September 8, 2008

How to stay warm all winter with one log*

Monday, September 08, 2008 Posted by Ryan , , , , , 1 comment
I've always been a bit of an energy control freak. Given total control of the thermostat has resulted in a 65F temp while at home and 55F while sleeping or at work. I know, that's cold. I don't heat the finished attic and closed the vents in the unused back bedroom and in the kitchen since we're in there infrequently. We have a friend who demands the heat turned up if she comes to our house. Despite my strict controls over the 7-day programmable, touch-screen thermostat We still paid $945 for heating oil last year.

When we bought the house last year I had mixed feelings over the oil fired furnace. I've never had oil heat and it's not that common here on the west coast. I did a little online research and heard a lot of people touting the comfort of oil heat, the competitive price of oil vs natural gas and yet we were already seeing rising gas prices so I knew it wouldn't be cheap. I planned on replacing it (it was 20 years old) but I thought I could hold out though, for a little while. Just a few years of oil might be okay and give me time to make a decision on the next type of furnace. I didn't want to jump to the default of natural gas (the most common choice) since we do have inexpensive electric on the west coast too. None of that mattered though when I saw No. 1 heating oil prices nearing $5/gallon this summer. The price has come down some since (to around $4/gallon) but that could still cost us an additional $430 this winter and believe me, the house is never really warm.

I had a sales rep from a local heating company come to the house to do a quote last week. I wanted to know what all my options were so I could compare the price breaks between the regular, efficient, and super-efficient options. I asked around to get a ball park idea of what it might cost but I was still scared it would be more than I thought, or that I might be required to replace duct work throughout the house. So 80% efficiency is considered normal or average for a furnace and then there's a jump up to 92% efficiency which is energy efficient and if you add a variable speed fan you get another 3%. The price break from 80% to 92% is $450 and then from 92% to 95% is $1100 + $212 for a new thermostat.

I want to be super efficient. I want that variable speed fan. However, that $1300 could be better spent on other things like weather stripping, new storm windows, insulation for the attic. It would take so long to see a return on that additional cost but just moving from the ~60-70% efficient oil furnace to a 92% gas furnace, we will recoup our money in less than 6 years (and I hope that is a conservative estimate). oh, and the local utility company offers a $400 rebate for any gas furnace over 90% AFU making the price difference between the 80% and 92% so small I don't see how anyone could choose the less efficient one. Now I have to call and schedule the installation I guess.

*Carry the log upstairs and throw it out a window. Retrieve the log and repeat.
-Farmers Almanac


Anonymous said...

I'm not so much an energy control freak as a guilty heat user, and it's not as pleasurable when I feel guilty about sitting in front of the heat vent I just turned up. I should try the one log approach this winter.