Supplement Heat for Cabin when Not Present to Feed the Wood Stove

Mike M.

Feeling the Heat
Mar 18, 2012
295
Green Bay, WI
Hi Everyone,

Looking at options to heat my cabin when I am not there. HVAC contractor has provided a few options. I typically use the cabin 3 seasons - summer, fall and spring. Winterization is around December when I drain all the pipes and let it freeze. At least this is what I did last year. Cabin has no duct work and no space for a traditional gas furnace. We have no AC, insulation is okay my efforts on that continue. The current room convention type natural gas wall heater is done and not repairable. This was rated around 20,000 btu and I supplemented that with electric resistant heat and the wood stove.

Option 1 replace the wall heater with a 35K BTu unit - cost $2K
Pros - operates with out power, Cons doesnt heat the whole cabin

Option 2 install and free standing 55K BTu ceiling to floor type forced air wall furnace - cost $3K
Pros - has a fan to circulate heat, will heat better than the convection unit, Cons I think its expensive and it does not operate without power

Option 3 install 20.5 seer Carrier Ductless Split Heat Pump cost $4K
Pros - I get AC and dehumidification, its efficient at cooling, Cons it only heats down to 5 F, useless with no power.

Option 4 - install both option 1 and option 3

i am really struggling with the calculations to see if for example at 10 degrees F it would cost more to heat with the heat pump or with natural gas? Remember both of the natural gas solutions are around 70-80 percent efficient.

The heat pump would be great I just don't know if its worth it for a weekend cabin but the AC sure would be nice when its 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity in June / July / August.

What would you do?

Thanks Mike
 

Mike M.

Feeling the Heat
Mar 18, 2012
295
Green Bay, WI
I found a calculator online and it looks like the cost to heat with natural gas would be around $400 per year while the heat pump is around $600. Kind of surprised the heat pump isn't better but again that AC would be awesome.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,638
central pa
I found a calculator online and it looks like the cost to heat with natural gas would be around $400 per year while the heat pump is around $600. Kind of surprised the heat pump isn't better but again that AC would be awesome.
If it were me I would replace the gas heater. Especially if you have Nat gas.
 

snaple4

Member
Dec 18, 2017
126
AR
If electricity is a concern just go with a ventless NG wall unit. I don’t like them and hate the smell but for a cabin it would be fine. Otherwise just replace old unit with something similar. Last thing you want is to be low on wood and have a freak snow storm knock out your power. You can use a cheap window shaker for ac
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
18,638
central pa
If electricity is a concern just go with a ventless NG wall unit. I don’t like them and hate the smell but for a cabin it would be fine. Otherwise just replace old unit with something similar. Last thing you want is to be low on wood and have a freak snow storm knock out your power. You can use a cheap window shaker for ac
Why ventless? Many vented units work fine with no power
 

Mike M.

Feeling the Heat
Mar 18, 2012
295
Green Bay, WI
Yes no matter what the options I choose we will be burning some natural gas in some way. Curious the reviews on heat pumps if anyone has them...

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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,577
South Puget Sound, WA
WI gets very cold at times. A heat pump is not going to put out a huge amount of heat at single digit temps. Natural gas will.

How large is the cabin?
 
Last edited:

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
9,920
Nova Scotia
I couldn't tell from the post - are you wanting to heat it all winter? You did say you don't use it in the winter and have always winterized it.

With NG available I would have a hard time going with anything else for purely heat.

But it also sounds like a/c & dehumidifying would be wanted or really liked - in which case I would likely go 1 & 3. That would be a preference call. A good cold climate mini-split can do all your heating & cooling/drying for all the times you are using it, by the sounds of it. Lots of experiences with those are posted in the Green Room. We got 2 Daikins put in our house in November.

(I have no experience with NG heaters - but isn't $2k a bit pricey for a simple one? We don't know how big your cabin is & related heat loss, but I would think a 20k btu unit would keep it above freezing when not there?)
 

Mike M.

Feeling the Heat
Mar 18, 2012
295
Green Bay, WI
WI gets very cold at times. A heat pump is not going to put out a huge amount of heat at single digit temps. Natural gas will.

How large is the cabin?
We are at about 1000 sq feet, single pane windows. Adding insulation but its not the best yet...

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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,577
South Puget Sound, WA
With natural gas available the best bet may be a gas stove.

Make some frames and stretch heavy clear plastic over them to make storm windows. Or us 3M heat shrink film and double-sided tape to install on the interior for temporary storm windows.
 

snaple4

Member
Dec 18, 2017
126
AR
Why ventless? Many vented units work fine with no power

True, many vented will work without power. I even prefer changing out old unit with a similar unit. However, A ventless is cheap, reliable, and easy to install. If it is used a lot then I wouldn’t recommend one but with it being a cabin without full time use it is a viable option.
 

