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Old 10-09-2012, 07:09 AM
 
45 posts, read 101,289 times
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Hi all,

Some of you may remember that I was looking for a place to stay in Kutztown. Now that I'm settled and it's starting to get colder, I'm trying to figure out which would be more efficient and economical: use the whole house (forced heat) oil heating, or use my radiator space heater to heat only certain room I'm in. It's an older house, nicely renovated and is about 1000 sq/ft. I'm doubtful that the landlord did much insulation work though. The windows are still the older type (not double hung). Electric rates at Kutztown (controlled by the borough) is quite expensive(coming from NC), at $0.1848 (first 200kWh) and $0.15030 (after that).

Since this is my first year here, and therefore have not established a usage history, I'm not eligible for the equal payment plan. I'm getting sticker shock at my electric bill even though I've been very conscious of turning off everything and unplugging all my chargers when I'm done. I've also lowered my water heater temp to around 140F, changed pretty much all my light bulbs to fluorescent and some LEDs. My Sept bill is going to be $93.68 (510kWh) with the minimum charge of $10.13 fee.

This is my first time with oil heat and I don't know what to expect in terms of the cost. I wasn't able to sign up for any special plan and will be paying market rates until I can lock in a better rate in May.

Can anyone share advice or personal experience with this? Thanks.
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Old 10-09-2012, 08:36 AM
 
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Oil heat is very expensive. I would use an electric heater in the room you will be in during this season. When it gets too cold out maybe put the oil heat on 55 or 60 and use the electric heater in the room you are in. I believe you will save money this way. I know I did.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:35 AM
 
10,576 posts, read 11,274,988 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooby77 View Post
Electric rates at Kutztown (controlled by the borough) is quite expensive(coming from NC), at $0.1848 (first 200kWh) and $0.15030 (after that).

Since this is my first year here, and therefore have not established a usage history, I'm not eligible for the equal payment plan. I'm getting sticker shock at my electric bill even though I've been very conscious of turning off everything and unplugging all my chargers when I'm done. I've also lowered my water heater temp to around 140F, changed pretty much all my light bulbs to fluorescent and some LEDs. My Sept bill is going to be $93.68 (510kWh) with the minimum charge of $10.13 fee.

This is my first time with oil heat and I don't know what to expect in terms of the cost. I wasn't able to sign up for any special plan and will be paying market rates until I can lock in a better rate in May.

Can anyone share advice or personal experience with this? Thanks.
I hate to say that you are pretty screwed no matter what you do.

(1) The first thing to do is to check the brand and model number of your oil boiler. You can go online and check the efficiency of the boiler. If you have trouble post on this forum and we'll help you look. All boilers waste a certain amount of energy, and if you unit is old enough it might be very inefficient.
WTGO-05 oil boiler as an example is 85% efficient. If you get a lower number than you want to be more careful with the oil.

(2) Your electricity is way too expensive. In Bethlehem I am currently paying $8.75 + $0.10277 / kWh from the first kWh. That rate will probably rise in January.

(3) At the price for electricity you are paying, oil is still cheaper than electricity per unit of energy. Unless oil goes to $5 / gallon that will remain true. However, even though electric is more expensive it can be used more efficiently. The oil heats the entire house, while the space heater heats the air around you.

In my case, with the much lower rates, electricity and oil are about equal per unit of energy.

My suggestion is similar to the previous one. Set the house temperature on uncomfortably cold to protect the pipes when you are not there. Try 50 degrees, but if that is too miserable move it up to 55 degrees. A low temperature helps because the furnace does not go off and on as often. Use the electric space heater near you, but try not to run it at full power.

For a bathroom you can indulge in a space heater that heats up quickly when you are using the room. But for a room, purchase a slowly heating oil filled electric space heater. It won't heat up quickly but it is much safer and won't burn you. Don't be suckered into paying more than about $50-$80 for your space heater. Manufacturers charge an arm and a leg for cabinets. At night use an electric blanket.



If the efficiency of your boiler is too low, you may want to move now. Old boilers that were converted from coal still exist, and they are awful. Even the lease break will probably be cheaper than the heating bills.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:54 AM
 
45 posts, read 101,289 times
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Just checked the efficiency of my oil boiler. There were service records and the last check-up in April rated it as 77.75%. I do have one of those oil-filled radiator heater. I only set it on the min setting and quite low, using it in my bedroom at night. I set the house at 60F and may have to go lower! Breaking my lease is not an option because I'm literally 5-7min walk to university campus. Rental is tough to come by in Kutztown, especially in areas not populated by students. I guess I'll just have to conserve even more carefully.
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:18 AM
 
10,576 posts, read 11,274,988 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooby77 View Post
Just checked the efficiency of my oil boiler. There were service records and the last check-up in April rated it as 77.75%. I do have one of those oil-filled radiator heater. I only set it on the min setting and quite low, using it in my bedroom at night. I set the house at 60F and may have to go lower! Breaking my lease is not an option because I'm literally 5-7min walk to university campus.
That is probably a very old boiler. My guess is over 20 years.

