Apartments for Low Income

Questions and Answers

Your Questions About Efficiency Apartment

August 21, 2013

Jenny asks…

What is the cost benefit of having thermal insulated windows?

What do thermal insulated windows do and how much would it normally cut from your heating bill over having regular windows (for a small 1-bed apartment)?

Administrator answers:

Insulated windows increase your efficiency by a factor of 1 over a standard window, which is not measurable. You will never pay for the window with energy savings. If the window is already broken and needs replacing-then you may consider an insulated replacement. However-you should still compare the cost of a standard window over an insulated one. If the insulated one cost much more-then do not buy it.

Robert asks…

What is the most energy efficient heating system?

My husband and I are possibly buying a house that has base board heating, which we know from experience and from the previous owners of the house, they are very expensive. We are looking to tear them out and update to something more energy efficient. However the question is, what? We once lived in an apartment that had ceiling heating and our electric bill was $75 in the dead of winter, with our stat set on 75/80 everyday, so perhaps this would be a good choice? Please help us!

Administrator answers:

Depends on what you can afford up front for the install.

You do not indicate the general area, so it is tough to say which will be cheapest in the long term, nor the style of house like “slab on grade”, split entry, etc.

If you do not have a large amount to drop for a ground looped geothermal system, and your baseboard heat is electrical, you do have to look at the installation costs for a forced air system versus a baseboard hydronic system, plus you have the instalation of the boiler to consider as well. The boilers avaialbe today will usually double as your water heater for the hot water at your faucets.

Then is the matter of how old the house is, how well insulated, how weatherized is it, what services are available- Is natural gas in the area, or are stuck with propane? And what those connection costs will be.

If there is a forced air cooling system in the house, then you can look at forced air heat, which gives the fastest response when you turn up the thermostat.

Then how laong are you going to live there? If less than 10 years- leave the baseboard heat and just optimize it with small fans. If more than 10 years, you can do the hyrdonic heat, and geothermal heat pump as your boiler. Ground loops do not require a lot of space to be effective.

Call a number of local contractors and get estimates for the different types of heat, and you can ask them how they compare for type of system hydronic versus forced air and fuel versus fuel. They have nothing to hide, so they will give you honest totals and honest estimates of what to expect with each in you specific part oft he country.

If you are looking to cool the house as well, you would do better with forced air, but using the geothermal heat pump again for maximum efficiency. Prices will vary, but you should not be shocked if the up front cost for a gerothermal system runs you 30 to 40 thousand dollars. The flip side is miimal if any heating bills per se. You effectively pay your heat and cooling bills right up front with a geothermal heat pump as opposed to spreading that money across a decade or two with gas oil or electric. If you plan on solar in the future, the heat pumps can be set up initially so they can be easily hooked up to a later installed solar system.

You can also get some additional ideas on supplemental heat methods, weatherization, etc here,

Donald asks…

What websites are good for short-term housing in the Orange County, CA area?

I want to move out of my folks house, but I want to try short-term housing to see how I do with independent living before I sign off on a lease to an apartment.

Administrator answers:

Then go live in an efficiency apartment that is month to month tenancy.

Daniel asks…

how do you safely hide a water heater?

I just moved into a small apartment and there’s a small water heater that’s up high in a corner where the washer and dryer are and I wanted to know how to safely decorate around it. I was kind of thinking of putting some type of thin (very) curtain in front of it.

Administrator answers:

If it’s an electric heater, no problem.
The extra insulation will improve the efficiency.

If it’s a gas heater, be very careful not to interfere
with the air flow or venting.

Laura asks…

Can a baseboard heater be mounted vertically?

I have limited space in a relatively small San Francisco apartment. I am working with my landlord on installing some sort of heating system, as my apartment is basically a converted garage. I was thinking of asking her to install a couple of baseboard heaters, but due to the limited wall space, I would really like to mount them vertically.

Am I able to mount the typical Home Depot-type wall heater vertically? Or, does somebody have an economical alternative to this problem?


Administrator answers:

DO NOT mount a baseboard heater vertically.
They are designed to heat air that moves past the
element be convection. In a vertical mount this will
not happen rapidly enough.
The efficiency will suffer and the unit might
overheat dangerously.
If space is limited, look into an electric unit heater,
or fan/coil unit.

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