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Photograph of  our oil fired heating boiler with Mikes CD book on how to save heating costs How to Reduce Home Heating Costs
Heating Cost Savings Tips

  • HEATING COST SAVINGS METHODS - CONTENTS: How to cut home heating bills - tips & book on how to reduce heating cost. Rising Oil Prices, Rushed Service, Home Heating Cost. Why some heating service techs don't tune your heating system for most economical performance. Review of book on saving heating costs & how to use less home heating oil, Specific tips to significantly cut heating costs
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How to reduce building heating costs:

Here we review a CD-ROM or e-Book that shows some steps useful to reduce building heating costs.

We include key articles providing both broadscope and detailed heating and other energy savings advice for buildings. In our article below we expand the author's topic to include our own priorities for saving on home heating cost.



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How to Cut Heating Bills - A Book and Some Energy Savings Tips

Radiator cover (C) Daniel FriedmanArticle Series Contents

Michael Gristick's website and his book on CD (outlined just below and summarized at this website) promise to cut your heating costs.

Surprising as it may seem considering that the price of oil is once again fast heading for $90./barrel, you'd think that everyone would have already maxed out their heating system's tuning ability. But Mike is quite right that most people have not optimized their heating boiler setup nor taken full advantage of other things they can do to save money on heat.

We can offer lots of reasons for this sloth but the basic one is that most folks have little idea what's going on with their heating system, they are a little afraid of it (it's making noise and there's a fire in there!), and worst, people don't realize the very wide range of conditions under which an oil burner will keep running.

The good news is that most oil burners will chug right along making fire in your boiler or furnace combustion chamber, even if they are way out of adjustment. From my days as a heating tech I can recall seeing the efficiency of an ordinary low-speed oil burner change from 61% up to 77% following a careful system cleanout and tune-up, even without any special modifications to improve the system's operation.(77-61) = 16 percentage points. That's a 26% improvement. Put another way, after that tune-up you just stopped sending 26 cents on the dollar of your heating money right up the chimney as waste rather than into your house as heat.

This book contains more information than just how to save heating cost. The text is a mix of service-technician-level hints and other money-saving steps that a normal homeowner might perform. Before reviewing the Gristick book on saving on heating costs, to give a perspective on saving on building heating and cooling costs, we list some key articles on those topics just below. After the list we describe the heating cost savings book in more detail.

This book promises to reduce home heating costs for people using oil heat, whether by an oil-fired hot water boiler or an oil-fired heating furnace. This book review examines a CD offered by FreeHeatingOil.com and written by an experienced oil heating technician, Michael Gristick. As we have worked servicing oil fired heating systems as well as serving a more broadly-trained building inspector, we viewed this book offering with great interest when Mr. Gristick provided us with a review copy in 2006. In 2007 he was adding to the book's contents.

Readers should also see ENERGY SAVINGS in BUILDINGS.

The bottom line: the book can be a bit tricky to navigate as it was originally written for heating service people. But indeed it contains a number of good suggestions that can significantly reduce heating costs for oil-fired heating equipment. Here I discuss some of Mike's suggestions and I add some heating and energy cost savings tips of my own that can save you money on your heating bill. The book itself and its heating cost savings ideas are available on CD.

Rising Oil Prices, Rushed Heating Service, and Home Heating Cost

As oil prices have continued to climb as home owners are more ready to look again at the economy operation of their oil burner, Mike shifted focus of sales of his CD to the money savings aspect of heating service and tuning. This was a lucky move for consumers.

It's the homeowner who pays the oil bill, not the service technician who tunes your boiler. Even though most service techs take pride in their work and work to do a good job of cleaning and tuning the system, Mike found that often service techs were rushing through the process and leaving unsafe or unsatisfactory conditions. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that the techs are usually over-scheduled and over-worked during the heating season. A heating service technician during the winter months may be expected to make 8 or 12 service calls in a day. It's impossible to perform a thorough, detailed cleanout and tune-up in just a few minutes. So sometimes the technician will see a system that seems to be pretty clean and running pretty well, and s/he will just do the basics of filter and nozzle change.

