Alternative heating fuels

As I posted earlier, we are bracing for very high heat costs this winter. Hubby and I live in an old house with boiler heat. Our heat system is very efficient, but we have almost no insulation in the house, save the attic and new windows. I’ve been trying to line up a home energy audit, but unfortunatly our utility company doesn’ t offer free ones and I’m struggling to find someone who I think would be impartial.

Just two days ago, our budget gas bill just went up to $148 per month, up from $119 per month. This bill covers the fuel costs for our furnace, hot water heater, gas stove, and gas fireplace. Doing a bit of analysis, using our summer gas costs compared with winter gas costs, I estimate 75% of the gas we use is for home heat purposes, and 25% is for the stove and hot water heater. Last year, we spent $1,000 on home heat, and this year we will likely spend at least $1300, and possibly as much as $1,700 or higher if this is a cold winter.

Being the Savvy Saver, I can’t help but think there has to be substantial opportunities for savings, but the nature of our house (open floor plan, high ceilings, construction that prohibits the installation of insulation in the walls, a gazillion windows) means we will need to be creative.

I’ve been looking into alternative heat systems that we can use in combination with our current boiler. I just spoke with a local heating company about an indoor wood-burning boiler that would run in parallel with our current gas boiler, meaning the gas boiler would only operate when the wood boiler was out of fuel. This is a possibility for us because we have access to unlimited amounts of wood, providing we cut and haul it ourselves. We also have a room in the basement where there used to be a fuel oil boiler that would be the perfect place for a new boiler and a small amount of wood storage (the pervasive smell from the old fuel oil means this room can’t be used for much of anything else).

I plan to do some research to see how much we could possibly save on our gas bill by going this route. At a budget bill amount of $148 per month, if we saved half of our heating costs, we could potentially save $664 a year. If we saved 75% of our gas heating costs, we could save almost $1,000. I don’t know if these estimates are realistic, so I will need to do more research. I also plan to run a breakeven analysis once I receive the estimate.

Do you heat your house with alternative fuel or do you know anyone who does? Any information I can get would be helpful!