We’ve had the heat off for almost four weeks. In total we had it on for 59 days this winter, generally between the hours of 5-10pm, and usually set at 60F/10C.

Right now it’s 26F/-3C outside, or 17F/-8C with windchill (it’s a breezy morning). But it’s a relatively balmy 52F/11C here in the kitchen. The coldest spot in the house is 41F/5C, far above frozen-pipe territory. So, no problems.

Total oil use, October to March, was about 200 gallons (of which I estimate a bit less than half was for hot water, and the rest for heat), compared to about double that last winter. The electric bill did go up about $20; some of that is attributable to using the space heater, but most of it is probably due to increased use of the clothes dryer with a second person living here.

I looked at a house for sale last week. It’s slightly larger than my place, but 100 years newer (1950 instead of 1850). The owners also touted their extensive “green renovations” in 2004, including expanding the wall thicknesses by 50%, “low-E argon windows”, “super-insulating” the attic, etc. They disclosed, with pride, that last winter’s oil consumption was 400 gallons (heat only, hot water not included.) I felt smug.

After just one season of practice, I can very confidently say that for the purpose of saving energy, $50 worth of tidbits from the hardware store, plus a purposeful dedication to getting used to a different way of living, can easily best $20,000 worth of “green” home improvements. Unfortunately, while you can get a federal tax credit for low-“E” argon windows, they won’t give you one for learning to live with the cold. Too bad.

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