To keep your home warm during the winter months, it is crucial to have a well-fueled and functional heating system. Heating your home in the winter, regardless of how your home is heated, can be one of your most costly living expenses. To keep these costs under control, you need to know how to calculate your daily and monthly usage.
Regarding cost, oil is an unpredictable commodity because its price is always in flux. While this is primarily due to the political climate in the regions that supply oil, changes in U.S. policy also play a role. Whatever the future holds, the cost of oil is likely to remain an unpredictable subject.
Regardless of whether oil prices are up or down, there are plenty of things you can do as a homeowner to control your heating oil costs. For starters, you will need to determine how much oil you consume within your home hourly, as this will allow you to learn how much you use during an average month.
How to Figure out Your Monthly Heating Oil Cost
The first thing to do is to gather some basic data about the oil burner from the manufacturer label. Check the data plate on your heating unit. Depending on the make and model of the burner, you might be able to find this information on the front or the side of your unit.
1. Check the Gallons-Per-Hour Number on Your Burner
The data plate should list some of the basic information about the capacity of the burner. For example, it should list a figure for the number of fuel gallons the burner will consume throughout an hour. Take note of the number. If you do not see the number of gallons per hour listed on the plate, check the burner nozzle, as this will often feature some of the key numbers for your heating system. The number might be etched onto the tip of the nozzle or on one of the six sides of the hexagon.
Note that the figure for hourly fuel consumption refers to 60-minute periods of burner activity. If the burner is only active for 20 minutes per hour, it will take three hours for the burner to reach its per-hour level of fuel consumption. In most homes, the per-hour rate of fuel consumption is between 0.8 and 1.7 gallons.
2. Note Peak-Hour Oil Consumption
The next step is to get an idea of how much fuel your burner consumes during the warmest and coldest hours of the day. Set aside two different hours within the same 24-hour period, one during the afternoon when temperatures are at their warmest and one during the early morning hours when temperatures are at their lowest.
For example, you might decide to track the operation of your oil burner between 2 and 3 p.m. Note the time when the burner first switches on (after 2 p.m.). Record the time when it switches off. If the burner turns back on before 3 p.m., record that time, then the time when it turns off again. Your burner might run between 2:05 and 2:15 p.m., then again from 2:45 to 2:55 p.m., a total of 20 minutes during the hour.
3. Note Oil Consumption During the Coldest Hour
Next, observe the operation of your oil burner during the coldest hour of that same day. That will probably be 12 hours after the warmest hour, such as between 2 and 3 a.m. Take the same notes as you did before, noting the minutes of the hour when the burner starts and stops its oil consumption.
Chances are, the burner operated for longer during the day’s coldest hour than during the warmest hour. It might have run this time between 2:05 and 2:15 a.m, between 2:30 and 2:45 a.m. and between 2:50 and 3:00 a.m., a total of 35 minutes.
4. Calculate How Many Hours Per Day Your Burner Uses Fuel
The next step is to take the two numbers — the number of minutes your burner operated during the warmest hour and the number of minutes it operated during the coldest hour — add them together, then divide that number by two to determine the average hourly fuel consumption of your burner. Using our example, the average hourly fuel consumption is 27.5:
(20+35) / 2 = 27.5
Once you get the average, you can multiply it by 24 (the number of hours in a day) to determine the number of minutes per day your burner uses oil:
27.5 * 24 = 660
Then, take that number and divide it by 60 (the number of minutes within an hour) to figure out how many hours per day your burner consumes fuel:
660 /60 = 11
5. Multiply Daily Active Hours by the Tank's Hourly Gallon Usage
The last step is to take the number of gallons your burner consumes per hour and multiply that figure by the number of hours per day the unit burns oil.
Say your burner uses 1.2 gallons per hour. If it runs for 11 hours per day, multiply 11 by 1.2 to figure out how many gallons of fuel your burner uses in one day:
11 * 1.2 = 13.2
Your burner consumes 13.2 gallons of fuel per day.
6. Calculate How Frequently Your Oil Tank Needs Filling
Part of determining how much you spend on heating oil each month is calculating how frequently your tank needs to be filled. The size of your oil tank and the typical amount of fuel you burn daily help to determine how often you need a refill. To figure out how long a tank of heating oil is likely to last, divide the size of your tank by the typical amount of fuel used daily. For example, if you have a 275-gallon tank and use 13.2 gallons of fuel each day, divide 275 by 13.2:
275 / 13.2 = 20.83
You would likely need to have your tank filled every 20 days or so.