How to Read this Book on CD

Using the CD: acting dumb, I opened the CD and stuck it into my computer's CD reader. Nothing happened. My boiler did not suddenly start running more quietly. Smoke didn't stop coming out of my chimney. And no files opened on my PC. Mike's CD producer apparently does not know about Auto play software.

So this is what you have to do to use this Book on CD:

  1. Put the CD into your computer's CD reader drive
  2. Open Microsoft Explorer OR open your web browser and look at the CD Drive - you'll see a file folder named "Hot Safety Secrets"
  3. Double-click on the file folder "Hot Safety Secrets" - you'll see a huge list of files in the folder
  4. In a Rush to Save on Oil Bills?: Scroll down until you see and can double-click on "money saving tips.htm" if you want to see Mike's short-list of suggestions to save money on your heating bills. This will open your browser and let you look over this page.
  5. Want to do it right?: Scroll down until you see and can double click on "index.htm" - this is the starting point for this CD and the file that ought to be run by an "auto run" feature on the next release of Mike's CD. On this page you'll see a "Start by clicking here" link that will in turn take you to the list of Mike's nine chapters. If you want to skip this introductory page and go right to the CD's table of contents, find and click on "contents.htm" or open this file directly from your web browser.

How to Actually Save Heating Costs by Using this CD: "Certified HVAC Technicians Home Heating And Safety Secrets Revealed!"

The header above is the CD title you'll find when you start reading. I've listed CD's chapters here. While you'll see that Chapter 8 promises money saving tips, in fact money saving tips as well as important safety tips are scattered through other chapters on this CD too. I'll point out a few of them.

This book might have been easier for the homeowner to use if the text divided its tips into those that can be performed by the homeowner, and those that require special actions by a trained, qualified heating service technician. What this means is that if you really want to save money on heat, you'll want to scan through every chapter in this book, collecting the money-saving tips that apply to your heating system.

A nightmare feared by many heating service technicians is an un-trained homeowner fooling around with their heating system. Beware: if you are not properly trained you may injure yourself or cause the heating system to operate unsafely.

On the other hand, if you are familiar with Mike's suggestions you will be in a top position to discuss each of them with your heating service technician at your next heating service call.

  1. Chapter 1: Getting Started, Tools You'll Need
  2. Chapter 2: Training
  3. Chapter 3: Thermostat (controls temperature of your home). This book explains the basics of what the thermostat does, and it offers some good advice on how to avoid damaging your thermostat.
  4. Chapter 4: Oil Tank, Filter And Fuel Lines (supplies fuel to burner). This is a great introduction to these components, how they work, what their hidden parts look like, and some clear basics like how to read the oil level gauge on your heating oil tank. Mike includes a great tip on cleaning the oil tank fill vent screen. I've rarely seen this point mentioned. But when your oil company is filling the tank it's done under pressure. A clogged tank vent can lead to over pressurizing the oil tank, leading to a costly oil leak. Undersized oil tank vent lines can also lead to this problem and to a blown oil tank. It happens for real. I'd add a couple of other heating oil tank usage suggestions:
    • Outdoor aboveground oil tanks: Indoor oil tanks (almost any 250 or 275 gallon oil tank) which are used outdoors are not, or were not UL listed for that location. Worse, in cold areas you risk heating oil gelling or water accumulation in the outdoor tank exposed to changing and cold temperatures. Water in an oil tank or gelled heating oil means loss of heat in cold weather.
    • Heat tapes heat tapes which some folks install on oil tank lines on outdoor tanks are fire hazards. You can avoid fuel jelling by using a kerosene mix (just ask your oil delivery company, but it costs more), use "4-in-1 Hot" which is an oil additive that protects against jelling and also reduces water. Still better, enclose the outdoor oil tank and give it enough heat to avoid gelling.
    • For more information about oil tanks, oil tank leaks, and underground oil storage tanks see Heating Oil Underground & Above ground Oil Storage Tank Leaks, Testing, Problems & Solutions, Home Buyer's / Home Owner's Guide.
  5. Chapter 5: Oil Fired Burners (explanation of oil burner and repair procedures)
  6. Chapter 6: Hot Water Boilers explanation of hot water boilers and repair procedures)
  7. Chapter 7: Horizontal (Low Boy) And Vertical Hot Air Furnaces (explanation of forced hot air furnace and repair procedures)
  8. Chapter 8: More Money Saving And General Tips

