General Question

janbb's avatar

How many gallons of oil do you use for heat a month?

Asked by janbb (44219 points ) February 10th, 2011

For those of you who use oil to heat your home, how much do you use per month? If you could also mention how big your house is and what temperature you set your house at, it would be very helpful.

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14 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

We used 130 gallons last month, but that was a little more than usual because it was a touch colder than normal. Usually 150 gallons goes about 45 days. The house is a 24’X60’ raised ranch. We set the thermostat at 58–60 when we’re gone or in bed and 68 when we’re home. We also have an electric heater and an electric mock fireplace in the living room that work very well. The conmbination of the electric bill and the oil bill are less since we got the fireplace, plus it looks nice.

augustlan's avatar

Ugh. Oil heat is freaking killing us (financially) this winter. We go through an entire tank (about 250 gallons) in a about a month. The house is 1100 square feet, but not all areas are heated (none of the bedrooms have heating vents, nor the basement). It’s an old house, and not well insulated (if at all), so we have to keep it set at about 70 degrees to stay comfortable. This translates to about $900.00 a month. It’s ridiculous!

janbb's avatar

@augustlan If it’s any consolation, someone I know is in a similar situation.

Ron_C's avatar

I bought a new high efficiency hot water boiler and high efficiency washer and dryer. My gas (not oil) bill went from $110 a month to $35 a month. Frankly, I don’t like oil heat because, to me it smells. No matter where the tank is placed or how careful people are with burner maintenance and fuel handling, it still leaves a smell in the house.

I understand that it is the main heating source in the northeast of the U.S. When I build my first house, the contractor recommended oil heat because it was common and natural gas or electricity were the other choices. I found a propane supplier and checked his reliability and the cost to rent a proper sized tank, so my first house was propane heated with a propane clothes dryer. When I moved to a new house with natural gas, I simply had to change the orifice in my stove and dryer for the larger one required for natural gas.

To me, there is no reason to ever heat with oil. I notice you are paying $900 a month for oil, I would really look into one of your state’s programs to switch to a high efficiency NG or Propane system. You’ll save enough money to pay for the system in a few years, help the environment, make your house smell better and get a tax deduction. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

augustlan's avatar

@Ron_C Oh, it would be a no-brainer… if we could afford it. Weirdly enough, we actually have a natural gas line into our house, and the only thing it’s used for is the water heater. This house is almost a hundred years old, and all of this was in place when we bought it. The previous owner made some really strange decisions.

We’re trying to save up enough money to switch to a new gas furnace system sometime during the summer, so that next winter won’t be so bad.

jerv's avatar

Most of the places I have lived had odd thermodynamics and/or put the thermostat someplace that didn’t really have any bearing on the actual temperature on most of the house, especially given the placement of the heater or vents and the rate at which heat went through the walls.
In order to keep the temperature of most of my last place in NH (400sf with a half-loft, for a total of 600sf) at around 66F required a thermostat setting between 68F and 78F. depending on the outside temperature. Accordingly, there is really no “magic number”, especially since some thermostats are not calibrated properly anyways.
That place used propane though; about 600 gallons a year on average.

@augustlan Be glad that you have such a new house! I used to live in a duplex that was built as a two-story, single-family house in the late-1800s and still had the original insulation (such as it was) and an old “octopus” furnace that was converted from coal to oil. During a typical VT winter, it took only 300–400 gallons a month, though I recall one cold snap that drained 200 gallons in under a week. I shudder to think what that would cost these days :O

@Ron_C Gas really isn’t an option for much of New England unless you happen to live in the city. Propane is generally preferable assuming you live someplace that the delivery trucks can go during the winter. Granted, that is most people, but I know a few that heat with wood by necessity; there are places an F-250 can go that a tanker truck cannot.

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv I understand the thermostat problem. I had to move both of them after the house was build. I think some contractors put them places for aesthetic reasons rather than control. Since my forte is control systems, I also checked calibration. Although my thermostats are cheap, programmable units, they are quite accurate and there is an adjustment for over and under control.

Since we were a military family we moved quite a bit. Our final move to Pennsylvania involved a great deal of hunting and one of the main things I looked for in a house was the availability of natural gas or propane. Fortunately both are available in our area. The convent even has their own gas well for heat and cooking. We built our house in ‘79 with efficiency in mind. The it is super insulated, south facing windows, and trees for shade, the ceilings are 7’6” instead of 8’ and I had the most efficient heating system with hot water incorporated into the boiler. Then I added extra insulation and an automatic damper to that.

I realize that some people don’t have my advantages, it is a real shame that oil has a strangle-hold on New England. I think that energy efficiency in that area has to be on a community basis. There is little that a single family can do, other than insulate their home. I really do hate oil heat.

jerv's avatar

@Ron_C Many of the places I’ve lived have thermostats older than you. Many of the houses in New England predate your great-grand-parents. Would you have built your house the same way using only that which was commonly/cheaply available in 1879? Granted, a modern replacement is cheap, but installing it is too difficult for many people to try (or so they think) while getting them installed professionally is too much of an up-front expense to justify for people who refuse to understand the cost savings of rechargeable batteries versus alkalines.

“Community” is relative when your nearest neighbor is far enough away that you can’t hit their house with a handgun. Given the expense of gas lines, what sort of ROI are we talking for running miles of line to service only a few hundred homes that are far enough apart that it will take more than servicing ten thousand city-slickers?

