I heat my home with oil - I have a hydro-air forced warm air heating system with three zones.
When I built my home three years ago, has I suspected the price of oil would more than double in three years, I might have considered different heating options.
Back in 2005 when I built the home, I contracted for oil for about $2.05 per gallon.
This past year, I've been paying $3.59 per gallon.
Now, I'm hearing quotes of $4.70 - $5.19 per gallon. Ouch.
Just by conservation - and the fact that now all of our kids are in school during the day - we've reduced our oil consumption from 1,500 gallons per year to 1,100 gallons per year.
Those 1,100 gallons, at $5.19 per gallon, will cost me $5,500. That's just too much money.
So, we've been researching various options on how to heat our home.
We looked into installing a new geothermal heating and cooling system. I've seen these in action, and they work great. Simplistically, geothermal systems use ground water to heat and cool your home. There's no oil, no gas...just the electricity need to run the geothermal pump. The cost savings can be amazing.
But, the installation costs are prohibitive: To retrofit my home will cost $40,000 - $60,000. Even with these high oil prices, that's not a great investment. Apparently, these systems are much more cost-effective if installed during the construction of the home. Something to keep in mind for the future...
Of course, we also took this time to look into installing solar panels. They may not provide my heat, but they could reduce my huge electricity bill. But, again, the installation costs are prohibitive.
We considered replacing our gas (propane) fireplace with one that might actually put out some heat. But, our chimney would have to be modified to fit a new unit that would probably only heat one or two rooms. While this would obviously be cheaper than a geothermal system or solar panels, it still wouldn't be enough of a return on our investment to make it worthwhile.
So we moved on to wood stoves. I like these. Radiant heat drifting through my home. The look and smell of a real fire blazing. The sound of that fire crackling. Years and years of free wood available on my own property. Stove prices are fairly reasonable, with some great new modern design stoves, but installation will double the cost. And, will I ever really cut and split that wood? Will I ever carry those dead trees up the hill?
Unfortunately, we know our lifestyle. We'll end up buying pre-split cord wood and storing it in the side yard. There go some savings. And, realistically, when there is 2 feet of snow outside, am I going to go out to get some wood? I guess I could send the kids... I still do like this option, but there is a lot of work involved. Do I have the time? That is a definite consideration.
Next we looked at pellet stoves. I wasn't too keen on this idea at first. So I spent some time (OK, a lot of time) visiting stores and researching online. Most pellet stoves are not pretty. But, with a little searching, some nice looking units are available, and they seem to have great reliability reviews. True, I will have to store pellets in my garage, and the price of pellets has gone up lately. But it is still much more cost-effective than oil, and fairly comparable to buying cord wood instead of cutting my own. I found a few stoves that should heat my entire main level, and probably keep the upstairs in the low- to mid-60's at the same time. Not too shabby. My oil heat can become the supplemental system, and what we may need to use at night.
There is a great fuel cost comparison calculator that can aid in your decision as to whether your savings will be worthwhile.
I think we're going to go with the pellet stove. Of course, they are scarce right now and not cheap. But, I think I may earn my money back in 2-3 years. If oil prices drop and it takes longer, at least I know that I'm no longer completely dependent on foreign oil. And, I'll have an additional fireplace in my home.
I will have two heat sources in my house - I will be able to choose which one is used as the primary heat source at any given time, based on current fuel costs.
How cool is that?