With winter looming, it is smart to plan ahead to get a handle on your heating oil costs for the year. After all, the more you save here, the more you’ll have available for Christmas presents. Here are some ways to control your costs and heat your home as efficiently as possible.
1. Can You Make Your Home Smaller? – Consider which rooms you use everyday. You might be better served by shutting off the main heat to certain rooms and using an economical space heater for those rooms that do not get constant everyday use. However, do not make the mistake of shutting off heat everyday and then completely reheating everyday. It requires more energy to warm back up a room. If you have zone thermostats, simply turn the heat down but not off.
2. Smart Plan Your Winter Vacation – Do you normally take a break during the winter? You will save more heating money by going to Florida in February instead of March. If you can reduce the number of days you are in your home during the coldest part of the year, you will save the most – per day. For most areas of the country, the coldest days are in February.
3. What Is The State Of Your Equipment? – The older your heating equipment, the more likely it is inefficient. The newest units are designed to be the most energy efficient from the start. Not only is your older equipment built to be less efficient, but it has usually deteriorated adding to the cost of operation. Clogged filters, clogged burner holes, tired motors, poor seals – these all lead to higher heating fuel costs. As of late, there have been some tremendously rewarding tax breaks for the purchase of new equipment. It is worth a cost-analysis look to see if a new system will pay for itself in a short period of time. You may also win by switching to a more economical fuel source such as natural gas over heating oil. It depends on energy pricing in your area.
4. Program For Savings – One of the most cost effective things you can do is to buy and self-install a programmable thermostat. These are readily available at the big box home improvement stores. Remember though, just dial the heat back, do not turn it off completely, unless you plan to be gone for several days at a time. Even then, remember to keep enough heat running so your pipes do not freeze.
5. Heating Fuel Price Deals – Plan on the price of heating oil to go up as the winter progresses. This phenomenon is based on the fact that it becomes more difficult to transport crude oil from Alaska and the frozen Great Lakes during this time. If domestic sources are slowed by weather, then more oil has to come from foreign sources. This too, adds to the transportation costs. If you can lock in a fairly attractive price for the season, typically you should go ahead and do it. There is one provision to look for in your contract, though. Make sure it reads that if the price of heating oil goes down, then you have the right to buy at the lower price. Some, but not all, dealers will offer this. One final caveat is to make sure that you buy from a dealer who has been in business for at least 10 years. Many people have been stuck by pre-paying for heating fuel oil and then having the dealer go out of business – leaving the buyer in the literal cold!
6. Insulate, Baby – If you have an older home, you probably do not have enough insulation. Insulate to at least R38 in the ceilings. Under the floors, you should add enough insulation to have R30 and in the walls, add to R20. Also, see that your ductwork is sealed and insulated. Duct joints fall apart all the time and there is nothing worse than the sinking feeling you get when you realize that you’ve inadvertently “heated” your unheated attic all winter.
7. Fine Tuning – A well tuned system can easily pay for the cost of a service call. Prevention contracts are common these days with most HVAC professionals. It is smart, good insurance to have your system checked and your house checked for leaks to save the most energy dollars.
These areas will save your hard earned money. With a little forethought, you can control your heating oil costs and enjoy a toasty winter season.