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Understanding Your Energy: Thermostats & Oil Furnaces

Before I became an blogger and a budgeting coach I worked in the energy industry for a regional energy provider. For 13 years I was immersed in all things heat oil, diesel fuel, HVAC and other energy products.

When I started as a call center representative I could’t tell a furnace from a boiler and I had no idea what forced hot air heat was. But after 13 years of doing everything from customer service to product-line management and a whole bunch in between, I learned a great deal.  Now, I’m sharing what I know with you so you can glean some insight and save money too.

Thermostats and oil furnace tips

T-Stat Talk

The thermostat may seem like the hub of your heating and cooling system but it is really just like the remote for your television. Your T-stat measures the temperature in the room and calls for heat as needed. This makes the furnace run.

Manual T-Stats

If you have a manual thermostat that means you adjust it and the furnace will run in accordance to the temperature you set it at. It will take you some planning but you can save money by making minor adjustments throughout the day.

  • Adjust your thermostat down 5-10 degrees at night and turn it up fist thing in the morning
  • Adjust your thermostat down 5 degrees when you leave the house for several hours

Programmable T-Stats

Programmable thermostats give you the ability to “set it and forget it”. You get the savings benefits of the daily adjustments without needing to remember to make them.  The other great thing about installing a programmable control is you can adjust it to heat or cool in anticipation of your return home.

No matter what type of T-stat you have it is important to remember that over adjusting it can have a negative effect on your savings. When it’s extremely cold outside kicking the control upward may make little difference in your air temperature. There are other factorst that must be considered when it comes to your home’s temperature:

  • Insulation
  • Windows
  • Age and condition of your furnace
  • Age of your home
  • Outside temperature (Many times, in extreme cold your heating unit simply cannot keep up with the demand and will run constantly but you won’t feel any warmer. Throw on a sweater, let in some sunlight and make a cup of tea but don’t jack up your thermostat.)


Oil Heat Insight

At one point in my energy career I did admin management in our HVAC department. I fielded many calls and questions about service work that was done or needed done to maximize oil furnace efficiency.

Annual Tune-Up/Cleaning

To maximize efficiency your oil-fired furnace or boiler needs to be cleaned annually. Ask your oil provider if they perform annual maintenance or find a local heating and cooling shop that can clean your furnace. If done annually, this should not cost more than $200 depending on where you live.

Take advantage of off-season specials if you can. There’s a misconception that your furnace should be cleaned in the fall before you start using it. While it’s good to clean in before the colder months, you could have it cleaned in June and it will be fine till the Fall. After all, once cleaned if it goes unused it isn’t going to get dirty.

When you have a tune up/cleaning the following should be checked/replaced:

  • Air Filter replaced
  • Oil Filter replaced
  • Nozzle replaced
  • Chimney Flue checked for proper draft/lightly cleaned*
  • Efficiency test done
  • Wiring and amperage checked
  • Burner checked for proper ignition and flame and cleaned
  • Blower should be checked
  • Thermostat checked

There are many other things that could be checked so don’t be afraid to ask what is done and what costs extra. Many times there are things discovered during the tune up that need to be fixed but are not part of the tune up cost. Your technician should go over that with you and either they or the office should be able to provide you with a quote for the work needed.

*Remember, a service technician is not a chimney sweep. The technician is not responsible for cleaning your entire chimney.

Oil Heat Facts

Oil gets a bad rap as being “dirty” but oil is 95% cleaner today than in 1970. Sulfur regulations on the state and national level have reduced the emissions of oil and today we have clean burning Bio-Fuel which is derived from soybeans and made in the United States.

Oil is all from the Middle East, in fact, the United States imported more oil from Canada than Iraq and Saudi Arabia combined in 2010.


What energy questions do you have?

Comment below and your questions might appear in the next post. Speaking of posts, stay tuned for more tips on oil tanks, propane gas and the best of all, pricing options.


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  1. This is all new information to me. I need to bkeep up on stuff like this. It would be smart.

  2. Very interesting! I’ve always wondered how I should adjust the temperature at night and when leaving the house to save energy.

  3. Thanks for your information about heating your home with oil furnaces. I know that these are popular in many parts of the country where it can get really cold. I like your tips about how your oil-fired furnace needs to be cleaned annually. This sounds like an important factor to keep heating repair costs down. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind if I buy a home that has an oil furnace.

  4. I like that this is all about saving energy and money. I grew up in a house that was very energy conscious and I’m that way today. Another thing that helps is to utilize the solar energy coming through the windows. I can notice a big difference during the day, but at night it gets cold again. The fact stated about oil being 95% cleaner than it used to was a surprise to me. I’ll also make sure I get the annual tune up when I move. Thanks for the information!

  5. Thanks for posting this information about oil heat. I didn’t realize that oil is 95% cleaner than it was in 1970. It’s surprising that reduced emissions of oil have make it a more clean burning bio-fuel.

  6. I have heard a lot of good things about programmable thermostats. Like you said, you can just “set it and forget it”, which would be really nice. I was unaware, however, that over-adjusting it can still cost you more money. Thanks for the information!

  7. My heating bill is too high for my taste, so I need to find ways to lower it. We still have a manual thermostat, so I need to remember to lower it at night and when we leave the home. What if I were to lower it more than 5 degrees? Would that help even more?

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