Hydronic heating - boiler replacement
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  1. #1
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    Default Hydronic heating - boiler replacement

    Any hydronic heating gurus out there?

    Have a Cambro combi storage boiler that has had 17 years service.
    2 zones/thermostats - panels only.
    One of the pumps gone.
    Thinking of replacing with a more modern combi unit that doesn't have storage.

    Bosch keeps coming up on the web as the one to go for.
    Baxi also has good recommendations.

    Thoughts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 85Fuego View Post
    Any hydronic heating gurus out there?

    Have a Cambro combi storage boiler that has had 17 years service.
    2 zones/thermostats - panels only.
    One of the pumps gone.
    Thinking of replacing with a more modern combi unit that doesn't have storage.

    Bosch keeps coming up on the web as the one to go for.
    Baxi also has good recommendations.

    Thoughts?
    I'm no guru but have had systems in the past.

    For efficiency one of low volume boilers are best.

    Feroli springs to mind. I know nothing of Bosch.

    Cambro are still trading and the the (Grundfos?) pump should still be available.
    Hydronic Underfloor Home Heating Systems, Boilers Melbourne

    It can be an issue if you have a hot water coil in the boiler. But it may a good time to look at converting to solar HW with rising gas prices.

    I evaluated hydronic for our new house (12month ago) but ended up with high efficiency ducted gas with very well insulated ducting. We have add on cooling.
    Last edited by robmac; 22nd April 2015 at 08:21 AM.

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    Thanks robmac.
    I know they still trade, but service is a bit haphazard.
    Uses grundfos yes, but the coil in tank possible failure and high standing cost due to poor efficiency is why I am looking to upgrade.
    All the guys who I have got to quote for solar assist have been $$$$$

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    Also had a Cambro dual purpose unit - lasted 21 years - replaced by Cambro with 2 units - a Sime boiler for the slab heating and an Aquamax 390 for the HWS. All done about 5 years ago for about $5,000. and made a very welcome change to the gas bill - from memory consumption dropped by about 25% Don't know about their poor service , have not had to call them.

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    All the guys who I have got to quote for solar assist have been $$$$$
    Unfortunately that's the way of. You pay upfront for long term saving. I can see on an existing house there can be installation costs/issues.

    We have a Rinnai Prestige System M
    Prestige CC Solar Hot Water Systems - Rinnai Australia

    I chose the close coupled tank because it has no pump nor control unit and less future maintenance.

    Essentially the cold water feed connects to collector+ tank on the roof. The water is heated by the collectors and hot water stored by thermo siphon.
    The hot water then runs through a gas booster that boosts the temperature if the solar output water is below temp. It also has a tempering valve, because the solar heated water, on high sun days is close to boiling.The booster seldom runs. It may today halfway through showers, when the solar heated water depletes.

    You are aware of the solar credits scheme on solar HW?

    Our unit cost all up, solar collector, booster, storage tank and tempering system around $5k, but there was $2600 solar credits. Installation was extra.

    The major cost for upgrades is the gas line. The booster needs 25mm line and often bigger if there is pressure drop.

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    I've been looking at systems as well. Want to be prepared when the Ollin fails so i'm not talked into some unit i will regret buying.
    Thinking of a combi (HW & Heating with solar tubes) unit but have to do some costing on a stand alone HW/solar tubes and hydronic heating.
    Victoria has relatively fixed gas prices for the next 18 months or so. After that - who knows given the government's policy on selling gas to the highest bidder (exporting it)
    According to experts at the ATA it is already more cost effective to go with a heat pump.

    Seems to me that the Siddons and Sanden are the more reliable ones. Haven't looked at Daikin.
    Siddons have basically two or three units - one goes to about 60 deg ($5-6,000) and one goes much hotter (needed for panel radiators i think?) and costs $9 - 10 grand) It uses R410A gas.
    The Sanden is about $4,200 and uses CO2 gas. Output temp is 60 deg C .

    Another possibility is a Bosh gas combi which would cost about $5 G.