    This information on tips for saving heating cost is the chapter for consumers. The text is a bit technical, originally written for heating technicians - which may be a hard read for owners who just want to know economy and not how to take apart service and repair a boiler. But go for it: these tips are very worthwhile. For example:

    Setback thermostats:This chapter has some important energy savings tips. For example Mike suggests using a setback thermostat in this chapter and points out that one degree of set-back saves about 1% on heating cost. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this simple suggestion: setting back a thermostat is a money-saving step well within homeowner control. This is one of the most famous and most-effective heating cost savings tips known.

    You can improve on this idea: install and use an automatic-setback thermostat that will automatically lower your heat settings when you're not at home or when you're asleep. (Details are at THERMOSTAT SETBACK ADVICE)

    You can use the special calculator at Warmair.Net to compute how much money you're likely to save by setting back your thermostat. For example, if your normal thermostat setting is 70 °F. and you set it back to 60 °F. and if during that time the outside temperature is hovering at 40 deg .F., you will use about 33% less energy during that period.

  9. Reducing boiler temperature: the chapter's advice about reducing boiler temperature is more of a a mixed bag: setting boiler temperature down is not unequivocally going to save you money. Suppose you have modern baseboard hot water heat. The thermal conductivity of finned copper baseboard is exponentially greater as the temperature increases - so you get much better heat transfer out of a baseboard heater as the boiler temp is set up higher. Also if you set the system specs too low you may get shorter boiler on-cycles which is like running a car on choke - wasting fuel by not letting the unit have as big a percent of its operating cycle run when it is fully warmed-up.

    Germ killer spray is recommended in this text. Where is the supporting data on the effectiveness of these products for hot air heat? UV lights, which are also suggested by lots of retailers for installation in HVAC duct work are almost certainly ineffective at treating passing air (there is not enough contact time) though they might treat the immediate plenum surfaces where they shine. If you want healthy no-mold duct work, more important than germ killing are keeping water out of duct work, changing filters, and using optimum filtration (and fan on cycles) in problem buildings.

    Fan usage: the text recommends minimizing the usage of kitchen and bath exhaust fans. In some buildings if you abandon the use of vent fans you will generate a very expensive mold problem. Ceiling fans save energy but increase the airborne particle level perhaps 100 times - a problem for IAQ if the building is not clean and/or if there are IAQ-sensitive occupants.

    There are twenty-eight money saving tips in Chapter 8. Any one of them can probably save you more than the cost of this CD, making it a good value. Here are a few additional heating cost savings ideas that I didn't see in Mike's book. In addition to Mike's tips, I'd discuss the following items with your heating service rep:

    • Oil burner nozzle size: - on old 100-psi low-speed (1725 rpm) units I used to drop the nozzle one size and set up the fuel unit pressure to 120 psi - which gave better atomization and the equivalent BTUH at a lower flow rate. This should be tried only by a trained tech. Most new oil burners run at higher speed (3450 rpm) and many are running at higher nozzle pressures for better atomization and thus better fuel combustion.
    • When to measure oil burner efficiency: if you are measuring efficiency of your current unit in deciding about buying a new one, it is absolutely essential that you first get the existing unit cleaned and properly tuned and set up. It is inaccurate and terribly misleading to compare an old cast iron boiler that is dirty and maladjusted and stumbling along at 60% with a new higher efficiency unit that promises 80% (which would be a 1/3 improvement) - first we clean and perfect the older unit. If the old unit can be tuned up to 75 % or better, the value of that additional 5% of a new unit is a 12% improvement not a 33% improvement, and the payback in years is accordingly 3 times longer.
    • Older style cast iron radiators give an added chance to save on heating cost since each radiator is in effect its own little heating zone. You can shut down or off in unused areas or install thermostatic valves (long payback). Just be careful not to turn off so much heat that you freeze a pipe.
    • Fireplaces and heating cost: fireplaces when in use, or even if not in use if the damper is left open, are a HUGE net heat loss to the home unless they are running an airtight system and using an outside combustion air source. For an older, conventional fireplace, you can reduce the fireplace heat loss by installing a glass door (kept closed) and by giving the fireplace outside combustion air (required by code in new homes).
    • Safety: Chimneys and flues - can be killers if they are not kept clean, un-blocked, and safe. On the text's section on chimney cleaning, I'd add that if your heating boiler vents through a "dead-end flue" which lacks any opening or chamber below the point at which the boiler vent connector passes into the chimney, any trash that falls down the flue blocks it and risks improper or unsafe heating system operation. Ask your heating service technician or a chimney sweep to check your chimney for safety and cleanliness.
  10. Chapter 9: Oil Heat Testing And Supply Link

