In the Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia, a GBA reader named Janet is building a new weekend home whose heating system will include both a wood stove and radiant-floor heat powered by a ground-source heat pump.
The two-level, 2,000-square-foot house will consist of a walkout basement with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room, plus an upper floor with a kitchen and living room and another bedroom and bath. The house will be well insulated: R-20 under the slab, R-34 basement walls, R-24 second-floor walls, and R-60 in the attic.
The first floor slab will be concrete, which Janet plans to heat with in-floor tubing. On the second floor, Janet will install a wood stove that she plans on using regularly when she’s there.
“We are unsure of what other heat, if any, we need to install on this level,” Janet writes in a Q&A post. “How much heat can we expect on the 2nd floor from the 1st level in-floor heat?”
Installing hydronic heat on the second floor — either in-floor tubing or baseboard radiators — seems like overkill because it won’t be used when the wood stove is running, she says.
Would a few baseboard electric units do the trick?
That’s the question for this Q&A Spotlight.
Ground-source heat is expensive
A ground-source heat pump (sometimes called a geothermal heating system) is the “most capital-intensive heating system imaginable,” Walter Ahlgrim tells Janet, and it will do little to make the second floor of the house comfortable.
“How many hours a day will you spend in the basement enjoying the warm floors?” he asks. “Or is that money better spent upstairs where you would benefit from it every day?”
Ahlgrim says that wood stoves and high-performance houses are rarely a good combination.