Friday, January 18, 2013

Heating oil and my budget


Heating oil is killing me . . I started with an estimated budget, and once we started getting much more frequent oil deliveries, I started tracking how much we were/are using, at what cost.

Aug 15-Nov 16: averaged 2 gallons/day
Nov 17-Dec 12: averaged 6.8 gallons/day
Dec 13-Dec 27: averaged 7.6 gallons/day
Dec 28-Jan 18: averaged 9.6 gallons/day

I did a projection and upped the budget over $100 more/month. Note that hot water is heated through our oil fed boiler.

Some issues:

This is an old, cobbled together home, with poor insulation. I knew that this would be a cold house so I made sure to install a wood stove in the living room. I spent $600 on seasoned firewood.

 I spent $$$$ to have the stove installed, figuring that over the few years that i plan on staying here, the installation cost, when prorated, would "pay for itself."


I had an energy audit done at a cost to me of $75.
 I called a few weeks ago, I still await the actual report so that I can present it to the landlord, with the hope that she will at least reinsulate the attic.

 When the audit was done, the techs did some sealing of gaps. Many more remain, but they did an air pressurization test before and after their work, the air exchange number did drop significantly. Not gone by no means, but better. My $75 was well spent.

I also had the 2 single pane windows of the library wall section of the living room covered with 6 ml plastic.

 Draft dodgers are in most windows. Bedroom windows also have spun fleece bedding/mattress pads (think of the material used for Winter boot liners) tacked up over them for insulation.

Door sweeps were added, doors were caulked, felt strips used. 6 ml plastic was used with duct tape to create plastic coverings over window screens in exterior storm doors with the glass storm panels missing.

I am now looking for Freecyled rugs to warm the floors, although we all wear L L Bean wicked good slippers in the house.


Sweaters and/or fleece jackets are commonly worn as an extra layer.

I had 2  programmable thermostats installed, am on the fence about a third.
 These will be removed and the original thermostats re-installed when I do move out.


 I keep the house at 60 when we aren't home or are asleep, it goes up to 65 when we get up in the morning. We have flannel sheets, several warm blankets, quilts on the beds. We wear warm bedclothes. The house is in 3 zones, I time the thermostats accordingly, and keep whatever doors separate these zones, closed.

I've installed 2 fabric "curtains" as doors in the kitchen, the warmest room of the house (furnace is in the small cellar underneath, cooking and dishwashing adds additional heat). I tend to hang out here once the sun sets. We drink pots of hot tea at night, go to bed early.

I looked for affordable thermo lined drapes to section off the L shaped office/dining room that was once a porch, now enclosed, partitioning it off from the large living room where the wood stove is. I found some at Christmas tree shop, but returned them-wrong beige, decided not to spend the $75 or so in total. I have 3 doorways, 3 large picture widow sized openings to deal with.


While I and one kidlet take short showers, the other kidlet is notorious for taking long ones-I bought him a kitchen timer as a result. If I can shower and wash my hair within 5 minutes, he should be able to as well.


The laundry is 95% done in cold water, only whites and towels are washed in warm.



The dishwasher is only run when full, and I use the water heater feature as well as water miser feature.

So, these bills are frustrating-any suggestions? I've lowered the thermostats as far as I feel I can (special needs kidlet has temperature regulation issues).


Lili said...

Would using portable space heaters be any less expensive in your zones away from the wood stove, and turn the heat off to those areas?

Do you have a small room/outdoor thermometer you could take around the house and check what the actual temp is in each room, to see where you might be able to gain the most benefits by doing more work?

Although it's not nearly as cold here in Seattle, we have a couple of rooms in the house that just don't receive much heat when the furnace is on. They are simply too far from the furnace. I've been using one of those electric, oil-filled radiators for additional heat only when needed, in the coldest room this winter. (That room would stay around 56 F at night, 59 F day, if didn't use the portable).

Is it the porch turned sunroom/office area that's draining the heat? I know you've added plastic sheeting, how about even more quilting on the windows in there? Perhaps from thrift store.

In our cold room, when we get a super cold blast, I hang a thick poly comforter behind the insulated drape. I sewed small plastic rings (those small curtain rings), to the top edge of the comforter in about 4 places, across the top of the comforter. I twisted small cup hooks into the top edge of the casing around that window. I can easily take down and hang this comforter-curtain depending on if I need extra warmth, or letting the sun in.

Good luck with this. I know this must be frustrating you, after all the work you've put into making it more comfortable, but not too expensive.

bbarna said...

Plastic on all windows. We have been replacing our windows as we can, but we still have plastic on 5 windows and it makes a huge difference. Good luck.

CTMOM said...

Thanks for your comments. I realize that I am in the thick of Winter heating bills, it was 25 degrees F today, currently 21. Artic blast is supposed to roll in Sunday, temps will be 10 or so. Brrr.
I need attic and under the crawlspace insulation replaced. I can't nor should I have to pay for that. The main box of the house was an uninsulated wood and stone hunting cottage circa 1930. 1/2 bath was part of a front porch, added in the 50's according to the date inside the toilet tank. 2 bedroom and large bathroom added sometime in the 70's-that area has wall insulation but where the additions abut the house, there was no thought of a tight joint, there is where much of the air infiltration is coming in. Worst area is the L shaped porch around the main now living room (this was a one room with a fireplace deal). It is a row of large windows, at least double paned and there is a wonderful, Southern exposure which I take advantage of.
Ideally, I will somehow acquire insulating curtains for the doorway from the DR to the LR and the office to the LR as well as the large, picture window sized cut outs (I suspect these are original window areas to the lodge)-there is one to the DR, 2 to the office. Divide and conquer is my thought.

