Really thick socks
May 14, 2006 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow I sign a lease for a huge old house built in the 1800's, and I am worried about how much oil will be required to heat the place. How can this be predicted without appropriate historical data?

Until recently the landlord's family lived in the house and utilized both a wood stove and a combination wood/oil furnace. My group is not allowed to burn wood, however, so the amount of oil used in years past is not particularly helpful. Additionally, the landlord's profession affords him free hardwood so the amount of wood burned is unknown.

What we do know is that last year there were 700 gallons of oil used with unknown amount of wood. Someone I spoke with at the oil company suggested estimating oil usage by dividing square footage in half (4000/2 = 2000 gallons).

The house is about 4,000 square feet with 10-foot ceilings. There are storm windows installed, but they are old and not airtight. I don't know how insulated the walls are. The furnace is old enough that there is a hatch to put wood in, and if there's no wood to burn it automatically draws from the oil tank. This is in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

[For reedavid. ]
posted by brundlefly to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Where I live, in Michigan, this could cost you several thousand dollars in natural gas to heat in a winter, depending on its severity, how cold you are willing to be and how much insulation is in the house.

As for oil, I would guess it is about the same.
posted by 517 at 5:43 PM on May 14, 2006

One of my friends rented a house in Ottawa from January to April one winter. The house was about 2000 square feet and it cost C$6,400. And that was in 1994.
posted by acoutu at 5:51 PM on May 14, 2006

Is this what they refer to as "oil duct heat"? I am in the market for buying a house, and that term has been driving me nuts - hadn't ever heard it before, and searches only seemed to give me info on either oil or ducts but never both. I'm keeping an eye on this thread as it may be darn useful to me.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:53 PM on May 14, 2006

Oil duct heating generally means a forced air system that is powered by heating oil rather than natural gas. You have to buy the oil and a truck delivers it to your house. (sorry if that last part was obvious but some people have never dealt with or even heard of it before)
posted by 517 at 6:01 PM on May 14, 2006

You should probably get an energy audit. That'll give you some idea how much oil you'll need.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:03 PM on May 14, 2006

If the place was built in the 1800s, there won't be any insulation.

Insulation may have been added since the 19th century. You should find out if it has been blown into the walls or if rolls of the pink stuff have been put down into the attic/crawlspace. If not, maybe you can make some sort of deal with the landlord to insulate that attic, he pays for the material, you do the labor.

Careful not to freeze any pipes when closing off rooms.

Biodiesel in upstate NY? I'd doubt that it would be available or that the landlord would allow it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:45 PM on May 14, 2006

I live in a 1925 1200 square foot brick house, essentially uninsulated, in the North Carolina mountains, where we have winter, and it snows & gets cold, but it's nowhere near the severity of upstate New York. Last winter I used about 500 gallons of oil (oil running at about $2 or more a gallon, and around here they won't deliver less than 100 gallons) to keep the house at roughly 55 degrees and basically I froze to death. That was with all the windows plasticked over and so on. I'm already dreading next winter.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:16 PM on May 14, 2006

I have a five bedroom, 3 1/2 story Queen Anne house that was built in 1910 and is sparsely insulated, at best, and have lived in 19th century houses my entire life. I can probably spitball an answer to your question, but I need a bit more information first:

+ Radiators, Forced Hot Air, or Something Else?

+ Does your furnace also provide the hot water for the house, or is hot water heated seperately?

+ How many rooms upstairs and how many downstairs? Is there more than one stairway? How many stories is the house?

Answer in thread or email me -- my email is in my profile.
posted by anastasiav at 9:15 PM on May 14, 2006

The system is forced hot air. The hot water is heated separately by propane. The house has one staircase.

House layout:
•Basement appartment with windows and door at ground level (Furnace is in the underground portion of this level).

•First floor has four spaces: large hallway, large living/dining rooms, and narrow kitchen.

•Second floor has four spaces: two large bedrooms, one small bedroom, large hallway.

•Third floor is essentially one large space under the peaked roof, but there are two bedrooms that are walled off and have a lower ceiling that acts as a storage loft. I'm pretty certain that the peaked ceiling is finished, but I don't know about insulation. There is one ceiling fan that I hope might push some of the hottest air back towards the part of the room where people are.

Thank you for your help.
posted by reeddavid at 10:22 PM on May 14, 2006

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