BUILDING information - CONSTRUCTION
The "Pretty Good House" concept is one we subscribe to vs. the certified Passive House Standard. Documented in Green Building Advisor. Basically good insulation, good windows and air sealing with Heat Recovery Ventilation. The common sense house for the rest of us. The "Related Articles" in the link above further the discussion.
There are also a number of bloggers in Green Building Advisor. One to call attention to is Martin Holladay, who bills himself as the Energy Nerd. But as a former builder and all around thinker, he is much more than that. Lots of good building information here.
A little deeper into the discussion of Building Science is Joe Lstiburek. How to build a wall, how to pour (and insulate) a concrete pad. A number of books to his credit.
Matt Risinger a constructor out of Texas, does lots of detail blogs on materials he is using or trying. Lot of videos.
Our own Washington State University has a good website. Very helpful on air sealing, blower door testing. With older homes it is not unusual to lose 1/3 of the heating cost in air leaks. And even in new home construction it is often the owner that will lead the way toward air sealing by specifying requirements for the blower door test.
HYDRONIC DESIGN INFORMATION
John Siegenthaler’s “Appropriate Designs” website. John has written the text book for Hydronic Heating design. “Modern Hydronic Heating For Residential and Light Commercial Buildings”, is now in its 3rd edition.
Wikipedia has a good explanation of Power Generation in a Thermal Power Plant, particularly efficiencies. About 1/3 of the fuel consumed (gas, coal or nuclear) is converted to electrical energy in a thermal power plant. This is due to condensing of low pressure steam from the turbine/generator back into water so that it can be pumped and reheated to high pressure steam to be once again routed to spin the turbine/generator. Large cooling towers (very noticeable) or a cold water source (stream or lake) are needed to dispose of this waste energy.
Besides cost, this is the reason it is better to use the fuel directly for heat vs. resistive electrical heat. Electrical heat only makes sense if using a heat pump.
Wikipedia also has a good overall discussion of Ground-Source/Geothermal Heat Pumps which can be extremely efficient. Or heat pumps in general.
Federal and State Incentives toward energy efficient systems are tracked by the dsireusa.org website. The website is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
HVAC CALCS, STANDARDS AND DISCUSSION
ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) writes the standards for HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Condensing) industry.
Sizing heating (and cooling) equipment involves a "Load Calculation" at worst case conditions. Winter conditions for heating and summer conditions for cooling. This is the ACCA Manual J calculation that takes into account construction details.
A good discussion is provided by Bill Smith of Elite Software that writes Manual J software for the HVAC industry.
The Manual J load calculation is the starting point for all HVAC equipment, ducting (Manual D) and/or radiant sizing.
In the perfect world, all HVAC contractors would avail themselves to the industry standards for sizing equipment. In practice, it is generally at "Buyer" insistence.