home heating options connecticut

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Weighing heating options for their efficiency, cost and environmental impact is important to many homeowners. We all want to ensure our warmth and comfort, but in a way that maximizes our dollars and spares the earth.

As such, one of the most common debates is whether Northeasterns should convert their heating oil systems to natural gas. 

The first question to ask is will it save you money in the long run?

The federal government’s 30% tax credit for upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace ended nearly a decade ago, and homeowners that didn’t jump on the credit may be left asking themselves if it’s still worth the effort. 

Let’s cover the differences in each heating source, from the BTU output, conversion costs and environmental impact to discover which fuel suits your home best.

BTU Output of Natural Gas Vs. Heating Oil

British thermal unit (BTU) is the most common way to measure a unit of heat in the United States. Specifically, BTUs measure the amount of energy needed to raise one pound of water 1°F at sea level. This measurement is a gauge for energy use, energy effectiveness, and heating system sizing. 

Simply put, the higher the BTU rating the more powerful, and higher heat output it has.

When comparing natural gas and heating oil, consider the following breakdown: 

Mathematically, heating oil contains more heat per BTUs than natural gas (and than most other fuels available on the market). Therefore, heating oil outputs more heat, making it the more efficient option of the two.

Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas Vs. Heating Oil

Heating oil is at its most efficient and environmentally-friendly state when used as bioheat. 

Bioheat is a blend of biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil. The advancement in fuel properties from heating oil is great news for Northeasterns, as the fuel can be used in your oil tank without any modifications to your tank or furnace. 

From an environmental standpoint, bioheat is notable because unlike natural gas, it’s a renewable fuel, and touts lower carbon emissions.

During the Paris Climate Change Convention in 2016, more than 200 nations agreed to limit carbon gasses that pollute the earth by promoting the use of renewable energy sources and low carbon options. Bioheat falls under the same category as wind and solar energy, which are all acknowledged as sources of renewable energy. 

Natural gas, on the other hand, falls into the same bracket as petroleum and coal, which are nonrenewable sources of energy, also known as fossil fuels. 

Methane losses from natural gas systems pose a significant problem for global warming as well. Methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times more dangerous than poisonous carbon dioxide. And, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, methane ranks amongst the worst of the greenhouse gases.

When considering the environmental impact between natural gas and biofuel, the heating oil option wins by a landslide.  

How much does it cost to convert to a natural gas system?

Homeowners considering the conversion from heating oil to natural gas need to estimate the cost to make the switch. The grand total will vary based on many factors, including:

However, according to CBS Boston, the switch can cost anywhere from $4,500 to  $7,000. New England Cable News increases the prices even more, stating conversions can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000

Though there may be long-term savings with a natural gas conversion, the upfront cost, coupled with the environmental impact cause many homeowners pause. 

Should you switch to natural gas?

According to the Consumer Energy Council of America, this fuel conversion could be an “expensive gamble”.

Experts zero in on some of the dangers of natural gas as a caution to homeowners considering the switch:

Though every homeowner will need to weigh the pros and cons of natural gas and heating oil for themselves, it’s important to inform yourself on all aspects of the conversion.

Want to learn more about the difference between heating oil and natural gas? Check out the following resources:

home effiency issues connecticutOn those cold winter mornings, there’s nothing better than pulling up the covers and feeling the furnace turn on, keeping you cozy and warm. 

But, did you know that heating your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home? Energy Saver – an office of the U.S. Department of Energy – notes that heating your house makes “up about 42% of your utility bill.”

While factors like home size and gas rates can affect your utility bill, so can the efficiency and age of your gas furnace. 

In this article, we’re going to break down what you need to know about furnaces and more importantly, why your furnace could be losing efficiency. 

What does the furnace rating (AFUE) mean?

At its most basic, furnaces heat air and distribute the heated air throughout the house using air ducts. 

The efficiency of your furnace is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which must be displayed on all new units. AFUE measures how efficiently the furnace converts energy in its fuel to heat over a year. 

More specifically, a furnace with an AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in its fuel becomes heat, while the other 10% escapes from chimneys and elsewhere. 

Keep in mind, that the AFUE does not include the heat loss that commonly occurs via the ducting or piping, which according to Energy Saver can be as much as 35% of the energy output. 

While electric heaters have higher AFUE ratings of 95-100%, they are often the least economic choice for homeowners given the higher cost of electricity. 

Why is your furnace losing efficiency?

Over time, it’s common for a furnace to lose efficiency, due to age, as well as wear and tear. But, there are several things you can do to improve efficiency in your furnace, which will improve heating and result in lower bills.