What Factors Impact the Cost of Your Oil?
For homeowners, the cost of oil itself accounts for little more than half the overall cost to heat a home with an oil-burning heating system. When taken as a whole, the costs associated with residential heating oil consist of three components:
- The price of crude oil from the oil refineries.
- The cost at the refiner’s end to produce oil for residential heating purposes.
- The cost to bring heating oil to the public, including the cost of shipping it to suppliers and home delivery.
Factors That Impact How Much Oil You Use
Weather patterns over the fall and winter will impact your reliance on heat. If outside temperatures get exceedingly cold, you will inevitably need to consume more heating oil than you would under more ideal conditions. If your heating system is old, it might have to work harder to produce sufficient heat for your living quarters, and this too can lead to higher levels of oil consumption.
1. Air Leaks in Windows and Doors
To lower your consumption of heating oil, you will need to maintain the insulation throughout your house. Inspect windows and doors throughout your house to make sure no gaps exist, as these can result in costly air drafts. To ensure no air leaks are present between your walls, perform the following steps:
- Hold a lighter or candle along the edges of your window panes. If the flame blows sideways, there is a draft between the glass and window frame.
- Repeat the lighter experiment along the edges of your doors.
To seal the drafts, caulk the edges of your windows between the panes and frames. Replace the seals on your doors. Make sure no drafts remain along the inner or outer edges of the door frame. Pay special attention to the underside of your front door, as this is often a major source of air drafts.
If you have a fireplace, consider keeping the chimney plugged when not in use. There are inflatable plugs designed to fit chimneys that you can easily insert after you have put out a fire, and then take them out later when you are ready to burn a new log.
2. Poor Insulation
Also check the insulation in your walls, attic and basement or crawlspace. If the insulation is insufficient or degraded, replace it as needed. If the insulation in your attic is soaked or moldy, you probably have a leak in your roof that needs repairs. Aside from affecting the warmth of your home, wet insulation can be a breeding ground for harmful toxins. As such, you should get it removed immediately upon discovery.
Insulation can also deteriorate due to animal infestation. If a rodent problem exists in your neighborhood, inspect your dark spaces for signs of rodent activity. Rats and mice leave clues in the form of droppings and bite marks. If they have already made it into your attic or crawlspace, there will inevitably be an opening into your house that is letting in cold air and other problems.
To prevent rodents from accessing your house, set up traps along the walls of areas in which you have found evidence of activity. Rats and mice tend to use walls as guides, so it is most effective to place traps at key points along wall sides.
If rodents have accessed your home through a hole in the roof, it may be time to have repair work done on your shingles. The presence of overhang from nearby trees can also form a rodent pathway into your house. Therefore, keep all tree growth at least six feet away from your house and roof.
How to Reduce Your Home Heating Oil Costs
To keep heating costs down in the winter months, you need to choose the right times to purchase oil. Oil prices can fluctuate daily, so it is important to check the price regularly. If you have an online account with SMO, you can check your current oil price at MySMOEnergy.com. If you do not currently have an account, you can check the oil price for your area by using our price checker.
Here are some other cost-saving tips for managing your heating expenses.
1. Fill When Costs of Oil Are Down
One of the most effective ways to lower your heating oil costs is to get your tank filled during the times of the year when prices are generally at their lowest, such as in the summer or early fall.
2. Switch to More Efficient Heating Equipment
Heating equipment is getting more efficient all the time. Newer furnaces burn heating oil much more efficiently than older models, which can help you get the most out of the oil you have in your tank. If your equipment is more than 10 years old or if you have noticed you are burning heating oil faster than usual, it may be time for a replacement. Schedule a free energy consultation with an expert to help you choose a new, more efficient piece of equipment for your home.
3. Consider Assistance Programs
If you live in a low-income household, you may qualify for an assistance program. Some programs operate at the state and federal levels to provide help to households that have trouble meeting energy costs. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is an example. It helps homeowners under a certain income threshold cover heating expenses. There are also programs that offer emergency help when unplanned events lead to financial hardships.
Get Heating Oil From SMO Energy
For so many reasons, it is crucial to calculate your heating oil costs. Once you determine how much oil your house consumes each day, you can accurately predict what your costs will be on a monthly and yearly scale. Of course, there are factors in the world at large that make oil a volatile commodity. To ensure prices do not spiral out of your range, it is smart to work with a supplier that offers purchasing options that work with your budget.
At SMO Energy, we offer pricing options that make it easy for our customers to stay warm within their budgets. Contact SMO Energy today for a quote.