Saturday, November 30, 2013

Trying to keep heating bills in check or how low can we go?

I am desperately trying to keep our heating bills in check. After being uncomfortably cold last year (I anticipated being cold, but had no idea how drafty, underinsulated this home was!), I set my energies to maximize comfort at as little cost as possible. I researched alternative housing arrangements, in my price range, in a very limited rental market, deciding to remain here at least one more year if not 3 more-the time frame that I need to stay in this town to get the boys through HS (per divorce decree). Additionally, moving will cost me $$$$. That is a factor as well.

-With permission clearly stated in my lease, I had my wood stove (awarded in the divorce) installed professionally. $$$$ but I figured that spread out over 4 years, as part of my emergency preparedness plan, it made sense. The stove and metal flue pipe will be uninstalled/removed when we leave.
-The wood stove is run daily from the time I get home, with the last log of the night being placed at 9 p.m. (perhaps later on the weekends)This helps keep the core of the home warm, especially as the LR is the original structure of the home, and appears to have no insulation.
-use of 2 ceiling fans in LR with the wood stove/furnace on (cathedral ceilings so this brings the warm air back down)
-with the LL's permission, I took advantage of an energy audit through the electric company. They sealed up the basement door, caulked the worst areas of the home, replaced light bulbs etc. It helped, but there is much, much more that should be done. I will not pay for it, as this is a rental.
-use of warm LLBean wicked good slippers by all in the home, as well as fleece jackets. Multiple blankets, afghans, lap blankets are available to cuddle up with as well,
-nightly serving of pots of hot tea
-pop open the toaster oven and/or the range oven after use, to flood the home with the built up heat. I paid for it (electric) so I may as well take advantage of it
-multiple blankets, quilts, fleece throws on the beds, which are also covered in thick, flannel sheets. We all wear warm, flannel nightclothes to bed.
-Again with permission from the LL, I paid a handyman service (licensed and bonded as I don't want any issues when I do leave this rental), I had 3 programmable thermostats installed (I saved the original dial style thermostats and will have them reinstalled when we leave). Had an issue with the L shaped porch aka dining room and office turned into DD's bedroom zone last Winter (was reading 70 degrees constantly in there) due to a broken switch down cellar on the actual furnace. LL paid for that repair, as required. She does have a service contract with the oil company.
-this same Handyman service installed some plastic window coverings on the library windows and the kitchen window last year.. I saved those precut, 6 ml poly pieces and had them reinstalled (much faster this year as the plastic was precut)as well as had all of the numerous windows/sliders in the porch covered along with the box window of my room. DD noticed a difference right away (and these windows/sliders already had insulating curtain panels)
-I installed plastic over the screen's of the 3 entrance doors (no storm glass and LL refused to replace). At least this keeps the drafts down and the rain off of the doors as well)
-take advantage of passive solar-currently streaming in the home through the rear side of the house. Once night falls, so does the temp, so the roll up blinds/curtains/drapes will later be closed
-installed some curtain panels in the multiple doorless entry ways-some door sized, others are picture window sized (2 in kitchen, 4 in LR) last year. This year, I added a 5th entry doorway that is covered by louvered doors, and I backed all of the entry "curtains" with wool, spun polyester or remade it (in the case of the 108 inch wide, former  window between dining room of L shaped porch and LR).
-installed 6 sets of insulated (white) drape curtains in the office aka DD's room side of the porch. These are used alone, but can easily be used under another set of curtains. I can see these easily being used in my next home. A pricey investment, but practical all the same. I chanced upon 2 additional, brand new sets of insulating panels at Salvation Army of all places, and installed them in the boys's room. I also added some to the box window and large front window in my room. Again-investment to be used in my next home.
-created insulating window panels, using materials on hand. Kitchen window (large, triple pane), powder room window, 2 library windows now are much more comfortable. While not air tight, these panels are certainly making a noticeable difference in comfort.
-made draft dodgers for the powder room, library windows, main bathroom, boy's room last year. This year, I made one and attached it to the main door (cut too short when floors were redone @@), made one for the first of many windows in the L shaped porch. I still have 3 sets of extra wide sliders, 2 triple windows, 2 large, wide windows. I will work on those this Winter. I still could use some in my bedroom as well. I am trying to use materials on hand to make these and although they do take time, these are things that can also travel with me to my next home.
-purchased a smaller rug for under the dinette table, a large room sized rug for the LR and an equally large one for under the dining room table. All things that come with us.
-I keep doors to rooms closed, especially as we are in 3 zones for heating. Currently, the porch (DR and BR for DD) as well as the bedroom/main bathroom zones are set to 55. I recently lowered them from 60 to see if we can tolerate it. Bedroom/Bath zone comes up to 65 for one hour a day (moved a bit later on the weekend as I "sleep in" to 6 or 6:30) and remains cool until 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. 2 of us shower before bed so having a warm bathroom (also aids in drying it out!) is essential. The heart of the home comes up to 65 (Kitchen/powder room/LR) at bfst time and remains set until 10 p.m.

I've gotten 2 oil bills since August. My monthly budget has been updated, with a disgusting figure being set aside (sadly accurate based on last year's expenses) for oil, which is used to heat our water as well as for the furnace heat.

I feel that I have exhausted what I can do to make this place more comfortable AND affordable in Winter. Besides the additional draft dodgers, is there something else you can suggest that I am missing? All suggestions are welcomed.


DW said...

Have you tried putting foam insulation behind your light switch and outlet plates? That can help cut a bit of the draft through the walls, and the pre-cut foam pieces are inexpensive. (and you can even take them with you ;)

I have not tried this, but a friend cut large sheets of styrofoam to fit over his front (rather drafty) windows. He put them in at night ... said they made a great difference.

CTMOM said...

DW, yes, actually. I had gotten a pkg of those foam outlet insulators at Habitat for Humanity for under $1 and did whatever outside wall outlets I could. I also priced foam to cover the huge sliders and windows of the porch-absoluteley cost prohibative. : (
There is only so much I can do for a rental. Sucks that I have to eat high oil bills, but at least the rent is "reasonable" for around here. So, another year here, we'll reassess come Spring.

missy said...

Have you tried putting bubble wrap on you windows?
Curious to know how well it works.

Mary Lou said...

I recently read that bubble wrap makes a good insulator. Never tried it so I can't comment. It's just a thought and you might ask people to save it for you since it's the time of year it may be more plentiful with people doing online shopping and getting some in their packages.

I know I save it from packages because you just never know when you might need it.

I understand the heating of hot water with oil since that's how our system is set up also. It's a tough situation using oil all summer. We filled up in November, but I hadn't put oil in the tank since April. We'll see how long this lasts. We usually get 5-6 weeks from a tank in the cold weather. I don't have automatic delivery, I call when I feel we need oil. I use a discount oil company.

I'll never forget when I was using a full service company, they came on Christmas Eve to clean the furnace and delivered oil the day after Christmas. Merry Christmas to them! I much prefer calling for oil.

CTMOM said...

RE: bubble wrap. I first read up on that last year, and actually installed some inside some kitchen cabinets (already freezing). DIdn't really seem to do anything. I duct taped it down, so at least the cracks are sealed. @@