    Non of these units have very long warranty and it only applies if it is installed by a plumber - not that it is rocket science to do the installation.

    With my initial ideas the cost of the S/S tank is quite high, especially with two heat exchange coils. The tank would well ant truly outlast me and the coils are exchangeable.

    The figures mentioned are from memory and are only approximate.

    Agree with Robert that his system without pump is a good way to go (if the roof can take the extra weight)

    Looking forward to thoughts and what you'll decide to go with, 85Fuego.
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    Daikin are doing really innovative VRV (variable refrigerant volume) and GHP (gas heat pump) systems.


    From what I cam make the GHP system is absorption refrigeration system.

    The VRV are well estabilished. Very basic description is that the system is split into zones . In commercial situations , with many people in an area, the aircon systen can often change from heat to cool and vice versa depending on the "people", sun load, window chill etc etc. load

    With the VRV if the unit is heating (inside) the outside coil would get cold, instead of sending the "cool" outside it is directed to a unit that is cooling mode inside. And vice versa.

    So "waste" heated or cooled refrigerant is put to work in another zone.

    Probably not appropriate to residential tho.

    IMO once you do the sums of purchase, install and ROI. A solar system with gas boost for HW and low volume boiler (if you really want hydronic) will end being best value.

    If new, the sums work out best with gas ducted heating (with add on cooling) and smart zoning controls. I put extra money into sarking under the tiles (r1.5), R7 batts in the ceiling and R3.4 ducting. I was still ahead compared to floor heat.

    We have a solid timber floor so it wasn't an option.

    HW was a no brainer Riinai with oversized collectors and gas booster.

    We have a 5 year warranty on both system.

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    Seems to be some interest in this thread.

    Originally was looking at putting in a split system evacuated tube solar domestic HWS.
    I like showers so was looking at a tank in the vicinity of 400L.
    Keeps the 400 kg weight off the roof.
    This was to be augmented by an instantaneous unit to raise temp (I'm in Melb).
    Boiler was to be turfed as I think the cost of heating water in storage is now daft.

    Each marketed solar system has some features I want but not as a package.
    May have to go to a specialist green plumber but that = $$$.

    Thus the thought of a modulating combi boiler/hws unit that only heats dhw as required (less $$$).

    Have slept near a heat pump HWS and it seemed to be going all night.
    COP says they're good but I would have thought they would be better suited to warm climates so they could dump the cold more effectively.

    Who knows of good green plumbers in Melbournes Eastern suburbs who is willing to chew the fat?

    What else am I missing, should be looking at?

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    Daikin are doing really innovative VRV (variable refrigerant volume) and GHP (gas heat pump) systems.
    Know nothing about these, Rob. Willing to learn. At least one of the Siddons heatpumps can serve for heating and cooling.
    Will stay with the hydronic i installed 30 years ago and is still working well. ATM it's all just planning because i'll keep the Ollin until it dies - especially now that i've worked out how it works and can fix problems myself (after having been badly ripped off by an expert plumber)

    85F i think the dilemma is the future gas price vs the relative low warranty of heat pumps but they are a lot more efficient - even in Melbourne. Keeping in mind that the condensing gas units only seem to have an additional 2 years warranty.

    Had a long talk with Ben Cole from NewGenSolar and he thinks that a heatpump is more cost effective that solar hot water panels Maybe he is thinking that one can buy a lot of off peak electricity for the $5 to 6 G of a solar (evacuated tubes) installation?

    Another concern with solar hot water tubes (and perhaps panels as well?) is how to control heat input into the collectors? On reasonably sunny days i've seen some boil intensely and wasting water. I've asked a few people about a foil blind that moves over the collectors to stop boiling. Everybody thinks it's a good idea but they also think that nobody would be prepared to pay for it.
    Perhaps a little solar powered steam engine could move a blind up and down?

    As for heatpump noise - not a problem especially with the Sanden at 38dB. The Siddons and Daikin are just over 50dB i think - also quiet but perhaps not just outside the bedroom.

