Tightening the Building Envelope: How to Minimize Your Home’s Use of Heating Fuel

May 7, 2014

Augusta, Maine – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) conducted its weekly heating fuel price survey on Monday, May 5, 2014, and found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.58 per gallon, down an additional two cents from last week. The average statewide price for kerosene also decreased two cents in the last week, to $4.06 per gallon. Propane prices also continue their decline; the average statewide price for propane (for heating customers) is now $3.04 per gallon, a drop of 10 cents per gallon. Last year at this time, heating oil averaged $3.44 per gallon; kerosene, $3.91, and propane, $2.73.

As the temperatures begin to rise to moderate and comfortable spring temperatures, the Governor’s Energy Office continues its focus on ways for Mainers to improve their home’s energy and cost efficiency. This week’s topic is relevant year-round: the building envelope.

Regardless of fuel type used, if a home can’t hold heat in during the winter or hold cool air in during the summer, consumers will lose money due to higher energy bills. The easiest way to fix this problem is to improve the home’s building envelope. This can be done by air sealing the home, or improving the home’s insulation.

Air sealing is the process by which a homeowner reduces the amount of air that leaks in and out of their home. This is primarily done through caulking, weather stripping, and insulation. Each is used to seal cracks and openings that could potentially allow air from the inside to escape and air from the outside to enter. Efficiency Maine monitors such projects throughout the state, and has estimated that, on average, an air sealing project costs $850 to complete (not including available financial incentive). However, it also saved an estimated 8.28 million British thermal units (Btu) of energy per project. To put a dollar amount of those savings, it is the equivalent of approximately 60 gallons of heating oil, which at this season’s average price of $3.71 is equal to about $223. In terms of cooling, air sealing can also decrease the amount of electricity you use to run your air conditioner. Savings will vary quite a bit, depending on your A/C usage.

Insulation is another quick and easy way to save money on heating and cooling your home. According to Efficiency Maine, a home insulation project of about $4,000, that reduced an average home’s heating use by 20%, would save about 160 gallons of oil per year, for an annual cost savings of almost $600.

For more information on air sealing and insulation, and financial incentives for homeowners offered by Efficiency Maine, please visit: http://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-home/weatherization-solutions/

Using this week’s average heating oil price ($3.58) and converting to a common heating unit value (million Btu), the price of fuel oil is $25.81. This compares with an equivalent heating unit value for natural gas of $15.70 (at $1.57/therm); propane, $33.28 (at $3.04/gallon); kerosene $30.07 (at $4.06/gallon); wood pellets, $14.67 (at $242/ton); cord wood, $11.36 (at $250/cord) and electricity, $43.96 (at 15 cents per kwh). These fuel-only prices do not take into account the type of heating system, nor its efficiency.

For example, the electricity cost is for traditional baseboard heat. Other electric heating technologies, such as heat pumps and electric thermal storage (ETS), may offer consumers energy savings. Cold climate heat pumps, a recent technological advancement, are much more efficient than baseboard electric heat, so total energy costs are lower than many other types of heating fuels. ETS offers savings by utilizing off-peak electric rates, available in many areas of the state.

The Energy Office has a calculator on its web site that allows consumers to obtain more detailed estimates of home heating costs, and the price impacts of various types of fuel, heating systems and heating appliances. Heating costs vary considerably from home to home. The home heating calculator can assist homeowners in finding the best heating option for their home, location, lifestyle, and budget http://www.maine.gov/energy/index.html

As of May 5, 2014


Heating Oil

Statewide

Southwest

Central

Eastern

Western

Northern

Average

3.58

3.53

3.61

3.61

3.55

3.70

High

3.83

3.83

3.70

3.74

3.70

3.75

Low

3.30

3.30

3.47

3.35

3.30

3.62

Kerosene

4.06

4.04

4.08

4.06

4.04

4.09

Propane

3.04

3.03

3.16

3.03

2.96

2.99

It is important to note that the price for heating oil is a statewide average, and that prices in a given geographic region of the state may be considerably higher or lower than this average. This week, within the Energy Office sample, the highest heating oil price ($3.83) was found in one region in the state, and the lowest heating oil price ($3.30) was recorded in two regions. Also, the statewide average price for propane is based on a use of at least 900 gallons a year. Households using propane just for cooking or hot water generally pay a higher per gallon price. The table above provides current Maine cash prices in dollars rounded to the nearest penny.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:
Lisa Smith
(207) 624-7445
lisa.j.smith@maine.gov