What heating system should I install in my 150-year-old house in Connecticut? Oil boiler, ductless minisplit, or something else?
My family lives in a 2-story 2000-sq.ft. balloon-framed house in Western Connecticut (zone 5A). We currently heat exclusively with a Harman XXV pellet stove, which surprisingly keeps most of our house pretty comfortable even in the depths of our cold New England winters. Of course there are some rooms that will get down below 60 on the coldest of nights, but that just means we stay in the warm parts of the house, which works fine for us. We used to heat with a Burnham RS-111 oil-fired boiler piped through about a dozen beautiful and massive cast-iron radiators. We noticed some degradation in the old clay tiles in our chimney a couple of years ago, so we tried heating just with our pellet stove for the rest of that winter and it worked. We’re entering our 3rd winter of using just the pellet stove. We do miss the nice even heat of the old radiators–not to mention the fact that they heated all of our rooms equally–but we don’t miss the high oil bills.
I’ve done a pretty good job of insulating and air-sealing the semi-finished attic. There’s a combination of double-stud walls, rigid foam, air-tight drywall, and cellulose that brings it up to around an R-40. The walls of the house are true 2×4 with blown-in fiberglass of unknown quality from the previous owner. I’ve still got a few uninsulated shed-roof bump-outs to deal with, and I’d like to address the junction between the first and second floor (I’m pretty sure that I’ve got air movement through the siding into the balloon-framed floor system), but there’s not a whole lot more I can do without taking off all of the siding, which is too big of a job for me to tackle myself or pay someone else to do, so I want to focus on the heating system.
So here’s where we’re at:
– We feel like we should install a more-conventional heating system for future resale value, for supplemental heat, and for when we go away for vacations (so we don’t have to ask our neighbors to tend the pellet stove)
– Even though our old Burnham boiler is in OK shape, the chimney would have to be relined in order to use a boiler, but the liner would bring our flue below the 8-in. diameter required by the boiler, so we can’t use the existing boiler with our existing chimney
– I don’t think I want to install a power vent, which might be one option for using the current boiler
– My wife believes that we should install a new oil boiler (which would mean that we would have to put a 6″ SS liner in our existing chimney) because she thinks that prospective home buyers of an old Victorian house would be more familiar with and accepting of a hydronic heating system that uses the old radiators
– I don’t see us using the oil boiler (either the old one or a new one) very often, so I have maintenance concerns with having a mostly idle boiler
– A gas boiler is not an option–there is no gas piped into our town
– I’m leaning towards installing a multi-head high-performance minisplit heat-pump system
– Another alternative would be to install a pellet boiler, but that seems perhaps too exotic and expensive for our traditional old home
– Honestly, we don’t use AC much in the summer, so the added benefit of the AC with the heat-pump option has not been enough to definitively sell my wife on that option
– We hope to move to a new home within the next 5 years, so we’re not looking to invest a ton of money into a new system, but we do want to get something that will work well and be accepted by future home buyers when it’s time for us to move on
What do you all think would be my best option?
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