Mike M.

Feeling the Heat
Mar 18, 2012
295
Green Bay, WI
True, many vented will work without power. I even prefer changing out old unit with a similar unit. However, A ventless is cheap, reliable, and easy to install. If it is used a lot then I wouldn’t recommend one but with it being a cabin without full time use it is a viable option.
I have a wood stove installed currently and am sticking with that. Pretty much ruled out the heat pump at this time. May have a Williams wall furnace installed and also replace the wall console heater. Heat pump would have been cool and fun for me (I like technology, electronics, drives, ect) but for the cost its not viable. Maybe heat pump efficiency will go up and cost will go down in a couple years and I can try one then.

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xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
1,967
Lackawaxen PA
What to do depends what will not leave you disappointed when your done. Your cabin dictates what it takes to heat and cool. Here is what I did when we built mine new. We are 4 seasons, weekends. I wanted reliable water free heat. We did real good insulation, electric baseboard with thermostats in every room. Wood stove runs when we are there. A few years later I considered central air and maybe heat pump. But a cheep window air conditioner did it, keeps the house at 70 when it's 95 outside. As simple as it gets and works well.

I don't know what's happened to heat pumps in recent years. But people now like them. My daughter says compare to oil it was a big savings. I would consider it. You do have the wood stove.
 

Snerdguy

Member
Feb 9, 2012
8
Ohio
The first thing I suggest is to try and seal up and insulate your cabin to minimize heat loss in the winter as much as possible. Propane is probably the most cost effective option as long as you have an efficient and reliable furnace. A condensing furnace would be the most energy efficient and you can completely vent it outside and without drawing air from the cabin. Consider also the possibility of adding some type of solar heat if the location of your cabin allows it. If your cabin gets direct sun in the winter, you might add a direct to air heater on the south facing wall which gets the most sunshine in when the leaves are off of the trees. This can add quite a bit of heat to your cabin so your furnace will run less. There are many designs for wall and roof units that you can even build yourself cheaply. If your cabin is left unattended for months, you should consider adding some kind of security system that reports back to you about the temperature and humidity conditions in the cabin.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
16,222
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Just pop in some cheap electric baseboards or wall heaters and call it a day. They cost like 150$, no maintenance, no explosives, no separate fuel source, no co poisoning, no freezing.

Run the stove when you’re there.
 
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Sodbuster

Minister of Fire
Sep 22, 2012
1,088
Michigan
If it were me I would replace the gas heater. Especially if you have Nat gas.
When I hear "cabin" I see a propane tank. We had a cabin that we've since sold. Standard practice was to flip the breakers to the supplemental electric heat when we left. 3 weeks later we went up for the weekend, and noticed it was much warmer than normal. I had forgotten flip the breakers. Electric bill that month was $375, lesson learned.
 

williamtell

Member
Oct 17, 2015
4
Okc area
While the idea of a heat pump is cool, it's very hard to justify the cost and complexity compared to a natural gas heater. It's pumped to your place, it's cheaper, it's a heck of a less complicated, and it works without power.

Especially since you are in a pretty cold climate.

Long story short I had to replace an ac/electric heating unit at our lake house in oklahoma. In fall, winter, and spring the wood stove could heat place by itself. After ac failed last summer we ran the remainder of the summer with two window units. Besides the noise, they actually did a good job for weekend duty for 300 dollar investment.

Went to 3 ton heat pump unit(house is setup for forced air). It cost 5k. Don't get me wrong its much nicer, but for weekend use I don't think it's $4700 nicer. Especially since we have to leave the upstairs unit in the window still.
 

Sodbuster

Minister of Fire
Sep 22, 2012
1,088
Michigan
While the idea of a heat pump is cool, it's very hard to justify the cost and complexity compared to a natural gas heater. It's pumped to your place, it's cheaper, it's a heck of a less complicated, and it works without power.

Especially since you are in a pretty cold climate.

Long story short I had to replace an ac/electric heating unit at our lake house in oklahoma. In fall, winter, and spring the wood stove could heat place by itself. After ac failed last summer we ran the remainder of the summer with two window units. Besides the noise, they actually did a good job for weekend duty for 300 dollar investment.

Went to 3 ton heat pump unit(house is setup for forced air). It cost 5k. Don't get me wrong its much nicer, but for weekend use I don't think it's $4700 nicer. Especially since we have to leave the upstairs unit in the window still.
Ouch! 5K, I think I would have kept the window shakers.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,599
SW Virginia
I vote vented wall mounted NG heater that operates without grid electricity.
I'd really avoid ventless, more for the moisture issues than the CO. Sounds like you probably already have a vent to outside already from the old unit and a gas line in place.