Really Save Money on Home Heating - these steps can make big cuts in home heating bills

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


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How to really cut home heating costs - How to Really Save Money on Home Heating - these steps can make big cuts in home heating bills - Specific tips to significantly cut heating costs

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How to Actually Save a Lot of Money on Heating Costs - Heating Service Secrets Revealed!"

The header above paraphrases 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. 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.

    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.
  9. Chapter 9: Oil Heat Testing And Supply Link

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