More On That

… and the other thing that shocked me from that story about heating assistance money was these statistics:

1) “The average cost of heating a home with natural gas in the South is $740 a year”  !

2) “…while it can cost $2,500 to $3,500 with heating oil in Maine.”  !!


3) The Maine households which receive heating-assistance money have an “average benefit of about $811”  !!!

These numbers astonish me.  Firstly, I’ll admit I don’t know what the definition of “South” is here, but I have a suspicion they mean places south of, say, Pennsylvania.  Places where I would consider “just a touch of heat” to be needed, if anything.  But $740 a year of natural gas!  That’s a lot of BTU’s.  Jeepers.

Secondly: $2,500 to $3,500 for heat up here in Maine?  Good LORD– for an AVERAGE home?  Is that true?  Is that were we started, in this experiment?  I honestly don’t remember, but I’m horrified.  It just seems impossible now.

Lastly:  I confess that I’m shocked to read that the least affluent among us are receiving, and spending, on average, at least $811 for heating oil (presumably, some are kicking in at least a bit of money of their own on top of that.)  Last winter, at the Old Cold House, we spent less than $350 on oil for heat.  This winter, we will wind up spending about $400 for heat (+/- $100 for electric, and $300 for wood– and that could be much less, but we bought really expensive wood.)  I know most people don’t want to live the way we do, but it seems something could be learned from it.  Rather than just throwing money and oil at the cold.

12 Responses to “More On That”

  1. Linda Naslund Says:

    I agree! Nobody needs to have their houses so warm in the winder that babies can toddle around in only diapers…despite what the gas company ads depict. How can those of us who don’t mind putting on a sweater and long underwear get our point across? How much does this contribute to global warming? Heat it up in the winter, cool it down in the summer…are we unable to tolerate our own planet?

  2. brushfire Says:

    I think we’re at about 1000-1200 or so annual heating+hot water. I keep the heat at 64 daytime/60 nighttime. When H is home sometimes the heat gets cranked up to 67-68. I bet if we ran the heat at 72 day and night we’d reach the 2500+ range.

  3. Heather Says:

    I added it up. In calendar year 2009, we paid our oil company $1688. That included a rather expensive furnace cleaning with a few replacement parts, and we ended the year with a full tank of oil, so you probably need to subtract about $400 from that total to get the actual heating bill. Our house is definitely kept cooler and is more well insulated than most in Maine. Hoping this year’s bill will be a little lower with our brand new windows throughout!

  4. Rufus Says:

    I’d say we use so many btu’s down South in the winter because we are accustomed to 80+ degree weather and like to have it that way in the winter….sadly.

  5. John Says:

    I’m not surprised by those gas numbers at all.

    We live in NJ in a small 3-BR home. Set-back thermostat, 68/50 (until recently when we knocked 8° off both those numbers), very conscientious. Our highest gas bill was over $400, about 3/4 of which was for heating. So maybe an average of $100/month year-round for heat?

    I’d say we use less heat/sq ft than most people we know. Now consider the number of people who live in much larger houses, don’t have zone heating, don’t use set-backs, and keep the heat at 70-ish all the time.

  6. Rev. Cold Says:

    What is the big deal? I don’t run the electric heat at all during the day so it is around 52-55. At night my wife puts it on 64 for three hours. Bed time it goes off so it is around 53 when we wake up. My stinking electric bill is still around $200 a month which some will think is great. I don’t because I just moved to a 1200 sq ft berm home. First heat bill was $215 (had guests) which is what the whole winter cost me in my other house which is 3000 sq feet! We heated with wood and would wake up to 49*. Kind of unpleasant until the fire got going again, BUT the $60-70 monthly winter utility bill made it oh so worth it! So thinking a smaller berm home would be even cheaper…HA! Chimney man is coming out tomorrow because I bought another stove. I get all my wood for free. Sure, I am hanging out inside wearing thermals, scarf, and stocking hat, but would rather do that then waste $$$. The more money I am not donating to the “man” the more I can give away. I have no idea what the heat bill would be if we were really comfortable in the sense that most folks think they need to be. I guess I find it kind of fascinating that living like this is news. Rock on!

