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A No Excuses Resolution for 2017

Paul Kando

At 2014 prices we would today be paying, per gallon, $3.72 for oil, $4.12 for kerosene, and $3.02 for propane. But today heating oil costs, on average, $2.15, kerosene $2.66 and propane $2.35 per gallon, according to the Governor’s Energy Office. That’s a decline of 42% for oil, 35% for kerosene, and 22% for propane. To cite one example, a household that spent $3,800 on oil in 2014 will spend only $2,204 this winter, saving $1,596 or $200/month, October through May.

No Excuses

My point is: had prices stayed at the 2014 level, the household would be paying hundreds of dollars more than it does this winter. Isn’t this a splendid opportunity to lock in heating cost savings permanently, by investing the money saved in improving our homes’ energy efficiency? We can’t claim we can’t afford to do so either. After all we did spend that money 3 winters ago and, if fuel prices hadn’t dropped, we would be spending it this winter. If, in round numbers, over the last two winters the savings to be invested came to $3,000, that could buy a fair amount of home weatherization.

But you have already spent that money on something else? – OK, this is where a New Year’s resolution comes in. First, make a plan. An energy audit is a big help here, and one is likely cost a fraction of what you are saving this winter on fuel cost. Second, commit 2-3 hours per week to working on the house, doing low-cost/no-cost improvements at first, reinvesting the resulting monthly savings into further improvements.

You may start with turning the water heater temperature down to 120ºF, saving something like $2.50/month in a typical house. Remove the window screens for the winter to let in more solar heat. This can easily save another $2.50/month. That’s already $5.00/month ($60/year) in permanent savings, at zero up-front cost.

In a typical older Maine house up to half the winter heat is lost through air leaks. Seal them. Start with the electrical outlets and switches throughout the house, saving some 12 cents per outlet or switch ($3.60 if your home has 30) every month, or over $43/year.

You are already saving $ 8.60/month ($103/year). Now craft one or two inside storm window inserts per month, doubling or tripling the R value of every window. Spend about $15 and save as much as $4/month per window. That’s $80 per month, based on 20 average sized windows, or $960 per year, ready to invest in adding insulation to the attic, basement ceiling and walls.

As you can see, the list of opportunities to permanently reduce heating costs is long. Each completed task results in increased savings year after year. The key is to make a commitment and start making good on it without delay. It’s easier than you think. To quote the late Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

Here is to a toastier yet less costly 2017!