Home Heating Questions

We moved into our townhouse in Sept, so the shockingly large gas bill we recieved the other day has raised some questions (it covered 2 months, 11/1 to 1/8), as the apartment we were in had heat/hot water included in the rent:

My gas bill for this period was $405 - we have a 5 year old gas water heater/boiler, 30 year old furnace, gas dryer, range and oven. Temperatures haven’t been too bad, November wasn’t too cold, and Dec/Jan have been 30-40 degrees. Does this sound normal? Our bill from 9/1 - 11/1 was $120 - we used the heat much less, but did a ton of laundry/drying.

On average how much/quickly should the temperature in the house drop once the heat is off? The thermostat turns the heat down from 70 to 60 at 10PM, but last night I stayed up until about 11:15 and by that time it had dropped to 64 in the house. It was 30 outside. Is that normal, or is my house leaking hot air to quickly?

Is there such a thing as too much attic insulation, or a point where it becomes a waste of money? I’ll have to get back up there and check things out, but I didn’t think the insulation level was too bad, but I could always add another layer if it would be worthwhile.

$200.00/month isn’t that bad a heating bill, given that energy prices have risen dramatically in the past few years. I don’t know what gas has been doing, but oil has more than tripled since 2000.

How old is your townhouse? Most modern construction is pretty tight, but it’s not unknown for contractors to cheap out on construction or fail to insulate some areas.
If you want to conserve, you might lower the thermostat a bit. 70 degrees is on the high side.

You might look into a new furnance as well. While gas furnaces apparently don’t wear out to the same extent as oil furnances, a 30-year-old one is not going to be anywhere near as efficient as a modern one.

1 - if your sept-oct bill is $120 I don’t see it unreasonable for Nov-Dec to be $400. Laundry does not take that much gas.

2 - the temp drop time will depend on quite a bit of factors, I don’t think that time is unusual.

There will be a point where the extra cost of the insulation will not be made up in any reasonable time frame. You should be able to find out what thickness of insulation is recommended for your area.

I think you should be looking at leaking vents into unheated areas, uninsulated ducts, drafty windows. Considering closing off rooms you don’t need to heat, and lowering the thermostat as 70F does seem a bit high, though that is a matter of personal preference.

Also installing a low flow shower head can make a dent in the gas bill, it takes a lot of energy to heat water, and if long showers are the norm it should make a noticeable difference.

Another option is you can have gas space heaters installed in major rooms, I think they come in vented and unvented types. This way you only heat the room you are using.

While I’d dispute that 70 is on the high side (::shiver::), you can add the feeling of heat by adding a relatively inexpensive humidifier to your furnace. My old humidifier was hit or miss, mostly miss, and since the new furnace was installed with a new humidifier, I found that I can set the temperature back a few degrees and stay comfortable (as measure by my indoor/outdoor thermometer, not just the thermostats which could vary). Now I have it set at 72, and it seems friggin’ hot sometimes, whereas at 72 before, I’d feel chilly sometimes.

At 30 years old, your unit is grossly inefficient. Partly due to age, but mostly because no one cared about inefficiency back then. Newer units will also have the advantage of running cooler but for more time, eliminating peaks and troughs in your environment, and letting the air circulate more without needing overhead fans.

Then there’s geothermal, but I won’t mention any more about that option.

Check w/ your gas company to see if they offer a free energy audit of your home, many do. If not, you might see what it costs to have one done, might be worth it.
This site might be helpful: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/home_energy.html

Snow on the roof;

If your roof holds snow longer than others in your area, you probably have enough attic insulation.
You can also use one of those new fangled portable heaters.


I just talked to a friend that has one and he states they work great.
Just hope i don’t get spam-spanked for this.

Thanks for all the input - sounds like I am not in too bad of shape afterall. Since I had never had to pay a gas bill before we bought this place (other than ~$9 per month for cooking gas) I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so high.

Last couple of days I’ve had it set to 68 when we are home, and have it going off a bit sooner at night and going on bit later in the morning and evening when I get home from work. Already had closed vents and the door to the 2nd bedroom we don’t use much. I am fine at 67-68, but my gf (who owns the house with me, so feels like she should have a say :wink: ) is freezing at that temp, and I don’t think she likes me throwing blankets at her anymore!

Definately had been thinking of a new furnace this year, and just a bit of reseach shows just how horribly inefficient they were back than (60% compared to 90%+ now!!). Will budget to get that done before next winter for sure.
I’ll be checking attic insulation, all doors, windows, etc. this weekend to see if there is anything else obvious I can do.

Thanks for help everyone!

Consider doing it right now, even without the budgeted funds.

Many furnace companies offer financing deals like ‘no payments, no interest for 6 months’. Doing that right now, the money you save this winter with a more efficient furnace will go a fair way toward paying for the furnace. Like a 30% more efficient furnace would have saved you $121.50 on the last bill. And since it’s your option – you aren’t in a rush to replace a dead furnace – you can look around at more companies, and might get them to give better bids.

My furnace went out last winter, and I replaced it quickly, even though I didn’t have the spare cash to do that. I got free financing for 120 days, which made it possible. But the plan had no interest only if I paid it in full at 120 days – otherwise there was interest retroactive to day 1. I watched for that, and did pay it all off at 115 days. But even if I hadn’t, the interest rate wasn’t too bad – much better than credit card rates!

I’ll second the energy audit. But also, a cheap quick tip is a water heater blanket. It’s just an insulated wrap for the water heater. It pays for itself in two months or so.

Dropping 6 degrees in 45 minutes does seem pretty fast. You may want to consider that film you can put on windows. Or, buy a stick of incense, and carry it around all of the windows, around the seams. You may be able to find a leaky window or two. There is a great new product that I’ve seen around, in the caulk aisle of your home improvement store. Removable caulk. So if you find a leaky window, you can plug it for the winter and take it off in the summer. Because between you and me, those plastic window seals are dog ass ugly.