    Re green plumbers - perhaps the Gstore has some contacts? But given the piddly rebates available i'd be thinking of installing it myself if it's just for solar collectors (rebates are only available for complete systems).
    Some installers are prepared to install solar with an electric boost heater in the tank but don't connect the heater element. In these cases rebates are available but strictly not Halal. I think the rebate is only about $1G and most likely wouldn't even cover the installation cost?
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    Jo-Bo, I also have an Ollin and have been wondering where to go when it finally fails. When it failed previously it was almost impossible to find anyone who had any knowledge. The person who I finally found was great and reasonable and I would be prepared to share the knowledge if required.
    I have been thinking of a Bosch Combi as a possible replacement but thoughts are only early days. Any feedback re Bosh Combi?

    I would guess that Ollins would be rarer than H Vans

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    Had a long talk with Ben Cole from NewGenSolar and he thinks that a heatpump is more cost effective that solar hot water panels Maybe he is thinking that one can buy a lot of off peak electricity for the $5 to 6 G of a solar (evacuated tubes) installation?
    Let's do basic cost of the two energy sources:

    Electricity = around 24c/Kwh

    Gas = around 3.12 cents per megajoule or 11.23 per Kwh
    (1 Kwh x 3.6 = 3.6 mj)

    So gas, for the same amount of energy is around half the price.

    Obviously the scales will tip when you have PV systems and off peak rates. But any heat pump system is going to chew electricity when the outside temperature get around freezing. I also worry about long term maintenance on hw heat pump systems, which are essentially a specialized r/c aircon system. I understand that heat pump hw is also a storage system.

    Gas on the other hand is is an old hat technology and rinnai et al are masters of on demand gas fired boosters. And there is not much to go wrong. Evac tube or plate collects are equally basic and reliable.

    So the big question is heatpump hot water twice as efficient as gas (a difficult task imo) made almost impossible when solar boost is added into the equation.

    Another concern with solar hot water tubes (and perhaps panels as well?) is how to control heat input into the collectors? On reasonably sunny days i've seen some boil intensely and wasting water.
    Yep, there is a little piss trickle from the ptr valve sometimes. No worse than any other storage system. I've directed in into a (steel) bucket and use it flush the toilet, water the garden or drink the dog (when cooled). We wold be lucky to fill a 10L bucket per day. And that's on full sun days.

    If I see it's a good time to send the dishwasher or do a load of washing.

    The almost boiling water boiling water is tempered by a tempering valve so there is no risk to occupants.

    I think the rebate is only about $1G and most likely wouldn't even cover the installation cost?
    Calcs on my system:


    Home - Clean Energy Regulator ? Renewable Energy Target
    Federal Rebate: $0.00
    Veecs Points: N/A
    Total Rebate: $1,476.00

    I have a feeling the rebate has reduced , because I recall being given around 1k more.
    Last edited by robmac; 23rd April 2015 at 08:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidtl View Post
    Jo-Bo, I also have an Ollin and have been wondering where to go when it finally fails. When it failed previously it was almost impossible to find anyone who had any knowledge. The person who I finally found was great and reasonable and I would be prepared to share the knowledge if required.
    I have been thinking of a Bosch Combi as a possible replacement but thoughts are only early days. Any feedback re Bosh Combi?

    I would guess that Ollins would be rarer than H Vans
    Hi David, they are very thin on the ground mainly because owners are bulltished to when the pack up (the few plumbers, including the shop i bought the unit from tell owners that parts are not available and they are only too happy to install a new unit)
    One of the little problems is that gaskets to the combustion chamber fail and leak air into it. This causes a somewhat explosive mixture and makes a bit of a boom. Simply replace the gasket. I use a universal head gasket material because it's heatproof.
    Plumber told me that the unit needs servicing every year. I had it done once and it cost $270 for two guys to spend about 1/2 discussing current affairs and checking gaskets.
    The unit is not very complicated. The control unit failed and i was told that the part is no longer available which is crap. SIT make it. It's also important to have an anti corrosive additive even though it's supposed to be a dead water system. They also should operate at a bout 1 bar.
    At the time the plumber's shop told me to replace it with a Bosh combi - i think he quoted me about $5G installed. No warranty if self installed The unit only has a 5 year warranty - not very good. Maybe they are warried about the heat exchanger? But for a gas unit they are very efficient because they are condensing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by robmac View Post
    Let's do basic cost of the two energy sources:

    Electricity = around 24c/Kwh

    Gas = around 3.12 cents per megajoule or 11.23 per Kwh
    (1 Kwh x 3.6 = 3.6 mj)

    So gas, for the same amount of energy is around half the price.

    Obviously the scales will tip when you have PV systems and off peak rates. But any heat pump system is going to chew electricity when the outside temperature get around freezing. I also worry about long term maintenance on hw heat pump systems, which are essentially a specialized r/c aircon system. I understand that heat pump hw is also a storage system.

    Gas on the other hand is is an old hat technology and rinnai et al are masters of on demand gas fired boosters. And there is not much to go wrong. Evac tube or plate collects are equally basic and reliable.

    So the big question is heatpump hot water twice as efficient as gas (a difficult task imo) made almost impossible when solar boost is added into the equation.



    Yep, there is a little piss trickle from the ptr valve sometimes. No worse than any other storage system. I've directed in into a (steel) bucket and use it flush the toilet, water the garden or drink the dog (when cooled). We wold be lucky to fill a 10L bucket per day. And that's on full sun days.

    If I see it's a good time to send the dishwasher or do a load of washing.

    The almost boiling water boiling water is tempered by a tempering valve so there is no risk to occupants.



    Calcs on my system:


    Home - Clean Energy Regulator ? Renewable Energy Target
    Federal Rebate: $0.00
    Veecs Points: N/A
    Total Rebate: $1,476.00

    I have a feeling the rebate has reduced , because I recall being given around 1k more.
    The rebates have reduced. The current government doesn't want too much energy generated per household. They much prefer to get it from the grid and we pay them $$$$$$ for reducing their CO2 output

    Your figures are right but would change a bit (as you mentioned) if the h'pump runs between 11pm and 7am & weekends on a smart meter of course. Would also make a difference if the electricity is drown from PV if one had a lousy 7 or 8c feed in tariff.

    The ATA figures suggest that an all electric household, induction cooking and heatpump is more economical than gas right now (would of course eliminate the standing gas connection charge)
    Having listened to a talk at the Grattan Institute about future gas prices.... Anyway, i think we have a fixed contract price for gas for the next 18 months or so?

    I'm also not sure about reliability/longevity of heat pumps. Siddons and Sandon seem to have a good record so far. Imagine Daikon would also do well?
    Will have to do sums on HW panels to see how long it will take for them to amortize.

    Pleased to learn that the water wastage from solar panels is minimal!

    Robert, wonder what you think about the Siddons data - realistic or optimistic?
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoBo View Post
    The rebates have reduced. The current government doesn't want too much energy generated per household. They much prefer to get it from the grid and we pay them $$$$$$ for reducing their CO2 output

    Your figures are right but would change a bit (as you mentioned) if the h'pump runs between 11pm and 7am & weekends on a smart meter of course. Would also make a difference if the electricity is drown from PV if one had a lousy 7 or 8c feed in tariff.

    The ATA figures suggest that an all electric household, induction cooking and heatpump is more economical than gas right now (would of course eliminate the standing gas connection charge)
    Having listened to a talk at the Grattan Institute about future gas prices.... Anyway, i think we have a fixed contract price for gas for the next 18 months or so?

    I'm also not sure about reliability/longevity of heat pumps. Siddons and Sandon seem to have a good record so far. Imagine Daikon would also do well?
    Will have to do sums on HW panels to see how long it will take for them to amortize.

    Pleased to learn that the water wastage from solar panels is minimal!

    Robert, wonder what you think about the Siddons data - realistic or optimistic?
    I would hope data is data and Siddons are being truthful. But to do a fair appraisal of the info it's more than a few minutes work! I will have a good look.