1. Clean Your Filter

The most common reason for an inefficient furnace is a dirty filter. Most people don’t realize their filter needs to be routinely changed, so they leave the same one in for months, or even years. If you don’t change your heating system’s filter on a regular basis, it not only hinders the unit’s energy efficiency, it can cause long-term damage and reduce the air quality in your home. Check the unit for specifications, but the filter should be changed every few months, if not at least once a year.

2. Check for Air Leaks

It’s not uncommon for even the most sound homes to have air leaks that cause the heated air to escape the house. If your house isn’t properly insulated, your hot air (and your money) could be going out the window – literally. Heat can be lost through drafty windows and doors, through the ceilings, and even your walls

3. Your Radiators Are Blocked

Be sure and keep all baseboard heaters and radiators clear of furniture or other objects to ensure the heat is distributed evenly and as able to reach the entire house.

4. Check for Cracks, Loose Parts on Your Furnace

Loose parts and fittings can create enough space to reduce airflow and cause rattling. Don’t forget to also check the blower fan, which can break or bend. Also, the fan belt is a good place to look for fraying. Lastly, check the combustion chamber for cracks.

5. Weatherize for Winter

In addition to ensuring your furnace is running properly, you should also be weatherizing your home each year. This means reinsulating areas that you know to be leaky or drafty. Use weather-stripping to block air leaks around doors and windows.

6. Check the Burner Flames

Inspect your burners and ensure they are free of debris. If your burner flames are blue, that means the burner is clean. If they’re yellow, you have dirty burners. Turn off the power and gas and then vacuum your burners.

7. Check the Limit Switch

Did you know if your furnace has a bad limit switch your blower could be running all the time? This will result in a shorter life for your blower. When they fail, the heat is always on, making it very hot.

8. Clear Heat Pumps & Intake/Exhaust Vents

If your furnace vents to the outside, you should always make sure nothing is blocking the vents. Clear any leaves or debris in the area. If you have a heat pump, clear any debris from the fins of the outdoor compressor unit.

9. Update your Heating System

As heating systems age, they begin to lose energy efficiency. Even with a new filter and proper maintenance, a furnace that is 15-20 years old will not be nearly as efficient as it was when it was brand new. It may be time for a new furnace. 

Regularly checking and maintaining your furnace will help prolong the life of your unit and ensure cost-effective and efficient heating of your home. Before the cold grip of winter hits, consider whether or not you need a new furnace. 

heating oil facts fairfield, connecticutAs the cold weather approaches, you might be thinking about the most cost-effective and efficient way to heat your home. It’s wise to consider a variety of fuel alternatives, as well as different ways to optimize your home for energy efficiency.

After all, heating systems aren’t only about your comfort, they also account for nearly 42% of your entire energy bill.

Everything You Need to Know About Home Heating Oil

Whether your home is already equipped with an oil-fueled furnace, or you’re upgrading your home’s heating system this season, you’ll want to know about the source that is fueling your home’s heat. These 16 facts will tell you everything you need to know about home heating oil so you can make the right decision for your home.

  1. Approximately 18 million American households use heating oil to warm their homes each winter.
  2. The most significant demand for home heating oil in the U.S. is in the Northeast region of the country. More than 5.5 million households in this region of the country use heating oil as their primary fuel during the winter.
  3. There are three terminals for heating oil storage in the Northeast: Groton, CT, Port Reading, N.J., and Revere, MA.
  4. Heating oil is an extremely clean source of fuel. In fact, newer oil-fueled home heating systems run on nearly zero emissions, while simultaneously burning more efficiently. Some new oil-fueled heating systems boast 95% efficiency ratings.
  5. As a whole, home oil burners produce only .003% of total particulate emissions in the United States.
  6. The formula for heating oil continues to advance thanks to bioheat technology. Heating oil can be mixed with low-sulfur biofuels, made from oil blended with sunflower, soybean or vegetable oil, which cut sulfur emissions by 75 to 80% and cut particulate matter by 80%.
  7. By burning clean fuel, homeowners can reduce the number of regular cleanings and maintenance visits required on their heating equipment each year. With traditional oil, sulfur builds up and creates deposits on heat exchangers. Increased grime means homeowners must clean their systems more regularly to improve efficiency.
  8. Heating oil burns 300 degrees hotter than natural gas allowing it to warm your house faster, and maximize its output.
  9. Due to increased efficiency in heating equipment, the average consumer now uses 25% less heating oil each winter than in 1989.
  10. Annual heating costs for heating oil are consistently lower than natural gas or electricity. The Department of Ecology studies estimates that oil heats 16% more efficiently than natural gas.
  11. When adjusted for inflation, heating oil is cheaper today than it was 20 years ago. On average, oil heating prices are 2.5 to 5.5 times lower than electric-based heating prices. And, homeowners with heating oil-based systems spend less, on average, than those heating with natural gas systems.
  12. Home heating oil is very safe. It is non-explosive. Even mixed with air, heating oil does not become explosive like natural gas does. And unlike with propane, a lit match would go out if it were to be dropped into a pool of heating oil.
  13. The inhalation of oil fumes is not fatal, and there’s a very low possibility of carbon monoxide entering your home from using heating oil.
  14. The portability and access to heating oil is an advantage for homeowners who live in remote or rural areas. It’s easy to have heating oil delivered to your home, even if another fuel like natural gas isn’t accessible.
  15. Homeowners don’t need to worry about heating oil shortages. While natural gas and propane can become scarce during the coldest months of the year — creating shortages — this is not the case with heating oil. Homeowners with heating oil can rest easy knowing there will be a steady stream of fuel when you need it most, especially if you opt for automatic delivery services.
  16. Replacing your home’s heating system can be frustrating and expensive. While natural gas and propane systems last from 15-20 years, oil-based heating systems tend to last for 30 years or more with proper maintenance.
  17. Given how clean, safe, and efficient home heating oil is, it is no wonder why so many households in New Haven and Fairfield counties use it to heat their homes. Before winter hits, contact your HVAC company to ensure your heating system is running properly, your fuel is filled, and your home is optimized for efficiency.

