Lowering your heating bill is a serious concern if you live in Maine and rely on heating oil or propane to heat your home. Especially as we head into the upcoming cold season. With heating fuel costs at record levels monthly bills can skyrocket upwards of $1,000 per month or more for some households.
In this article we’ll show you how a rarely looked at culprit could be costing your family as much as 20-30% in unneeded monthly heating expenses and what you can do to fix the problem.
Ways to Reduce Monthly Expenses
Let’s face it; the cost of living today has become ridiculous.
Whether you have a family or you’re a single person, very few of us are living “high on the hog” these days. Every penny counts and most of are looking for ways to save a few more of those pennies.
Lowering your heating bill, by far, can have one of the greatest impacts on your family’s monthly budget during the colder months.
Remember the Good Ole Days?
I can remember a time not too many years ago when my wife and I were paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $.90 per gallon for heating oil. This was maybe 10 years ago. Our home at that time was approximately 1300 square feet and was relatively easy to heat.
During the very cold season, we might go through between 200-250 gallons of fuel per month. Or in other words-around $200-$250 per month to heat our home. That’s less than $1,000 for the coldest four months of the heating season.
We didn’t even think twice about seeing the oil delivery person show up at our home. At that time we focused on saving money in other ways.
This morning I scanned through several websites that show current heating fuel costs in Maine. According to the information I found, the current average price for a gallon of heating oil in Maine is over $3.70 per gallon.
Let me say it one more time…over $3.70 per gallon.
That’s a 419% increase in approximately 10 years time. Using the same example above, we are now spending almost $850 per month to heat the same home. That’s $3400 for a 4 month heating season!
These days, we do think twice about heating costs and seeing the oil delivery man show up. We think twice, three times, four times…..
Lowering Your Heating Bill
There are many different tactics when it comes to lowering your heating bill. Saving money on your heating bill, for most, usually involves shopping around for the best fuel prices, making our homes tighter & more energy efficient, maintaining our heating systems regularly, keeping a close eye on the thermostat, and even wearing extra layers to stay warmer.
These are all valid and smart practices. I firmly believe in each of these.
But, there’s one other area that few people pay attention to, let alone are even aware of when it comes to lowering your heating bill.
Do you have Hard Water or Minerals?
Water hardness or “hard water” generally refers to the presence of calcium in your water supply. Many people will also refer to hardness as having Iron or Manganese in their water.
Hardness will create a build-up or calcification on the inside of any plumbing features, heating system components, faucets or appliances that it comes in contact with.
Hard Water and Minerals can destroy Heating Systems by ruining heat transfer and water flow. Hard water calcification literally “chokes” the supply of heated and unheated water, causing a heating system to work harder and use more fuel.
This loss of efficiency can drastically boost heating bills. Removing hardness from water can literally save a home hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year.
*As little as only 1/8 of an inch of Hardness buildup on the inside of water heater coils can reduce heating efficiency by as much as 20-30%.
Using our same $3400 per year budget from above, if you do the math you can quickly see the literal impact water hardness can have on a family’s budget. The dollars can add up quickly.
If you are unsure of the Hardness or minerals concentration in your water, there are a few tell-tale signs that might help you recognize water problems. Keep a look out for:
- An increase in heating oil, propane, or electricity useage
- A difficult to remove white colored buildup on glasses, dishware, tubs & showers or fixtures
- Brown or orange staining in dishwashers, clothing, sinks, toilets or tubs & showers
- A bluish-green colored staining on any of the above mentioned items (an indication for low pH)
Hard Water Treatment
There are many ways of dealing with hard water and mineral concentrations. These can include:
- Ion Exchange Softening
- Mineral Filtration
- Aeration and Oxidation Filtration
The exact type of system your family will need depends on many factors. Each home is different and no two water supplies are exactly alike. Even 2 wells drilled only 30 feet apart can have radically different concerns and water quality. We see this on a daily basis.
The method that will be appropriate for your household will depend on factors such as:
- The overall makeup of your water supply (what other elements might be present, flow rates etc.)
- pH balance
- Your family’s lifestyle habits and individual needs
Today’s new “tankless” style or “on demand” type water heaters and heating systems are becoming more and more popular.
Known for their high efficiency, simplicity and dependability many homeowners are making the change.
Although these systems can have a much higher initial cost, the long term cost savings of a tankless system can be extremely effective at lowering your heating bill and fuel costs.
Having said that, homeowners will definitely want to know if their water supply has any level of hardness, mineral content or pH problems before installing a tankless system.
According to Tankless Water Heaters 101;
“Hard and acidic water can effect tankless water heaters. What tank manufacturers don’t want you to know is it effects ALL water heaters. These water quality issues also affect everything connected to your domestic water system. All faucets, fixtures and appliances connected to a water system distributing bad water will have problems associated with these water conditions. These problems can be staining, scale build up and erosion of the metal.”
“…Over time, this scale buildup will result in the overheating of the heat exchanger. This will cause an error code and the tankless water heater will lock out. This means it will not operate until the unit is reset and the problem corrected. Resetting a tankless heater without solving the problem will simply make the unit lock out again.”
Regardless of the type of hot water based heating system you have or are considering purchasing, you will want to know the quality of your household water supply, above all else.
Have you had your water tested recently? If not this is the probably one of the most important steps you can take when it comes to lowering your heating bill.
Testing is simple and usually quite affordable. You can do the testing yourself by utilizing a local State certified Testing Laboratory.
If you aren’t comfortable doing the testing yourself you can contact a water treatment professional to perform testing for you.
Most laboratory reports will advise keeping hardness levels below 200-250 mg/L (parts per million). This number is generally more for health related concerns. The actual number to pay attention to is closer to 60 mg/L.
Anything above 60 mg/L can quickly cause calcification build-up inside heating systems and plumbing fixtures. The higher the number is, the quicker the problems will occur.
For more on testing see: Water Testing in Maine | Why you Need It