Saturday, January 9, 2010

My crystal ball

Ah, the future is dim! But in my crystal ball I see.... wailing and gnashing of teeth! Luxuries and comforts foregone, hopes dashed! Coming soon, very soon, even.... yes, next month I see it. As those pernicious envelopes are ripped open and the figure is glimpsed, people all across these cold-blasted lands will curse in anguish at their heating bill.

Here in Oklahoma, we have had a run of freezing weather not seen in decades. Record lows from the 19th century have been broken. Schools are being closed so that kids with "insufficient outerwear" will not have to walk to school or stand outside for the buses; and perhaps so the heating bill for the school won't be quite so bad.

We have a geothermal heating system that keeps our electric bill (which includes heating, water heating and cooling) very reasonable. We were warned by the geo installer not to vary the temperature up and down over the course of the day because it would not reduce our heating costs. In the last few days, with lows hovering under 10 degrees, our secondary backup electric heating system has been kicking in. This is a bad sign, because that furnace is way, way, less efficient than the geo. But the geo just can't keep up when it gets this cold.

So start planning for a large heating bill next month, my friends, even if you have turned down the thermostat lower than normal and started wearing hats in the house. I anticipate a bill at least 50% higher than a usual January. We've lowered the thermostat two degrees (a pittance!) in an effort to keep the electric furnace from running, so maybe it won't be that bad. We won't know for sure until that fateful day arrives.... Until then, I can just hope that this weather will FINALLY kill off the squash bugs that have lived in my garden for the last two years straight.


Sharlene T. said...

Just had to cheer us up, didn't you! Let's hope this cold spell moves on, soon.

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The Raven said...

It is getting pretty scary out there. I think your prediction is spot on. The combination of cold weather and increased energy prices, on top of the economy, is going to make it a hard winter.

I can't wait to hear more about your fireplace insert. It sounds like you've found something that you might be able to do a little cooking on as well?

Mrs. Money said...

I am dreading that bill! :(

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Raven - Because our hearth is only 12 inches deep, we can't use a hearth stove (which is like a wood stove, but inserts into the fireplace). But there are a few fireplace inserts that extend 7 inches or so onto the hearth, which would JUST allow us to put a saucepan or two on and warm up/boil water, that would let us cook some pasta, fry up eggs, make smaller soups, etc. So those are the ones we're looking at.

In addition, I've heard that you can cook inside the fireplace with cast iron on a grate - soups, stews, casseroles and such. That might just be a little more hassle.

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eatclosetohome said...

We're considering a ground-source heat pump (geothermal) and I'm curious - how much did your electric bill change compared to the previous year? And what is "cold" there in OKC? I live in southern Michigan; highs in the 20s and lows in the single digits are normal, and we can expect a couple cold spells where lows get down to -10 to -20 at night. Would we be living on that supplemental electric heat?

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Eatclosetohome -

We saved about 30 - 45% on the bills - considering that we installed insulation and weatherizing at the same time. It's hard to compare since natural gas and electricity are priced differently, but we did save money. Here's the details:

I would definitely talk to people in your climate, not mine, before making that kind of investment. We are usually more like in the 40's, low's in the 20's. We are a Southern Zone 7 here, so the coldest it ever gets is 0 to 10 degrees.

I think that they would "size" the system (we have a certain tonnage unit) to your climate conditions, but I don't really know so don't want to comment.

Wendy said...

Heating costs is exactly why we decided to go with a woodstove. Here in Maine, electric heat is incredibly inefficient (and expensive) and it gets too cold for a geothermal system (we looked into it and it's not recommended for my climate - zone 5a). Most people heat with oil or gas furnaces, which, in 2008 became cost prohibitive for a lot of people. It was then that we replaced our old woodstove with a more efficient model, and at present, we are heating our house solely with free wood ;).