    I really haven't waded through the relative efficiencies too much. With a 2x difference in basic energy cost it would seem difficult for the the most expensive energy source to end being the cheapest. That's an opinion on a very simplistic level.

    The new gen Brivis starpro 6 ducted for heating are pretty efficient and so convenient because there is no lag and no stored heat in panel radiators/ floor coil. In fact they need a condensate drain! We have the system zoned into three areas that let's us adjust individual zone temps.

    We have just turned the heating on in the bedroom. Th living area is still 19 because we closed the shutters at around 17:00 and the stored heat in the slab warmed up the living areas.

    If you can tolerate the look (ours aren't seen from the street) o/s window shutters are great energy savers too (even with dg).

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    Given that Perth has more sunny days than Melbourne, or other Southern places, roof-mounted "close-coupled" solar HW systems are very common here, and always have been.

    We have had solar HW since our first house built in 1976. Our current home we built 30 years ago, had a Rheem 300L (330?) rooftop which started leaking after 15 years, was replaced by the same model Rheem - so I am expecting it to expire any time.
    We have used electric boost for convenience, at first I used to turn it off in November and turn it back on at the first cold shower in about March/April - always took me by surprise - but the point is over summer the booster was not required.
    At the new house 30 yrs ago, I had installed a good quality timer switch on the booster. I have it set to allow the booster to operate between 5.00pm and 6.00am every day. In summer, no power (or negligible) is used because the hot water remains above thermostat temp anyway. We shower and use washing machine in the morning (after 6.00am) so no power is used to reheat the system as long as there is minimal sun during the day. As backup to avoid cold water at night in cooler weather, the booster will come on at 5.00pm - but only if the temp is below thermostat. Also it means we are guaranteed never to have a cold shower in the morning - the most important thing!!! So I believe we are maximising the energy from the sun, when it is available, but always having hot water available, using reasonably minimum electric power.

    More recently over here, I believe the systems as used by Robmac have become the norm in new homes - ie, close-coupled rooftop solar HW with in-line instantaneous gas booster for the times when the water comes through below a minimum value. I have thought that it seems a good way to go. Rob, you floored me with the 25mm gas pipe dia, wow, yes that would add to the cost.

    Some factors with Solar HW: Yes, they can get very hot, especially if you go away for a few days in summer. You can get hissing and banging when a hot tap is first turned on in that situation, indicating to me that the water is above 100degC, and is prevented from boiling in the system by the mains water pressure (raising the boiling point). I am then careful to turn on a hot tap in the sink quite slowly and run it for a while, letting some mains cold water in to reduce the temp. Danger of scalding in the shower exists, you need more cold water mixing, but think about it, it also means less hot water being used, which is good for the overall efficiency of the solar HWS. The Rheem also has the overtemp cutoff flow valve built in (supposedly at 70 degC) but I wonder what the actual temp in the collector panels becomes - maybe that is the only bit over 100 deg which causes the hissing and spurting when tap first turned on after extended hot weather without using any hot water.

    I think the cut-in temp for the electric booster is about 40 deg, so as long as the storage is at a comfortable 50-60 deg, the booster never turns on, if you aren't using hundreds of litres of hot water in cooler times.

    I have not gone to Solar electric panels on the roof as yet, mainly because our power bills are fairly low, I believe mainly to the use of the direct solar HWS in our house.

    Hope the above info is of interest in choosing a system.

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    Rob, you floored me with the 25mm gas pipe dia, wow, yes that would add to the cost.
    The actual gas booster unit gas line is connected in 20mm. However, in our case because the meter is outside the front gate, there is around 15m of 32mm line (shared by all appliances) then the feed to the HW Booster in 25mm. The unit is rated at 26 litres per minute water flow at 20 degree rise. It modulates from 14 to 199 megajoules per hour gas rate. (around 5 times the consumption of an average ducted furnace)

    Since it only heats as required it works out economically.

