This is my very old, painted oil furnace 🙂

My new home has an oil boiler. In the inspection report, the age of the furnace was not determined because the previous owner painted it. Haha, I know I know, but these things happen and you have to roll with it.

The fact that my home has oil heat was one of the biggest concerns for me before purchase.  With the big push toward “making the switch”  I did my research and contacted the gas company about running the gas line to my house. The rule of thumb is that if there is gas available in your area, that they will run the line to your house for a minimal cost. It really depends on how far away the gas line is from your house. In my case, there’s a gas line at the bottom of the street, but they would have to tear up the street to run the line about 150 feet to my property. This costs a lot of money (they estimated around $15,000). Because the cost is so high, they gave me a “contribution” price. Basically they want me to pay about half of the cost to run the line. Now, if it was $1,000 this might have been a possibility, but after doing the math I couldn’t find a reason on earth that I would pay that much to become a customer of a company for life, where they will be charging and making money off of this place for the rest of the existence of this home. In addition, after the line is run you have to think about the cost of putting in a new gas furnace and running the gas through your home. It can get really pricey, and for me it just wasn’t worth it to spend nearly $15,000 to cut down my heating bills.

I would estimate that it costs about double the price of gas to run an oil furnace. The price of oil keeps increasing and the uncertainty is making people scared about what may happen. My recommendation is to do your research, collect the facts, and make an educated decision about what’s best for you. Instead of getting upset about the price increase of heating oil I would suggest you take action.  You cannot do anything about the price of fuel but you CAN improve the efficiency of your furnace so that you burn less of it.

So… how can you do that?  There are two things you can do so that your oil burner uses less fuel. Just a 20% decrease in heating oil consumption can mean huge annual savings.

Furnace Tune Up

Getting a tune-up can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.  You should be able to get this service done by a licensed technician for under $150.  The technician that tunes up my parent’s furnace just serviced mine for less than $100.  Asking around for someone that’s reputable and reliable is a good idea.

A basic furnace tune up should include changing the furnace filter & screens, replacing the oil filter on the tank, adjusting the mixture settings,  replacing the oil burner nozzle with a new one (making sure its the right size), vacuuming the furnace of soot and cleaning the air restrictors. I asked my technician about the shape of my boiler, and he said it’s “in good shape for the shape it’s in” — which is music to my ears!! Even though it’s old, it’s still running nicely, so servicing it for the year has also given me some peace of mind about getting through the winter.

Most technicians will also test the CO2 levels using a special wet kit. There are also various other items a technician should check while doing a tune up but if you have the desire and ability you can also do these checks yourself.

Make Sure you Aren’t Losing Heat

Nobody cares about heating the garage or attic and these areas are often overlooked by homeowners. But, if you garage is connected to your home, making this mistake may be costing you hundreds of extra dollars every year. Hot air is flowing through these air ducts into other parts of your home and as they travel through this uninsulated section the air is losing heat. Your whole heating system has to work harder than it should and this results in a higher consumption of heating oil.

To remedy this you can make sure that the air ducts running through your garage are properly wrapped in insulation.  You also want to check your air ducts for any cracks.  You would be surprised how much heat can escape through one seemingly minor crack. I would also recommend inspecting windows and doors for hot air leaks, and properly insulating your attics. My dad and I insulated my attic before I moved in. It only took a few hours and it’s going to make all of the difference in the world come winter, I just know it.

The US Department of Energy has some practical tips on their website that you can use if you are looking for a way to save energy.

Zoning

While getting my annual service done, I had the technician do some research into zoning my home. This is another really practical way to save money if you are in a situation like mine where you can’t switch to gas. Basically, zoning your home will allow you to control the temperature in different areas of the house on separate thermostats.

The best way to determine zones is by figuring out where you do most of your living, and try to separate that from spare or less used rooms of your house. In my case, I’m interested in zoning my first level as one loop, and my second level as another loop. Since I do most of my “living” on the first floor (kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom), it doesn’t make sense for me to have the entire upstairs of my house (spare bedroom and office) heated at the same temperature. I’m never up there! My thought is that I can keep the upstairs at a lower temp since the heat rises from below anyway. If I do want to do some work in my office upstairs I can either turn up the thermostat or just heat the space that I’m in with a small space heater, which will be way more efficient than heating the entire floor.

The cost of zoning your home really depends on what you are trying to zone, and how the loops run. The cost of copper is high, so having to run the pipes long distances can definitely add to the cost. I would just recommend getting a professional to take a look and give you a quote.  Run your numbers and find out if the cost of the zoning will affect your heat costs enough to make it worth it.

Summary

The price for heating oil is not going down.  As individuals there is little we can do about that.  We can, however, take proactive steps to minimize our home’s heating oil consumption and save money.


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