Do you want to know more about home heating? Check out these helpful resources:

winter oil use connecticut

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Many factors will determine how much heating oil you need this winter. Read this article to discover the best ways to calculate your heating oil needs, and the safest options available for ensuring consistent delivery of heating oil to your home throughout the winter.

Determining How Much Oil You Use

The two factors that will have the biggest impact on your heating oil use is the size of your home, and how long you leave your furnace running.

To start, the size of your home will have an impact on the number of gallons required to keep your house warm. The most common sizes of heating oil tanks are:

As a general rule of thumb, most homeowners use tanks 300 gallons or less for one and two-bedroom homes. Larger three and four-bedroom homes require tanks closer to 500 gallons.

On average, an oil-burning furnace will burn between 0.8 and 1.7 gallons per hour while in operation. So, if you have a one-bedroom home, requiring a 300-gallon tank, and you keep your furnace running for 10 hours, you’ll need to fill your rank after 17 days.

1.7 gallon per hour *10 hours a day = 17 gallons a day. 300-gallon tank / 17 gallons = 17.64 days

Factors That Alter Average Wintertime Heating Oil Usage

Of course, the equation above is only a ballpark figure. How much heating oil you use will also vary based on the factors below.

It may also be time to consider replacing your furnace or any of its parts that are aging. Oil burners, furnaces, and nozzles that are approaching or are more than 20 years old may add 15-25% on your heating oil bill.

The Most Accurate Heating Oil Assessment

To get the best assessment of how much heating oil you will use throughout the year, gather your bills for as many months back as you can.

Compare your monthly spend to the average cost per gallon of heating oil (roughly $3.00) to see how many gallons you used.

You can also consult with a heating oil expert to get their take on your heating oil consumption and help determine the best way to keep your heating oil filled automatically.

Heating Oil Delivery

How long will oil remain ‘usable’?

Heating oil will generally last between 18 and 24 months inside a tank, as long as you take care of your tank and use high-quality oil. If you have a partially full tank left when you turn off the heat for the spring and summer months, your oil should still be in good condition once you turn the heat back on in the fall.

Tips for Oil Delivery

You may be surprised to learn that there are many factors that can impact delivery reliability and the price of your fuel.

Seasonality matters

September and April are great months to order oil. Both are downtimes for heating oil delivery and allows you to fill up your tank without competing with the demand that pours in closer to the winter season.

Check oil prices year-round

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average cost for heating oil in 2019 was just over $3.00 per gallon. However, each month marked subtle changes to the price a consumer will pay. For example, in February, the cost was $3.20, and in October, it was only $2.90. By paying attention to the ebbs and flow of oil prices, you can cost-effectively fill your tank.

Companies like Santa Energy also provide price protection plans to help homeowners avoid the costly volatility of the heating oil market.

Work with a company that automatically delivers your fuel

Keeping up with heating oil can be difficult. Remove the worry and hassle of monitoring your fuel levels by working with a heating oil company that does the heavy lifting for you.

Santa Energy offers tracking technology that calculates precisely when your home will need a heating oil refill and ensures delivery before you run out.