How do you build an energy efficient boarding house?

3 Replies

I'd like to build a duplex with by-the-room heating and cooling. It will have a total of 9 bedrooms, which will all be heated and cooled by the room (4 bedrooms in one unit, 5 bedrooms in another). They will all be small, 100 sq ft bedrooms, and the whole building will be no more than 2,000 square feet total, which means that living room and kitchen will also be on the smaller side. Since it will need a by-the-room heating and cooling, what are some suggestions as to how to approach this? I will live in one side of the duplex (the 4 bedroom side), and I will put tenants in the other side, it will be rented out by the room, so 5 rooms will be rented out to different tenants. I want by-the-room heating and cooling in both units, as I want my family to be able to choose their room temperatures individually as well. So, each of the 9 bedrooms needs to be able to choose its own temperature, and each kitchen/living area can be counted as one area in terms of temperature control. So I would think a total of 11 mini splits should do it, and I would be buying cheap ones for $200-$300 each online. 

What are some strategies to approach this kind of construction project, so that each room is heated and cooled individually, without having too big of an energy bill? Should I get solar panels, and if so, how big of a solar system do I need for this kind of project? Or should I just stick with gas appliances? And in that case, how can I make by-the-room heating and cooling possible? 

So I guess my biggest concern is, how do I make by-the-room heating and cooling possible with 11 different zones without spending too much on an energy bill and without spending too much as an upfront cost? Is there a middle ground somewhere?

Also, what are some approaches to water heating? Should I get a tankless system? And if so, wouldn't that use up quite a lot of energy? 

For bedrooms that small your best option is a window unit or mini-PTAC.  Mini splits will be overkill and I have never found a new one for under $500 retail.

Depending on your water quality and maintenance associated with that you need to consider a tank vs tankless option.  If you go tankless an option is a couple strategically placed gas units that service everyone, but then you have to consider submetering that cost (if you're allowed to use RUBS then go that route) vs putting in individual units.  You will never recoup your investment on solar unless your state, city have some great tax incentives.

You will need to talk to an electrical contractor and find out the best way to accomplish what you want to do.  Are you talking about having separate meters for each room, or would you be paying the utility bills with rent? If you don't have separate meters, it sounds like a lot of problems ahead. 

I'd also suggest if you haven't already done so, to talk to the Planning Department and find out if boarding houses are allowed, and what the criteria for them will be,etc. You may need additional parking, fire sprinklers, etc.

Originally posted by @Karen Margrave :

You will need to talk to an electrical contractor and find out the best way to accomplish what you want to do.  Are you talking about having separate meters for each room, or would you be paying the utility bills with rent? If you don't have separate meters, it sounds like a lot of problems ahead. 

I'd also suggest if you haven't already done so, to talk to the Planning Department and find out if boarding houses are allowed, and what the criteria for them will be,etc. You may need additional parking, fire sprinklers, etc.

 I'll have the tenants split the bill, so that they all still try to save on utilities (if I just charge them a flat rate, I'm afraid they'll overuse the utilities and not try to save). But they won't have separate meters.

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