What are Your ChoicesObviously if you do not have a natural gas supply to your home you could go all electric. Going all electric has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are no gas lines not propane tank, this makes planning easier and some initial expenses lower. The disadvantage in the long run is higher energy bills. This is of course contingent to the climate you live in and what type of heating that you will use. Let me explain .
The Heat Pump
Several years ago we had a home in Florida where it rarely gets below 40 degrees. The most common form of heating utilized a heat pump. In essence a heat pump is a variation of a standard air conditioner that utilizes a reversing valve that moves freon in the opposite direction heating the house instead of cooling it. These systems are more expensive but in climates that do not get that cold they make sense because they are reasonably efficient. The efficiency of these system drops drastically below 40 degrees ambient, making them impractical for most of us. Another drawback is heat pumps deliver very lukewarm air in the winter, not the cozy warm air that a gas heater delivers.
One of the first homes that we lived in utilized resistance heat. Essentially resistance heat works on the same principal as an electric space heater that is on steroids. Pardon the pun but these things EAT electricity for breakfast lunch and dinner. When it gets cold you are going to be sorry. The advantage is initial installation is cheaper. I have not seen one of these units in years and am not sure if they are still available.
This was our choice for reasons I explained above. We choose Lennox furnaces that are 95% efficient and really make great use of the propane they consume.
Propane Tank and Installation tips
I know I have gotten a little long winded but I wanted to give you some idea of the process for choosing the right source of energy. I will devote the rest of this page to the propane tank and the piping etc
Choosing the Right Propane Tank
You can lease, rent, or buy your propane tank. We chose to buy our tank because we want to own this home long term. It was $100 a year to lease the tank and $1100 to buy it. If you buy you will have to purchase a regulator (you can see the regulator in the picture below on top of the propane tank it is the brown device) that runs around $80.
What size Propane Tank do I need?
The size tank that you are going to need will vary according to the usage and how often you will have it filled. I purchased a 500 gallon tank and have it refilled once a year before the heating season. It is to be noted that you can only fill a propane tank to 80% because you must allow a vapor space in the top of the tank. My tank in essence only holds 400 gallons.
I have a buddy in Canada that has a 1000 gallon tank he fills 4 times every winter. Ouch!!!
Your gas supplier in your area will give you a good idea on what size tank you need according to your usage. If you undersize your tank you will be filling it very often and you may not get as competitive a price for you propane. I wait until my tank is down below 20% and buy over 300 gallons at a time, so I can negotiate with my supplier. They often will give you a break if you ask for it and purchase in bulk. If you lease the gas supplier normally supplies the regulator. You will also have to pay for the copper piping that is run to the house for the propane gas supply. This is on a per foot basis, and will vary with each gas company somewhat.
They used 5/8 copper and buried it directly in the ground about 2 foot deep. Please make a note of where it is buried for the future. You will at one time or the other probably dig in the area and dont want to damage it.
Please have a look at the picture of the gas inlet into my home. You will notice that I had the installer put a 1 inch piece of PVC pipe around the gas line as it exist the ground. I did this because the copper pipe is soft and if it is not protected it can get damaged or punctured by a shovel or other garden tool when you are working in the flowerbed.
Location of Your Propane Tank
You want to get the propane tank as close as you can to the house to keep from having to pay for excessive gas pipe from the tank and also close enough to a good road to make sure you can get propane when you need it.
Gas Piping In Your Home
One last thing we need to discuss in gas piping in your home. You need to consider what you may need gas for in the future. For instance, if you opt to have electric water heat now you may want to convert to gas in the future. Go ahead and run a gas line stub out to the site for future use. Another example is Gas Lights. I installed Gas Lights on my home. Cant have gas lights without gas. You may want propane grill on your porch later, run the gas pipe now and if you need it you have it. You have heard this on other pages of this site before. It is cheaper and a lot easier to install it now in the event you need it, than to have to install it after the house is built.
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