Mechanical Systems in Cold Climate
My question is primarily in regards to heating our future house. We are finalizing the design of our roughly 1,400 sq foot home (+ an unfinished basement) and plan to begin building this fall. The house is a long skinny rectangle with south facing windows and a roof overhang that will block the summer sun and allow the winter sun. Hoping for lots of sunny winter days! We live in Iowa (climate zone 5a) and that’s not always the case :). The windows will likely be vinyl and we haven’t decided about double or triple pane. The current plan is to have 2×6 walls with rigid spray foam insulation.
I have read through a handful of these Q and A posts and feel I should preface this post with the disclaimer that I am not as knowledgeable on building lingo and technology as most seem to be, but hopefully I can provide adequate information in my post!
Our general hope for our build to balance – simplicity, cost effectiveness, comfort, quality materials and being thoughtful and conscientious with our decisions. We’d like to have an all electric home and would also like to install PV panels.
I’m rather stumped on what to do in regards to heating our home. While I’d love to go without central heating and AC, it seems having central AC is wise if for no other reason than to control humidity. Plus, it does get rather hot in the summer and I don’t want to get extra hot because I’m mad that I didn’t install any AC 🙂 Since we will have AC, it seems like we will have central heating as well (our builder is under the impression that you can’t really find an AC only system here in Iowa but he was going to check on that).
However, I don’t plan to use the forced air heat. I have never liked forced air heat and my husband and I find that we are really only comfortable in cold weather with radiant heat…and I want to be comfortable. In floor radiant seems expensive — especially the more efficient hydronic systems. I’m also concerned with the challenges in fixing the system if it ever did break. Plus, we’ve been told that an electric boiler to heat the fluid is not very efficient, so we’d need to do propane and I’d like to avoid that. I’ve read we could also do geothermal to heat the fluid, but that seems costly (though I haven’t checked).
We would also like a wood burning stove. I know they are not the best for indoor air quality and also not the best for keeping the house super insulated, but regardless of all of that, I have always loved the idea of having the stove going on a cold snowy winter day.
So, that leaves us with a forced air system, a wood burning stove and some other radiant heat system (I don’t want to use the stove as the primary heat source). That all sounds expensive and complicated. Plus our house should be fairly well insulated. I am thinking of going with a few simple baseboard heaters but still annoyed about having a forced air heating system that we hope to not have to use.
Any thoughts or ideas are appreciated! And please correct me if any of my assumptions seems incorrect.
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