But what to do? We’ve insulated. We have storm windows. We’ve added weather-stripping. We have a programmable thermostat. We have a fairly new and efficient furnace. Oh, and we keep the thermostat at a chilly 65 degrees during the day. There’s not much left to try to keep us from the agony of a heating bill that may top $2,900 this winter.
So we’re thinking outside of the box, or, outside of the furnace. The cost of oil has risen much faster than the cost of electricity—so much so that we’re taking a gamble that supplementing our heat with electric radiators will save us money this winter. A quick calculation shows that we might save up to $750, and who wouldn’t want to do that?
The idea of creating electrically fueled zones of warmth works best if:
- Somebody needs to be home during the day.
- Activity is concentrated in one or two rooms.
That’s a concept that fits the living style of a growing number of people. My husband and I both work from home, as do about a third of our neighbors. My husband works on the third floor of our 1924-built house. The attic around his work space is well insulated. That’s great for keeping heat in, but first you have to have some heat to keep in!
Our furnace, except for the coldest of days, operates only about three times a day. Our programmable timer lowers the heat at night so that the furnace doesn’t come on at all. The boiler is set to start running about 5:30 a.m. It then returns to life about mid-day and once more in the early evening .
Once the furnace finishes its morning run, the attic room is warm enough, as is the rest of the house. But then things start to cool down. In fact, that room, and some other rooms on the northern side of the house, start to get pretty uncomfortable before the heat kicks in again.
With our electric radiators, we are betting we can eliminate that mid-day heating cycle. My husband has a DeLonghi model in his attic work space and I have a slightly larger and more-sophisticated model from Home Depot in my office room (The best for me. Yay!). If we close the doors to our rooms, our radiators don’t even break a sweat keeping us comfortable and now the thermostat can be programmed to stay low mid-day so the heat stays off.
$5.87 a Cycle
So here’s what we gained. We calculated that we use an average of 4.4 gallons a day to heat our house for a cost of about $17.60 a day. Divide that cost into the three daily heating cycles and you get $5.87 a cycle. Since our aim is to cut out the mid-day cycle, we could save $5.87 a day.
Of course, electricity has a cost. But not much of one. Using our handy electric usage meter, we found we used about 55 cents of electricity per radiator during a 10-hour day. Subtracting that from our $5.87 oil savings nets us about $5 a day. Over 150 days of heating in the winter, the savings could amount to $750.
So we’ll see if our electric solution sparks a savings for us this winter. I’ll let you know in the spring!