Setting Priorities Helps in Saving Money on Heating Cost

I would prioritize these heating cost savings topics in order of probable economy and work on them in that order:

  1. Clean and tune the heating system. If the oil burner is not operating properly you are wasting money every time the system runs.
  2. Set back the thermostat. We discussed this above.
  3. Buy cheaper oil in summer. Some owners install additional oil storage to take advantage of summer prices.
  4. Hot Air Heat: Change the air filters monthly when the system is in use. A blocked air filter drastically reduces air flow and increases the length of time your furnace has to run to warm up the home.
  5. Then after these critical items, consider all of the other tune up and modification suggestions.

Setting Overall Priorities on Saving on Heating Costs

Readers may also want to place this idea of tuning up your heating system to save heating cost in the larger energy savings context

  1. Stop drafts - leaky windows, doors
  2. Insulate attics -
  3. Insulate walls -
  4. Then tune the heating system - probably falls in between attics and walls and for sure is before insulating a basement except for stopping rim joist drafts.

Tuning Up the Heating Tuning Up Book

This book is really for two different audiences

  1. Service training for technicians and perhaps for advanced owners who have some training and want to DIY some tasks
  2. A set of consumer-level safety and economy tips

I'd put the safety and economy tips into two web pages online and use them to market the CD with a clear description of what you get when you buy the CD - otherwise some folks will be a little surprised, expecting to see a simple list of money saving ideas, and discovering that they've bought a deeper, more thorough, and more technical book.

The money savings ideas are there for the picking, like ripe cherries on a tree. They are scattered throughout the book. Ferreting them all out and reviewing them with your heating service technician takes some effort. Perhaps this is a great way to spend a chilly fall evening, making up your own tuning list to review with your heating company. You are bound to save on heating costs by following these tips.

How to Buy this Book on Saving Money on Heating Costs

Photograph of  our oil fired heating boiler with Mikes CD book on how to save heating costs

Gristick's book is for sale at http://freeheatingoil.com/. If you or more likely your service technician take advantage of just one of Mike's suggestions for tuning and setting up your oil burner for optimum performance, you should have no trouble saving more in heating oil cost than the price of this CD.

What do you get in this Book on CD? What's offered is a photo illustrated CD on servicing and tuning oil heating systems, with service details and advice on tuning and other steps to cut heating costs. The original audience was heating service technicians, and the content includes a collection of safety for heating systems and heating system service procedures.

While there is no setting of overall priorities for heating system safety among the various items discussed, the book has good tips for the heating service tech on safety, particularly on safety steps that should be observed during the process of servicing a heating system.

If you really want to save on your heating costs this winter and in the future, read the entire book, write down Mike's energy saving tips (and maybe some of the safety tips) that are scattered throughout all of the book's eight chapters of text, and then discuss them with your heating technician. And if you really really want to safe money on your heating costs, look over the "Setting Priorities for Saving Money on Heating Cost" at the end of this review.

You can also contact the author, Mike Gristick at help@freeheatingoil.com.

Heating Cost Reduction Articles

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