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv I have to admit when I talked about community conservation projects, I was thinking about housing on small lots like I have seen in Connecticut and Massachusetts. I forgot about the “country estate’ with neighbors hundreds from yard from eachother. As for the gas lines, gas suppliers have technology to lay miles of gas line in a day. They replace lines in our area without disrupting service, it’s quite amazing. Running gas lines is much less expensive and obtrusive than running electric lines.

There used to be government programs to help people upgrade the insulation and windows in their house. I am also pretty sure that there are tax breaks for homeowners that whose income is above a certain threshold. I know that people are reluctant to buy new equipment like boilers or washers and dryers until their old equipment wears out. that’s human nature but thermostats are cheap and many neighbors are willing to help install them for the technology illiterate. One of the differences between liberal and conservative philosophy is that liberals believe that we are all in this together and are willing to help eachother, conservatives believe that it is every man for himself. I’m a liberal and there are many of us in the northeast so I am sure that people with even historically old house can find help and advice to make the more energy efficient.

My father, at 85, found some guys at the Legion to suggest and install better insulation in his attic which saved hundreds of dollars on his gas bill. It is not hard to find help if you ask.

jerv's avatar

@Ron_C It isn’t terribly expensive to upgrade a phone network to handle 56K dialup either, yet many places lack even that, so DSL is still a ways off even in some places within the city limits of a city of ~30,000. That goes double for places more than ten miles from the city limits of any place with a population of >2,000.

Also, many of those crews can only do such work on a paved road at least wide enough for two lanes of traffic. Try it on a 1¾ lane dirt road with a low GVWR limit (basically a truck ban) during mud season and it’s a whole other ballgame. And is the cost low enough to justify running all that line for less than two dozen homes? Verizon didn’t consider it worthwhile to even stay in the tri-state area at all, and even the wireless companies are hesitant to provide coverage due to the relatively low ROI so you can imagine that those that must lay physical lines would be even more reluctant. Frankly, I am surprised that PSNH even runs lines to many places though there are a few that they don’t and some that they bill the property owner for.

Tax breaks are often less than the cost of upgrading unless you are a multi-billion-dollar corporation, in which case you get millions given to you. As well, there are a lot of people that either rent (as we did/do) and thus leave it to the actual homeowner or are like our ex-landlords and running tight enough that that extra expense would be a heavy burden. Maybe they were not above tha “magic threshhold” where they qualified for tax breaks? We were fortunate in that our landlords would allow us to “work for our rent”, but many places do not allow that, and may even penalize you for any modifications to the dwelling.

Then again, it may be different elsewhere. NH is a bit different even from it’s neighbors. If nothing else, they are historically more politically Conservative. But they also lack a few things that you will find a lot of in more urban areas like CT and Eastern MA. Yeah, it’s not terribly hard to find a neighbor willing to plow out your driveway, but when you have to drive almost half an hour just to get to a supermarket (or work, or a Legion…), it’s a little trickier to find help unless one of your very few neighbors is able and willing. Not impossible, but not nearly as easy as it is in the more urban areas either.

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv Gas lines were installed on my street 15 years before it was paved. Actually, gas companies usually prefer to install lines on “unimproved” roads because all they have to do is back fill what they dug up with something that looks like a giant Ditch Witch.

The tax breaks don’t make up for the 10K that I spent upgrading my heating system but the 65% drop in my gas usage will make that up well before the end of life for the heating system.

We just got DSL which is ironic because the cable TV still sucks. I finally gave up and bought a Dish TV system. You know, they have satellite Internet too. I shudder to think how much that costs. Sounds like you have a pretty nice set up I like remote places to. We only live 3 miles from a town of 9000 but my wife thinks we live way out in the country. A few years ago they installed a street light, I really hate that. It messes up my back yard telescope.

jerv's avatar

@Ron_C What about the fifteen miles between us and civilization though? In some ways, I am glad that we moved to Seattle, but there are times I miss our old rented cottage in the woods. Right now is not one of those times though; while I like snow, there is a little too much there right now :D
I guess there are a lot of variables to take into account when it comes to heating.

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv I sympathize with the snow situation. I haven’t seen the surface of my driveway since Christmas. We’re having a melt off here in Pennsylvania but it will be a week before the ice disappears from my driveway. I have a friend that uses an old gas boiler and pipes run under his driveway to melt the snow as soon as it settles. He never has to shovel snow except the snow that the city plow puts back in is driveway.

DAZ's avatar

WOW 1100 sq ft , 250 gallons of oil, I also live in a over 100 year old house except I rent and our house 1800 sq ft . The owners could care less about insulation . We like country living . So we put plastic on the windows we close off any area that has a breeze . We use 150 gallons of oil per month . This past month was extremely cold and the heater worked harder . We used 160 gallons and it cost us $623.00 . I am forced to use this rip off oil company because he is supposed to maintain the heater . since they started delivering 2 years ago they serviced us once . With the price of oil I am afraid we will have to move into an apartment where heat is included . For what I pay in oil and rent and I pay extra for lawn care . is over $2200 per mo. You are right oil prices are killing us our economy and we have a president who could care less . He sure talks alot . He say he feels our pain . Yes I am sure he does .

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