    The only reason it's expensive to plumb is the super expensive concertina steel lined yellow poly pipe and expensive crimp fittings/ tools.
    Last edited by robmac; 24th April 2015 at 03:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fordman View Post
    Hope the above info is of interest in choosing a system.
    It is! Like the system but with a tiled roof on oregon i'm not comfortable with an extra 400kg or so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoBo View Post
    It is! Like the system but with a tiled roof on oregon i'm not comfortable with an extra 400kg or so.
    In a house of your age it shouldn't be a big deal to add some timbers to support the roof structure and put props atop the brick internal walls. Steel is probably cheaper and easier if you have arc.

    (Watch the downlight holes- I can tell you sparks falling through them causes all kind of sh!t underneath)

    If you go for timber the support structure is meant to be treated timber.

    With typical design allowance of x3 calcs, and tiles there already it's probably fine as is. But like you, I would not like to find out it isn't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robmac View Post
    In a house of your age it shouldn't be a big deal to add some timbers to support the roof structure and put props atop the brick internal walls. Steel is probably cheaper and easier if you have arc.

    (Watch the downlight holes- I can tell you sparks falling through them causes all kind of sh!t underneath)

    If you go for timber the support structure is meant to be treated timber.

    With typical design allowance of x3 calcs, and tiles there already it's probably fine as is. But like you, I would not like to find out it isn't.
    Thanks Robert - why didn't i think of it
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    And if you still want to suss out hydronic options, talk to Andrew Larking at Tubulous Australia in Hilton St., Dandenong.
    Andrew has been in hydronic since the 1980s following his father and uncle before him. It's a small family business with it's origins in 1948 when the firm made wood chip heaters and the like for domestic HWS. In the '70s and '80s they were the leaders in wood-fired boilers in Australia for domestic and commercial applications. They will still build a wood-fired unit to order, but their business has been largely gas and electric for years now. I installed a wood-fired system at a ski lodge in the early '80s, which ran until about 10 years ago when reticulated LPG became available. A friend installed a larger model on his farm around the same time, and it's still in use heating his house and indoor pool.
    There are few in the hydronic business that have been around as long.

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    Thanks WBL, installed myself it over 30 years ago and still working well. Didn't like the blowing ones at the time - stratification, dust and dried out air but it does heat up quicker.
    These problems may have been solved in the meantime? But i'll stick with what we have and why spend $ on something that is working well.
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    strat stratification, dust and dried out air ification, dust and dried out air
    These are always the selling points of hydronic. I've lived with both ducted and hydronic (panel radiators).

    Hydronic takes quite a while to heat up and to cool down. The latter "nuisance" energy and former uncomfortable. Small bore floor hydronic is worse than radiators in these respects.

    Ducted can spread the dust around if installed with floor registers. The way to minimize that is good house keeping and return air filters. Ducted through the ceiling with quality registers and good air balancing doesn't spread dust around.

    Stratification is managed by speed control of the fan and running the fan at very low speed in cycles to keep the air moving. Modern units have this capability.

    Dehumidification can be managed by letting a little fresh air into the house occasionally. (we don't sleep with heating on and slightly open a couple of windows in the living areas.

    Last when we went to bed and turned the heating off the temp was as set 22c. This morning at 07:00 it was 18.5

    Ducted heating has really moved on since 80s .


    Modern 6/7 star ducted properly installed (R6 ducting) is cheaper to install and run than hydronic and allows cooling through the same registers.

  23. #23
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    Thought it might have improved in the last 30 years.
    "The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it's the illusion of knowledge"
    Stephen Hawking

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoBo View Post
    Thought it might have improved in the last 30 years.
    Not everyone can afford nor desires to have a $200+ per month gas bill.

  25. #25
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    You made me pull out the gas bills. It does cost a fair bit for two (most of the time except when the children come to stay) March 6 2014 to March 10 2015 it cost us $1,336.63 for gas heating, hot water and cooking. How much do you reckon we'd safe having a blower heating? 10% or more?
    "The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it's the illusion of knowledge"
    Stephen Hawking

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