What Should I Do About My Oil Bill? Part 2

Thank you for all the suggestions on how to lower my oil bill. You have opened my mind to many options. This is exciting, because even though I read a lot and am quite well educated on issues of sustainability, there were suggested techniques I didn’t know about.

Equipped with new ideas and insights about sustainable energy opportunities for the homeowner, I made a number of calls to local companies to ask them for estimates on everything from geothermal, to air source heat pumps and hot water solar panels. I’ve poured over Web sites, tried to wrap my head around what “tons” of energy are, and tried to do a solar site survey myself. (I receive 4 to 5 kWh/m2/day–whatever on Earth that means!) I am left confused and flummoxed. Add to that, none of the local companies called back to arrange the appointments that they promised on their Web sites, although all said it would be no problem to install even geothermal by October.

I did find one fun and helpful idea that might be great for many of you out there. On the Build It Solar site is a very cool idea called the “Half” program. It is a family’s guide to cutting energy use, energy costs, and CO2 emissions in half. The site advises us to learn by their example, the projects they did, graphs showing their progress, the lessons learned, and shows us how to do this ourselves.

So I am off for a 10-day vacation in the mountains of Colorado for an intensive sound healing retreat, and I’ll be leaving my research on my desk for now. But I’ll be checking online frequently for your advice because I will be coming home with great determination to have a sustainable heating system by the time I host Thanksgiving at my house in November. Thank you in advance for your suggestions.


Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

GreenseasKat C.
kathryn cook7 years ago

good post ty

Marie V
Marie V9 years ago

Phil - I would assume that there are two problems with heating with solar thermal water heating. One, you need sun. Your website addresses heating the tubes in low temperatures, but what about in VERY cloudy areas (i.e. Cleveland)? Second, I would assume to use this warmed water for heating you would be using a radiant floor heating system. That's not easy, cheap, or practical in many retrofits. Maybe for a first floor that has a basement underneath, but a second floor? You'd have to ripe out the ceiling of the first floor. And what about rooms that are on slabs?

If you know a way to use this system in a house with existing forced air heaintg, I'd love to hear it! I, too, have an oil furnace which happens to be 37 years old. Heats the house, but is inefficient. We have plans to replace it in the very near future and I hope I get some great ideas from Annie's quest! :-)

Phil Manke
.9 years ago

I appreciate this interest and direction. Some mis-information may get in here tho. Paying extra for green electricity saves you money how? It is a way to help power company's amortize their wind generator installations and does not cut your power bill. It is a feel good buy, that they should do anyway because it is responsible and environmentally sound.
For Annie and others in her financial position;
There is another option for heating than heat pumps. It is solar thermal water heating. It works for domestic hot water(DHW) and space heating. The best I've found is coaxial vacuum tube(CVT) collectors. They work like a thermos bottle with an absorber inside. The vacuum in the double glass tube acts as a near perfect insulator. Tho the absorptive area is not as great as the older flat plat collectors, the efficiency is far greater and they are relatively unaffected by cold ambient temps. They are also lighter in weight and nearly transparent to the wind which makes for simpler mounting.
Yes, I sell em and I have them on my home for DHW and am now installing a system for space heating with a large array and 6 hundred gallon tank for thermal storage to cover sunless times. My web page about them is http://web.mac.com/manke2
Paybace compared to oil or gas is five to ten years. Some type of backup heat may be needed if the system is sized to cover most of the heating. If sized to cover all of it, then a dump load or use for the times when there is extra is needed.

Eric S.
Eric Straatsma9 years ago

Besides checking the oil furnace out and tuning it up, the easiest way to get green power is to ask for it and get it from your energy provider. This saves a huge amount of money, time and energy compared to buying and installing wind towers, solar panels, etc.

The best way to get green power is to deregulate your state in terms of energy. Why not give consumers the choice, just like long distance service?

Why force people to stay with an expensive, backwards, stodgy, monopoly that is not providing good customer service and is not buying or installing solar or wind power, much less providing it to customers who ask for it? That is the case with my utility company.

If your provider does not offer the green power option, switch providers. You can do this if you live a deregulated energy state such as Texas or New York.. and more are coming soon. 22 states are in the process of deregulating. Check it out...


The above link is one place to check to compare many different companies and electricity rates in deregulated states.

There is a huge demand and need for Green Energy Consultants nationwide.. in all 50 states. Help people sign up for green power.. If interested, contact me for more details.

Sherry Glass
Sherry Glass9 years ago

Annie, after hearing T. Boone Pickens' new energy plan for using wind energy for our electric power grid and natural gas for our fuel (which is half of the cost of gas and you can have your own Phill station in your carport or garage), I'm excited and checking this out. A NGV (natural gas vehicle) emits less than half the CO2 of a regular car, even the low-emitting ones, and our country wouldn't have to rely on foreign oil for our energy needs. Please spread the word. Thanks.

Annie Bond
Past Member 9 years ago

Let me update that I did have a thorough review of my house today by a heating expert who can install all the sustainable heating systems I am investigating. Astonishingly, he said that my oil burner was installed improperly and while it has to work at 180,000 btu it is probably only producing about 80,000 btu! All the rest of that energy is going up the chimney! Oh my goodness! No matter what, if I end up with the oil burner as my backup, it will be fixed, with huge savings for me and the environment.