Cheap heats?
April 29, 2009 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Are there any good low-capital alternatives to electric Cadet heaters for warming and cooling my house?

My old (1900) house has only Cadet heaters (circa late 1990s) for warmth, probably because a previous owner ripped out a furnace to convert the basement into a rental unit (which it still is). 3 stories -- bsmt, main floor, attic converted into master bedroom, 2900 SF. There is no ductwork at all right now. Weatherization is weak.

Are there any practical alternatives? Even just better brands of heaters? My electric bill is quite high in winter, as you can imagine -- this is in Portland OR -- and I don't have the $14,000 I was quoted for a central heat pump, even with the $2K or so in tax rebates I could get. It's a shame though because the attic gets pretty hot and the heat pump sounded nice.

Could I get a relatively inexpensive ductless heat pump just for the attic, and how would that compare to a window AC unit? Is there a way to install a heat pump there without tying up the only window? I see web pages quoting around $1,000 "per ton of cooling capacity" -- what does that mean? Or would I be better off putting any available money into better windows and insulation? Thx
posted by msalt to Home & Garden (2 answers total)
Cadet advertises how "efficient" their heaters are; since conservation of energy makes every electric heater 100% efficient at turning 1kW of electricity into 1kW of heat, I don't see why that's worth bragging about.

A "ton of cooling capacity" is an antiquated unit that makes "BTU/hours" actually seem sensible by comparison; it's the amount of cooling you'd get by melting a (mass) ton of ice per day; something like 3.5 kW.

A heat pump is going to perform better than a window AC unit, simply because you can seal around refrigerant lines much better than you can block airflow out an open window. But the tradeoffs between a heat pump and better insulation are more complex; you might need an expert armed with specific information about your current house insulation to answer that one.
posted by roystgnr at 6:09 PM on April 29, 2009

Thanks! Does the mini split heat pump actually heat, or is it only an AC alternative? Would one ton of cooling capacity probably work for a converted attic (one large room + bathroom) with a pitched room and direct sun exposure in a moderate climate (Portland, usually 80-85 in the summer, occasionally into 90s and rarely over 100)?
posted by msalt at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2009

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