It’s a question that most of us ask at one point or another over the course of a heating season, especially in the midst of a good old fashioned New England Cold snap.
The truth is, it is a difficult question to answer since there are so many variables to the equation that have to be considered. Some factors that influence how much heating oil you will use include:
How efficient your home is (that is, how well insulated and air leak-proof it is)
The weather, especially the number of days when temperatures drop below 65 (each degree below that temperature is considered a degree day, which is used to help calculate delivery schedules for our automatic delivery customers)
Furnace / boiler and heating oil tank maintenance – A furnace or boiler will lose about five percent efficiency every year that it’s not professionally maintained
Thermostat settings – The warmer you like it in your RI home, the more heating oil you will use
Still, if you want to dig in and at least estimate how much heating oil you’re likely to use during the course of a heating season, there are ways to get in the ballpark. Here are four ways to get started on a seasonal heating oil use estimate for your Rhode Island home:
Look for the manufacturer’s plate on your burner or burner nozzle – This number gives you the approximate capacity specifications for your burner in gallons per hour.
Watch your burner, keeping in mind the average – Keeping in mind the .8 – 1.7 gallon per hour average, keep track of how often your burner is in use vs. how much oil is consumed over the course of a typical day. Depending on their age and design, some furnace or boiler models will use more or less heating oil than the average.
Gather as many past heating bills as you can – Look at how much heating oil you have used in past years; to even out conditions to account for warmer or colder years, add five or six years-worth of heating oil gallons together, than divide by the number of years.
Study the weather in your area – Look for a reputable source of weather statistics to see how long the heating season lasts in your area – that is, when temperatures begin to drop below 65 and for how long they tend to remain there. Try to keep track of significant, season-long trends that have been forecast, such as El Niño/La Niña and other phenomena.
While you may not know exactly how much heating oil you will use this winter, one thing is for sure: it will be more if you skip annual heating maintenance. Think it’s too late? Keep in mind that you will be using your heating system well into April, so getting preventative maintenance for your heating system will give you almost three months of lower fuel bills and three months of protection against a late season heating system breakdown. Why wait any longer?