  7. val Says:

    So, we ran out of oil and by the time we got some the lines have air. Since I’ve been reading Cold House I didn’t freak out as I have in the past. The house is at 60 and I’m wearing some warm clothes while my talented husband fixes the furnace.He’s working on priming the lines and changed the filter. The line seems to be clogged.
    I think its a good lesson for all of us and my son is helping and learning. Its almost 9 pm and we haven’t had any heat since sometime last night. The lowest I saw so far was 58, granted its night time and the temp will drop. Right now its 30.1 per a computer web site out side. We have a gas stove for cooking and hot water. I did get under the covers earlier and was toasty warm.

  8. JV Says:

    We live in Oregon, and I have electric heat. We pay $215 per month. I went on the equal pay program because it became nearly impossible to pay the 500+ electric bills for the winter months, usually Dec, Jan, Feb. We do suppliment with wood. We keep our home very cool (not as cool as you guys!) and have become so accustomed to it that when we go to someone elses house it is uncomfortably warm. My husband just sweats. We actually had to leave someones house because we were so overheated. I would definitely be worried about the pipes in the very cold weather. Luckily it’s been a very mild winter here.

  9. Rose Says:

    I have no indoor plumbing (use out house) an no hot water tank, in fact it was in 06 that I “upgraded” the “pump” on the well from a pitcher pump. I have no land line ( phone) because the phone company won’t run a line to the house. (I use an “aircard”) for internet. Natural gas isn’t even to be considered as an option because it’s not available here. I do however have electricity ( when the power company can keep it working to get the power here). I have a 2000 watt generator I use when necessary for the fridge an freezer. In the colder months I just put the food in a cooler and put it outside to keep it frozen. (last year we had 8 straight months of snow in fact the only month last year that had no “frost” even was July.) I have “cinder blocks” that make a “grill” as well as a tripod I use when cooking at the fire pit. I bought an apartment size propane stove about 3 years ago. I grow my food with “natural” fertilizer and hunt/fish when seasons permit. Rather then “drive” my truck, I ride a horse. I do most things “old school” the way my ancestors did way before man industrialized, commercialized, corrupted and polluted the world.
    I don’t have to live like this for I have a large house with multiple bedrooms and 3 kitchens and a few bathrooms etc, my being here is a choice. It’s peace, serenity, and nature as it’s finest.
    My mom, brother, sister, my children and my grandchildren all love it here and once here they don’t want to leave.
    The problem I deal with was people “judged me” for being “green” way before it was fashionable.

  10. val Says:

    Its now almost about 36 hours with no heat. The burner techs just left, we need a new pump since the rise of the line to the ceiling across the cellar and to the burner seems to have burned out the pump. My husband made a valiant attempt before we called for service this morning.
    He replaced main oil filter, gasket and seals
    bled the air from filter housing
    removed and cleaned the filter screen in the pump housing.
    cleaned outer nozzle and firing electrodes
    blew compressed air through fuel line from filter housing to shut-off valve at fuel pump.
    The house is at 56 and a bit cold but manageable. The temperature in Danvers MA outside is 34.
    We where snug in bed all night, in fact I had too many covers and had to remove the down comforter.
    Yes, you can survive in a cold house. This is the first time that we have had no heat and I’m not freaking out. Good thing since we bought that old farmhouse in Maine and will be living there in the next few years. Now that’s a Cold House!

  11. Debra Says:

    very cool, val….would like to hear more about your Maine house….

  12. icerabbit Says:

    Great blog!

    People born and raised in southern regions rarely are cold tolerant, unless they are transplants. Used to Maine winters I’ll walk around in shorts and long sleeve t-shirt in Jan-Feb in Florida, while Floridians wear a sweater and a coat. They think it is a cold winter, I think, hey it’s spring!

    I have been told by the oil company the average house / household in Maine uses 800 gallons of heating oil and heard elsewhere that 800-1000 gallons is most common. When we bought our 100 year old house, in its first year, before much of any improvements iirc, we cut the known oil consumption in half, well below the average.

    It comes naturally to us to conserve, but unfortunately not everybody is wired that way. I know a few people who, in conversation about winter, complained about not being unable to keep their house heated and/or faced a giant oil bill. Well, one didn’t not close their basement window, another had a couple storm windows they never closed, some don’t wear a sweater in the house and keep the thermostat on 70F … in a 100 year old house that likely doesn’t have much insulation if any … it is all going out the wall and window. So, it is sad that people who could easily improve their consumption, forget to take a few extra moments at the onset of winter to close up their house and don’t realize they could save a lot of money by turning the thermostat down a few degrees without being uncomfortable.

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