If the landlord won't tell you or doesn't know how many times the tank was filled last year, then ask him what fuel company they used. They should have records. A typical 125 gallon tank will be $500 to fill if heating fuel jumps to $4 a gallon.

With electricity that high, I would suggest a Window unit wood pellet stove . Wood pellets are not that expensive although they can be a slight nuisance. I think even if the unit loses 33% of it's resell value every year, you will still come out ahead.

Although a wood burning stove is cheaper, I doubt the landlord will let you install one. An internal coal space heater is the cheapest to operate, but once again I sincerely doubt the landlord will let you put one in.


Last edited by PacoMartin; 10-09-2012 at 11:26 AM..
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Old 10-09-2012, 01:09 PM
 
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Check your refrigerator. If it is old, it can also be an electricity pig. There is an average of 730.5 hours in a month, so if your refrigerator is a 400 Watts that is 292 kWh in the month (which is already well over the 200 kW high priced minimum).

For $120 you can buy a 1.4 cubic foot dorm refrigerator (90 watts). If you are single, you may find that you are actually paying a lot of money for the right to go only shopping once per week.
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Old 10-09-2012, 03:40 PM
 
45 posts, read 101,289 times
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My tank according to the service record is a 275gal tank. I can call the heating company to find out the fill last year. You are right, I also suspect my fridge is using a lot of power although it doesn't look that old. I've raised the temp as high as I could (I'm using a fridge thermometer to monitor to keep around 41F).

A quick question about pellet stove. Is it an elaborate install? The one in your link is quite expensive. Ouch! Are there cheaper ones? I guess oil could easily cost as much with my 275gal tank!
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Old 10-09-2012, 04:49 PM
 
10,576 posts, read 11,274,988 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooby77 View Post
My tank according to the service record is a 275gal tank. I can call the heating company to find out the fill last year. You are right, I also suspect my fridge is using a lot of power although it doesn't look that old. I've raised the temp as high as I could (I'm using a fridge thermometer to monitor to keep around 41F).

A quick question about pellet stove. Is it an elaborate install? The one in your link is quite expensive. Ouch! Are there cheaper ones? I guess oil could easily cost as much with my 275gal tank!
Since your boiler is relatively inefficient you will see a lot of waste there. If you fill with 200 gallons, and it is only 77.5% efficiency you are wasting 45 gallons right there just to run the boiler. If you need to fill it twice that is 90 gallons. At $4 a gallon that is $360 just in efficiency. You can compare that number with the loss in resell value of your pellet stove unit in one year. If you are in luck, then your landlord may see the unit as an improvement in the value of his property, and agree to reduce your rent by $50 a month in exchange for you leaving it in place when you move.


Without any records it is difficult to know how poorly insulated your house is, but it is difficult to believe you can get by on one tank of heating oil without supplemental heat. In January you tend to burn heating oil like the apocalypse is coming. This house that I am in burns a gallon in two hours.

I don't think that there are cheaper window units. The whole idea of window unit pellet stove is relatively new. Usually you have to poke a hole in the wall to get at a chimney.

The pellet bags are relatively heavy at 40 lbs. You must think about the logistics of filling the unit. You need something to climb up on to pour the bag. If you get last years records then calculate how many gallons of heating oil were being burned per day at the height of winter.

A 40 lb bag of wood pellets equals 2.4 gallons of heating oil. If the house was burning 5 gallons a day, that is twice a day you must refill. You have a small house, so hopefully it doesn't burn at that rate.

If it all gets too complicated, then invest an electronic thermostat that you can access remotely and turn up your house before you get home, or at least warm it up at a certain time. Then you simply have to use battery powered socks or electric snuggies.
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Old 10-09-2012, 05:07 PM
 
45 posts, read 101,289 times
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I will investigate more on last year's oil usage some time this week. Got lots of things coming up. I did email the landlord to seek permission to install a timer on the water heater. It does not need to run during a big chunk of time when I don't need hot water. 40lbs bag is not a problem for me. Heck the salt for the water softener is a 50lb bag (from Costco)! I'm keeping the house at around 60F right now and will probably have to go lower overnight. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions!
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:06 AM
 
10,576 posts, read 11,274,988 times
Reputation: 5796
Quote:
Originally Posted by sooby77 View Post
I will investigate more on last year's oil usage some time this week. Got lots of things coming up. I did email the landlord to seek permission to install a timer on the water heater. It does not need to run during a big chunk of time when I don't need hot water. 40lbs bag is not a problem for me. Heck the salt for the water softener is a 50lb bag (from Costco)! I'm keeping the house at around 60F right now and will probably have to go lower overnight. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions!
If your water heater is made after 1998 you can look forward to your timer saving you about $4 a month. That's because a typical electric water heater runs only about 3 hours a day anyway, and modern energy-efficient water heaters run only 1.3 hours or so. In fact, if your heater was made after 1998, it's possibly not worth using a timer at all.

Generally, don't drop the house below forty five even if you are not at home as you risk some damage to the pipes if heat is not being distributed evenly.
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