House: heating woes

Realistically the only complaint I have about the house right now is how bloody cold it is. We weren’t prepared for that, the house is really well insulated, but jeeze it’s so cold!

It was advertised with slab heating, and two split-system reverse-cycle air conditioners. Slab heating is expensive to run, but fairly comfortable heating if you can eat the running costs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be doing the job. The two split-systems are in decidedly inconvenient spots for us: one’s in the kitchen, where we spend very little time, and the other is in the master bedroom, where we spend approximately 8 hours under blankets and that’s it.

So we quickly had Baz, our electrician, come out to look at the slab heater, among a pile of other things I wanted him to look at and do. There are three zones, and it appeared the kitchen was the only zone that was working. After Baz checked it out, the second zone is definitely using electricity, it just doesn’t appear to be doing much. And the largest zone, in the living space? Completely popped… no fixing it. We thought at first it was the contactor (essentially a giant relay, in the fuse box), but the loop is definitely destroyed too.

Discussed our options with Baz, and curiously the electrician didn’t suggest an electrical solution! He recommended gas central, which I’m not particularly happy with, but I called up the local mob Wades and they sent “Steve” out about a week ago to talk about our options. As much as I’d like a refrigerated electric system (so when we eventually put a giant photovoltaic system on the roof, it takes the edge off the costs), it’d cost significantly more up-front.

We spoke a bit about what the realtor had suggested: that there may be a rebate available for decommissioning the slab heater, and that it may cover the costs of installing a ducted gas system, or contribute a portion (about 20~25%) to the cost of a central electric system. Baz agreed that this should be the case, and right off the bat we’d save a fair amount just by removing the second meter set up to record the usage of the slab heater (not sure why there’s two meters in the first place).

So this is actually the case: it looks like a whole ducted gas system, including multiple zones, would be covered by the rebates from the government for removing the slab heater. For some reason, the rebate for installing an electric ducted system is a bit lower (presumably a “lesser of two evils” situation, given the state’s reliance on brown coal for electricity generation), and combined with the larger installed cost to begin with, results in it being around $10,000AUD after the rebate. As much as I dislike burning fossil fuels for heat, this skews it heavily in favour of the gas system… that $10k would cover a lot of gas bills over the next 10 to 15 years, and at that point we can reconsider if natural gas becomes outlandish.

The only snag was the fact that our roof slope is very shallow, meaning there isn’t enough space in the roof cavity to install the heater they typically use. A refrigerated system would replace the evaporative cooler that’s occupying the highest point in the roof, but again… that cost! He was almost certain however that there were slimline gas options that’d do the job and we could order one, so he had to do some homework.

Steve got back to me later in the week and confirmed, we were a-go, and their bean counters are almost certain the rebate will cover the entire cost, including multiple zones! We just have to wait for everything to get delivered, and they’ll set up an installation date. Most importantly, the slab heater functions enough to qualify for the green certificates that’ll pay for the rest of it.

So we hopefully don’t have to be cold more than a week or two. I’m expecting our outrageous heating bills to remain about the same unless we’re very judicious with the thermostats, but the primary difference being at the moment we’re paying a huge amount and still cold!

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle



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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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