I also suspect something is wonky about the remaining old porch thermostat. I currently have it set to 55, and it keeps coming on. (yes, I know it's cold out), but the front entry hall thermostat isn't being tripped (although it is set to 65, will go to 60 at night). It may be worth investing the $20 or so for a third one, knowing that I'll take it with me when I go.

I recently tapped into my future house fund in order to get college boy reliable transportation. I just paid off my CC this month (always in full-it was an anticipated high balance as I had my reupholstery on there, Xmas, normal bills and several oil payments.). I am desperately trying to rebuild the funds I took out of my house fund, want to live decently, but these oil bills are maddening.
The house gets toasty with the furnace, which is fairly new: 5-8years old and energy efficient. I find the hot water temp, however, to be scalding. I've never lived with a boiler before but wonder if it needs to be adjusted. I do like the heat on demand feature, in theory, it should save energy and $.

j udy said...

When its really cold here we all take hot water bottles to bed. They didnt cost me much as usually i throw it under the blankets about 15 minutes before bed.

We found we were losing a lot of heat through our sky light in the bathroom so in they years before we had it replaced I had a piece of plastic and had it cut so it fit into the opening in the ceiling. Beautiful no it worked great for cutting down the drafts.

If it was your home I could see making massive improvements to help with bills but why should you pay what he should do. Here is hoping that 2013 leads you to a place where buying your own home is a reality. I know prices are uber high there

Debbie said...

Carol, you should be able to turn down the boiler temp for the hot water regulation. I have done that with mine to 120 degrees. Where the air leaks are in the additions, if they are within the flooring, how about a few small bath mats or kitchen rugs bought from the dollar store? The older thermostat that keeps coming on, that used to happen with ours. We took the old thermostat out, and found that there was dust that was in the hardware that keep triggering it to go off. We replaced it in the living room, and haven't had any problems since. We now have a programmable thermostat that works well. My mother lives in RI and uses oil to heat her home and water. Everything else is electricity. She has a hard time with the oil payments, and the cost that are involved. We live in a town house, with full electricity. The oil would be the biggest expense in my home, if we had one that ran with this resource. We also use small blankets to cover the drafts in windows, doors, and have carpet. We use lots of blankets on the sofa to keep us warm. We have lots of comforters upstairs to use. Our heat stays consistent at 70, but when the sun is shining, our blinds are open to let the warmth in. AC we try and do without.

CTMOM said...

My timeline is 4 years: get the youngest out of HS, so school systems aren't an issue, kids will hit 18 then too, child support will stop. Meanwhile, the bulk of our needs have been addressed, my "needs" which are graying over to wants are: a gas grill (the new ones come with side burners which I can use in a power outage), rugs for the LR, DR, water closet in the main bathroom (I am trying Freecyle, thrift, Craigslist first). So I anticipate little expeniture beyond our monthly expenses which I am desperately trying to reign in. I can plastic windows, have materials already on hand. As the energy audit techs told me, the main issue, beyond attic and crawlspace insulation and the lack of insulation in the older part of the house (once the stone gets cold, it holds the cold-great in Summer, however)are the drafts from where the difference parts of the house are joined. $ for spray foam/caulk and time to pay to have it done. Not on my bill, thanks. So, I am realistic-I'll ask the LL to reinsulate the attic and the cawlsace (the batts of fiberglass are literally falling away from the underside of the bathroom floor. Note scribbled on inside of hatch door states that this insulation was done in 1985-it's shot. This is a rental that LL is holding onto until the market turns around, and yes, real estate is ubber expensive here, the reason why I am trying to save such a large downpayment, to keep my future mortgage accepted (now on one income) as well as do-able on a monthly basis when all is said and done.

Belinda said...

Carol, have you thought about straw/hale bales? I have a friend who used to insulate with those in cold winters. Check it out on google. Here is one such article.

Mary Lou said...

I don't know if it matters, but are you on automatic delivery with your oil company? I know when I was there were times that I felt really didn't need the oil, but it was scheduled and they came. I only now get oil when I feel I need it and not when the oil company feels I need it and it works better since I can budget it better. I don't know how often you get deliveries. We had a delivery 12/11 and I still have approximately 1/2 tank of oil considering we keep the heat on 68 during the day and someone is usually home at all times. I do lower it to 60 at night. I, too, am in New England so I can relate to your weather woes.

I also heat my hot water with oil, granted my daughter is now on her own and she was the biggest culprit with LONG showers. I know you mentioned one of your children needs the heat, but we have not even had the heat on in the upstairs at all yet. We prefer a cool/cold bedroom and we use a space heater to warm the master bath when we take showers. This probably won't work for you, but I just thought I would mention what we do to try to save some on the oil.

I do have insulated curtains in my living room so that does cut down on some heat loss.

Good luck in weighing your options.