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The winters here in the eastern mountains of Pennsylvania get quite chilly, and the cost to heat your home can easily break your budget.
To make matters worse, a lot of the older homes in our area have oil heat and it costs a lot to keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
Our home is definitely one of those homes.
One of our biggest heating challenges (besides being able to afford a tank of heating oil) is balancing the temperature between downstairs and upstairs. We have two radiators downstairs and four on the second floor. So we are either sweating at bedtime (and who can sleep like that?) or bundled up at the dinner table.
This balancing act can get really expensive, adding as much as a whole extra tank of oil over the winter… and at about $800 for a full fill never fits in our single income budget.
Speaking of budgeting…
It seems like whenever we are on a solid run with sticking to our budget, something comes along to majorly derail us. It’s usually in the form of a layoff (hubby works in construction, so these lil’ surprise salary reductions come along every once in awhile). And unfortunately the bills keep coming in whether Big L brings home his full paycheck or not.
When it’s time to trim our already lean budget, heating oil is one of the first bills that I try to cut back on – food is next on the proverbial budget chopping block.
The trick to saving money on oil is to keep the boiler from running!
These are a few of our tried and true methods to to keep the boiler from running and keep oil in the tank.
1. Heat bath water on the stove.
I literally cringe every time I hear the boiler kick on. I can just picture the oil level dropping in the tank and the bill getting higher.
Heavens know that nothing makes the boiler run longer than when I draw a bath for the kids. And since I didn’t want my kids growing mushrooms under their armpits, I had to find a way to make bath time easier on the wallet.
I decided to go “Little House On The Prairie” for this method… here’s how we to do it:
- Go to your kitchen (yes, I said kitchen – no we aren’t bathing in the sink). Grab your biggest stock pot and fill it with cold water and put it on the stove. Bring it to a boil.
- Once it’s piping hot, you will lug the hot pot up the stairs while hollerin’ “hot water comin’ through!” (the hollerin’ is optional but highly recommended) and dump it in the bathtub. Run the cold water to dilute the steamy bath soup.
- Toss in the kids’ favorite toys and ta-da you have made a warm bath without running the heat pump!
Another great way to save money and time during bath time is to have your kids share a bath (perfect for the little ones!).
This method also works well to fill the sink with hot water for dish washing. Just don’t bring it to a boil or you will be taking a trip to the ER for some skin grafts… and no momma has time for that.
2. Small electric radiator heaters.
You can order one of these electric radiators for about $40 and they are way more efficient than oil heat radiators.
We invested in three (and got a hand me down one from a good friend). Two of them heat our entire downstairs and we use one for the upstairs. The hand me down heater only gets used upstairs for the kids room on really blustery days.
The only time we have to turn the oil heat on is to circulate hot water through the pipes to keep them from freezing. Which comes down to a full tank (250 gallons) of oil lasting a whole year!
3. Diesel fuel from the gas station.
One thing that you don’t want is to let the oil tank run dry. Similar to the gas tank in your car, an oil tank that is low will suck up all the dirt and grime from the bottom of the tank. This can do all kind of damage to your heating system. And if your tank does run dry, you will need to have the oil company come in (cha-ching) and prime your system.
So if your tank is getting dangerously close to E and you don’t have the money for a fill, you can buy yourself some time with a little diesel fuel from the gas station.
Keep a 5 gallon fuel (and I highly suggest investing in a high flow nozzle) can that is only used for diesel; mixing diesel and gas is a big no-no. You’ll want to grab your trusty can and head to the local gas station for a fill, and then head back home dump it into your oil tank’s filler neck.
For us, a five gallons will last a week (with minimal use); just enough to get us to payday.
Disclaimer: Although I have a love of work boots and jeans, I am not home maintenance pro – nor do I claim to be one. These are simply suggestions that we personally have used to stretch our heating oil budget. Check with your local safety regulations and of course be sure to use your common sense.