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Don't Get Left Out In The Cold! How To Estimate How Much Heating Oil (And Money) It Will Take To Heat Your Home

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The heating season can put a dent in your budget, particularly if you live in a northern climate where winters are long and cold. Exactly how much heating your home will set you back financially depends on a variety of factors - such as outside temperatures, how high you set the thermostat, the size of the area you are heating and the efficiency of your furnace. There are two basic ways to estimate the cost of heating your home so that you can budget for the added winter expense.

Prior Oil Usage

This method gives you a good estimate of your expected oil usage for the winter but is not foolproof. As a rule, it works best if you have records of several years' worth of oil use, as the usage for an extremely cold or exceptionally mild winter may throw off your estimate. Averaging several years' consumption will give you a better idea of what to expect. Follow these steps for calculating your average oil consumption over several years.

  1. Add the number of gallons of oil you used in each year.
  2. Divide this number by the number of years to find the average. For example, if you burned 500 gallons during the first winter, 450 gallons the second year and 565 gallons the third winter, you burned 1515 gallons in three years. Divide 1550 by 3 (the number of years) to arrive at an average of 515 gallons of oil per year.
  3. Multiply the average number of gallons, in this case 515 gallons, by the current price of heating oil. For example, if the current price of oil in your area is $3.10 per gallon, multiply it by 515 gallons to get an estimate of the cost of heating oil you can expect to pay during the heating season. In this case, you can expect to pay approximately $1596.50 to heat your home for the year.

Actual Daily Usage

This method is a little trickier, as it depends on the current temperature in your location. If the weather changes significantly, your calculations may be off. This method works well for calculating your fuel needs for a short period when temperatures are expected to remain fairly constant, such as those last few weeks in the spring or in early winter when the mercury begins to drop. It can also be used during extreme cold spells when subzero weather is expected for a week or two.

  1. Look on the furnace or on the nozzle for the data plate for your furnace. 
  2. Note the number of gallons of oil your furnace burns per hour. This number typically ranges from .65 GPH (gallons per hour) to 2.0 GPH  for each hour your furnace runs.
  3. Observe your furnace for one hour during the warmest part of the day and note the number of minutes the furnace is actively running.
  4. Repeat the procedure for one hour at the coldest part of the day (or night).
  5. Average these two numbers by adding them together and dividing them by 2. For example, if your furnace runs for 10 minutes per hour during the warmest part of the day and 20 minutes per hour during the coldest part, you need to add 10 to 20 to get 30 minutes. Because this is the amount of time for 2 hours, you must divide 30 by 2 to determine the average number of minutes your furnace runs per hour.  In this case, your furnace runs for an average of 15 minutes per hour
  6. Multiply the number of minutes per hour (15) by the number of hours in a day (24) to determine the length of time your furnace runs per day. In this case, your furnace runs for 360 minutes a day. 
  7. Because there are 60 minutes in an hour, you will need to divide 360 minutes by 60 to find out how many hours your furnace runs per day. In this example, your furnace operates for 6 hours a day.

Once you know how many hours a day your furnace runs, you can calculate the expected fuel consumption and the resulting cost of heating your home. To do this, you will need to get your calculator out and do a little more figuring. Here's how you do it.

  1. Multiply the number of hours your furnace runs per day by the fuel consumption number of your furnace. For example, if your furnace burns 1 gallon of fuel per hour of operation, you will burn 6 gallons of oil a day.
  2. Multiply the number of gallons per day by the number of days you will need to heat your home to determine the amount of fuel you will need. For example, multiply 6  (the number of gallons used per day) by 7 to determine how much fuel you will need for one week or by 30 to determine how much fuel you will need for one month. In this example, you will need approximately 42 gallons of fuel per week or 180 gallons per month.
  3. To determine the expected cost of heating your home, multiply the number of gallons of oil from these calculations by the current cost of heating oil.

Knowing how much fuel you are likely to consume, and how much that will cost you, allows you to budget wisely and avoid surprises. If you need to find a heating oil distributor, hop over to this site to check one out.