On Monday, Seacoast Solar and the head engineer for Wagner Solar Inc. will be installing two 4 foot by 8 foot solar flat plate collectors on to the roof our 2000sf Cape to heat our domestic hot water. Alas, the efficiency upgrades for our home will begin. Shortly after the solar installation, insulation will be added to the attic space to meet a passive house standard R-Value of 60 and the basement and first floor rim joist will be properly sealed and insulated, as well. With much of our upgrade budget going into these two projects, the decisions for the next invest have become harder. Ultimately, after many calculations, it has become clear that our money will be better spent wrapping the house in foam next summer than installing a new propane fired boiler now. While propane is cleaner than #2 oil heat, the overall carbon footprint of our home will be reduced more by implementing the measures we are taking with the solar and future insulation than by converting to a propane boiler. In the meantime, what can we do with dirty old # 2 (heating oil that is.)
Well, the first and easiest step we just took was signing up with Simply Green Biofuels out of Portsmouth, NH. (www.seacoastbiofuels.com ) In addition to supplementing oil with a biofuel mixture (ranging from 5 to 20% of total contact), Biofuels are known to clean certain components of a furnace, thus helping it operate more cleanly and efficiently. The added benefit to signing on with Simply Green Biofuels is the pleasure of doing business with warm honest people. With Simply Green it is clear you’re not just a customer, but a companion making a cleaner world.
The next step we’ll take to make our furnace more efficient is to add a device called the Intellicon. Here’s how the manufacturer describes the product: IntelliCon®-HW+ is a microprocessor-controlled, fuel-saving device for hot water (hydronic) heating systems. IntelliCon-HW reduces fuel consumption, wear on parts, flue emissions and electrical usage, when installed on any new or existing gas or oil burner. IntelliCon-HW+ saves energy by adjusting the burner run pattern to match the system’s “heat load.”
A heating system must be able to provide acceptable comfort at the lowest anticipated outdoor temperatures. In the U.S. and abroad, most residential boilers have a heat capacity between 1.5 to 2 times larger than that needed to maintain the room temperature on those extreme days. Due to this oversizing of the boiler, the burner will cycle on and off repeatedly to prevent overheating of the system water during any call for heat.
[With Intellicon] the heating system uses less fuel to generate the same amount of heat. This is done by dynamically changing the aquastat’s effective dead-band based upon the measured “heating load.” This causes the average water temperature to be varied (depending upon the measured load), and is accomplished by extending the burner’s “off-time.” Extending the “off-time” also results in longer burns that are more efficient and a reduction in burner on/off cycling.
According to the makers of Intellicon, installing this simple component is guaranteed to reduce your fuel use by 10%, and according to every heating contractor I’ve spoken with and review I have read, the device is very likely to reduce consumption by significantly more. Of course, you’re oil supplier may not wish to tell you this, but most independent heating technicians will. The device cost only $200 and since installation is very simple, you shouldn’t have to pay more than an hour for the labor.
Finally, our house does not have a chimney so our furnace is vented through a direct, out the wall power vent. This is the least efficient way to vent a furnace, but the only choice we have – it was installed that way. As well, our furnace draw its air out of our basement, the very room it is burning oil to heat. To amend this situation we will be installing a “candy cane” pvc pipe that will bring fresh air directly from outside to the furnace venting system, while also heavily insulating the mechanical and sealing the air vent in the wall room so that no conditioned air is unintentionally cooled. Finally, we will assist the power vents ability to vent exhaust by installing a device known as a Fan-In-A-Can. I don’t yet know the price for this, but I will by Monday.
All these measures, the insulation, the solar system, the Intellicon and the change to BioFuel blends will create a significant reduction in our carbon footprint. Had the damned builder just oriented the house perfectly south (we’re about 35% off), the efficiency this home could achieve would be phenomenal.