Home heating bills too high?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2004

With the cost of gas and oil this year already at record levels and the projection of prices going even higher, many people are asking themselves what they can do to heat their homes more efficiently.

First we need to think of what heats our homes. Most of us would say gas, oil or electricity. But in fact, it is the British Thermal Unit (BTU), a measurement of heat. Gas, oil or electricity only produces British Thermal Units for us. What we need to learn is what produces British Thermal Units more efficiently.

A well-insulated house of about 1500 square feet needs about 35,000,000 BTUs per year. The attached table shows you what will produce these 35,000,000 BTUs at today’s prices. Then, you can do the math and decide what you want to heat your home with.

Some people claim that heat pumps are cold pumps. This might be true … if the duct system is not sealed and sized correctly. However, if heat pumps are properly installed and ducts tightly sealed, they are very comfortable and very efficient heating and cooling systems.

What homeowners need to do is to insist on better installation from their HVAC contractors. My observation is that most contractors are installing Gaspacks with leaking duct systems, which make heating bills even higher. While these Gaspacks have the heating capacity to overcome that poor installation by burning more gas, doing so increases heating bills. And at today’s prices, who can afford this?

I do not work for the power company. I teach heating, air conditioning and refrigeration. Therefore, I know what I am stating here is true. The only thing that would make your heat bills be different from those shown on the attached chart is your house, bad installation, poor installation, or paying more for your fuel units.

Electricity is regulated and has been fairly constant in price for the last 10 years. Gas and oil prices, on the other hand, constantly fluctuate. Five years ago it was less than $1.00 per gallon. Now some people are paying over $2.00 per gal. I figured the cost at $1.49 in this chart.

Air Source heat pumps, Geo Thermal heat pumps and Duel Fuel Systems are all excellent units, but they require more knowledge and better installation. However, the highest energy-using units are the easiest to install, so contractors install them because some HVAC contractors don’t care what your heating bill is.

It will be worth it to you if you choose a good installer who wants to help you save in the future.