Audits/What Should I Do About My Oil Bill Part 3

For those of you who have followed my quest for sustainable heat this winter, don’t despair that I have given up. Not only am I still working on it but I am making very good, if slow, progress. Just to update you, in the first installment I discussed my terror at my estimated oil bill, and in my second, my sense of overwhelm but with an inspiring tip.

I want to tell you about the audit results I just pulled up within about 10 minutes using the U.S. Department of Energy’s cool DIY energy audit tool, but first know that I haven’t given up my quest to get off my oil burner this winter. Am I ever learning the value of second opinions! I’ve had some expensive recommendations from professional heating and cooling contractors that would fail to meet my heating needs once installed. All those I have consulted with conclude that putting in geothermal would cost about $50k in my pre-existing home. I’d have to live here for a very long time to have that pay off. But what is exciting is that I am hot on the trail of cold weather heat pumps that would heat my house down to 20 below zero and cool it in the summer. More in a week or two about that.

Back to the Home Energy Saver audit tool. I am paying attention to the results whatever my sustainable solution is because with a few steps the tool notes that I’ll save $2,613 a year and my payback after 10 years will be $25,240. While I am not going to spend the money for some of their upgrade suggestions, you can bet I am going to install an Energy-Star labeled programmable thermostat with a 312 percent return on my investment of $70, and hire an expert to plug air leakage (in a non-toxic way) for an estimated $400 and a 238 percent return on my investment. The third highest return on my investment is to switch to CFLs in high-use fixtures for an estimated cost of $96 and a 115 percent return on my investment.

Find out what will be your best energy-saving investment!


Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thanks Annie.

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

gail d.
gail dair7 years ago


GreenseasKat C.
kathryn cook8 years ago

good post ty

Jenny O.
Jenny O8 years ago

Thanks for the article, and special thanks to Erin!

Erin H.
Erin H9 years ago

It cut me off in mid-sentence. I was saying get your passive situation under control before adding gadgets.

Erin H.
Erin H9 years ago

Nobody who sells energy is going to tell us this, but the first line of defense against high heating bills is using windows and floors to maximize passive solar gain and minimize heat loss. In the late 1970s (before Reagan killed alternate energy tax credits), we made huge strides with solar here in the Southwest. It was considered irresponsible to build any new place that wasn't at least passive solar!
If you’re in your house, look south. That’s where you want big windows, so they’ll heat the place through most of the day. East is another good spot for glass, so the sun can go to work early. In a cool climate, windows are OK on the west, too, but you wouldn’t want them in a hot climate or A/C bills go through the roof. Where you absolutely DON'T want glazing is on the north. You need a thick solid wall there, best if it’s bermed into the earth. Next, check your floors. If you’ve got north windows AND hard floors that absorb the cold there, that area will be a beast to keep warm. You want hard, porous floors by your south, east and west windows, to hold the sun’s heat and radiate it back later.
Fix problems on the north first. Lay down carpet or rugs and, if you can’t wall off the glazing and berm there, at least hang thermal curtains and plant dense shrubs. Then, as you can afford it, punch through the south and east for windows and use thermal curtains at night. There’s lots more you can do, but get your passive sit