limited in your choices and the amount of input you can have. However if you are building a custom or semi-custom home you will have significant input if not complete control over this decision.

There are many choices, features and prices to consider. Each consumer must evaluate what is best for them, in their region and for their particular needs. We have listed the major variables that you need to take into account and provided a number of reference web sites that you can go to for additional information.

  • Electric (including baseboard and force air furnaces), Oil, Propane or Natural Gas
  • Combination furnaces (usually wood with one of the above)
  • Furnace efficiency ratings( low , mid or high efficient rated furnaces)
  • Forced air or water heating distribution systems
  • Availability of fuel providers eg Oil, Propane or Natural Gas suppliers
  • Size of home to be heated
  • Current fuel price comparison
  • Current fuel delivery charges and connection fee’s
  • Projected heating costs for home
  • Projected price inflation for your area
  • Air conditioning requirements
  • Price and installation charges
  • Evaluate the service reputation of the installation contractor

The following steps may be considered when selecting a furnace for your home.

  1. Contact your local fuel providers and request estimates for your home. The contractor should take into account the size of your home, number of windows, location, climate, insulation levels and air tightness of the home.
  2. Review the literature and decide on what is right for you in terms of regular, mid and high efficiency furnaces. Usually this will be based on three major factors – Initial price of the furnace, ongoing operating costs and furnace maintenance requirements in later years.
  3. Decide if air conditioning is also required and if it will be integrated with the forced air system.
  4. Evaluate the short term, as well as the long term direction of fuel costs in your area. Many regions vary a great deal due to distribution costs and other factors.
  5. Finally your decision will be primarily based on the following factors – Initial capital costs, ongoing operating costs of heating your home and annual maintenance costs. Create a table comparing your choices to help you decide on the best approach for your personal situation.

Useful Links

There are many references available. Ask your supplier and contractor for useful links that relate to the your area and the equipment you are looking at.

Home Energy Magazine Online

US Department of Energy Web site – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Space Heating and cooling

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2. Constant Air Circulation
One of the factors that new homebuilders and buyers should consider during the design phase of their home is whether they need a constant circulation of air throughout their homes. We obtain fresh air from a number of sources as outlined in a previous newsletter, however stale and stagnant air can still occur, especially during the prime heating and cooling months of the year.

Homeowners who are susceptible to allergies, especially mould (caused by lack of air circulation, moisture and a nutrient base) may want to consider running their furnace fan on a 24-hour basis. New homes also exhaust various gases from rugs, walls, paint and furniture. These gases combine to form a pollution levels in your home sometimes more than 100 times that of the outside air.

Forced air systems will circulate air throughout the home, while at the same time drawing air in from the outside to replace air that has been exhausted through windows, chimneys, and exhaust vents. Homes that do not forced air heating systems, but rely upon baseboard heaters, whether electric convection or baseboard hot water do not circulate air throughout the entire house and do not draw fresh air into the home.

Air temperature in a home will vary constantly, particularly on very cold days. Drafts from windows, skylights or unheated rooms will also occur as the cold air sinks to find the lowest level. The location of your thermostat will determine how often your furnace will cycle on and off. Extreme factors such as being close to a window or draft area or even a hot air vent will affect this. As your house cools from the last on-cycle of your furnace there may be a period of time when the temperature in your home feels uncomfortable and cold.

Air temperature levels in your home can be improved and more uniformly maintained by having your furnace fan run constantly. This forces air throughout your home on a constant basis and avoids those cold air pockets. Air in rooms warmed by the sun is moved to colder areas of the house, saving energy. Constant fresh air circulation replacing the pollutants in your home is another advantage.

While the positive benefits of continuous air circulation include better air quality and a more comfortable constant air temperature, the constant flow of air requires the furnace fan to use more electrical energy. Consumers should consider the various types of electrical motors that are available in forced air furnaces and make this selection at the time of installation. Furnaces with lower electrical ratings use electronically commutated motors (ECMs). ECMs, sometimes referred to as brush less DC motors, are known for being somewhat more efficient than a standard blower motor.

To summarize, constant airflow will increase the amount of fresh air in the home, it will reduce drafts, move sun-warmed air into other parts of the home and provide a greater level of comfort to the consumer. Electrical usage operating costs will increase; however, the increased cost can be controlled by selecting an ECM or brush less DC motor.

Useful Links

Energy management by BC Hydro

The electric side of gas furnaces:

3. Location of Electrical Outlets

Note that your local building codes will almost certainly dictate basic rules about quantity and placement of outlets. Electricity can be lethal! Let a reputable electrical contractor install your outlets. Always insist on copper wiring and NEVER, NEVER accept aluminium wiring.

Even though an electrical contractor is wiring your home, you will benefit a great deal from giving some thought to the electrical outlets in your house, basement, garage, and outdoors and letting your contractor know your needs ahead of time.

Take a look around other people's homes and make some notes where you see concentrations of appliances. In living rooms and family rooms, you will probably need many of your outlets in corners. Around televisions you will have a large concentration of devices and connections to telephone, DVD player, satellite, cable converter, speakers, and similar devices. In bedrooms, you will need more outlets midwall or on both sides of were you intend to place your bed, to power radios, telephones and lamps. Your home office can be especially demanding. Your computer , monitor, printer, lamps, router, modem, shredder, computer speakers, phone, radio, scanner, fax machine, all require electricity. In kitchens, you will need a large cluster of outlets, many of them on individual circuits (not shared). All fridges, freezers, microwave ovens, and washers typically require their own circuit at the breaker panel. Proper planning and communication with your contractor can avoid overloading and dangerous situations after your home has been completed.

Tips for Electrical Outlets

An additional electrical outlet identified before the main house wiring goes in, costs about 1/2 of an outlet that goes in after the house is completed, do not skimp.

You might consider installing a 220 volt dryer outlet in your garage. This is useful for testing stoves and dryers. It can also be used for powering welders, other heavy tools, or reverse feeding generators should the need arise. Dryer plug, cable and socket sets come as a kit and are quite inexpensive at the big chain home product suppliers. Be sure to use a cover over these outlets when they are not in use, tiny fingers can get in there. When not in use, keep them switched off at the breaker panel.

If permitted by code, each outdoor outlet should be an individual GFI (ground fault interrupt) type and each on its own breaker. The GFI helps to protect you from damaged tools and cables; the individual circuit means that you won't be running inside to reset the breaker every time you start two high load devices outside.

Remember that you will want an electrical outlet near the location of any planned TV. Televisions typically have a large concentration of devices and connections such as telephone, DVD player, best satellite TV, cable converter, speakers, and similar devices - many of which require power.

All outlets in bathrooms should be individual GFI type. Insist that your electrical contractor does not wire the bathroom lights from the wall GFI, or your bathroom lights will go out if your curling iron shorts. Place bathroom outlets so that cords will not be running through sinks, but out of reach of showers and bathtubs. Not always easy to do.Useful Links for Electrical Outlets

Home Wiring – The American Edition 2002 Edition

Bob Villa

Canadian Standards Association ( CSA)


4. Thought For The Day - Human Dignity
Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance. Samuel Johnson

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