Use Less Heating Oil and Save Money This Winter

Posted on October 31 2018

Hot air rises... and other myths

You know that old saying that you’ve probably heard a million times about “hot air rising”?  Yeah? Well, it’s a myth.

While you might be asking yourself, “So what? Who cares if hot air really rises or not? What does it have to do with me and how much heating oil I use?”

Well, what it means for most people is that when you figure out that heat doesn’t just rise up and fly out of your house on its own (Spoiler Alert: It gets pushed!) then you have a much better shot at being able to minimize how much of it you lose day after day, night after night, for the entire heating season.

In a nutshell, just know that cold air is much heavier than warm air because all the molecules in cold air are densely packed together, all snuggled up right close to each other, probably trying to keep each other warm. Meanwhile, back at the other end of the thermometer, all the warm air molecules are jumping all around, whoopin’ it up like a bunch of flamenco dancers at Mardi Gras.

So... here's what happens.

Because hot air molecules are much more active and lighter than cold air molecules, whenever the two meet, the cold (heavier) air immediately sinks to bottom of whatever space they’re in and forces the lighter, warmer air up and out. The bigger the difference in temperature is, the more forceful this exchange becomes.

You can see the same thing happen on a warm, sunny day when you first open your car door and are immediately hit with a wave of hot air from inside the car. What’s really going on is that the cold(er) outside air is actually rushing in to the car and pushing all the hot air out – right into your face.

How homeowners can keep more heat inside

Now that you understand how heat moves - and what causes it to move - the job of making sure that more of the heat you are paying for actually stays in your house just became much easier.

Here's a few things to Ponder.

Addressing cracks, gaps and insulation to use less heating oil

Did you know that often the most effective way to increase the comfort of an upstairs bedroom is by sealing cracks, gaps and adding insulation to your basement?
  • Why? By reducing the amount of cold, outside air that enters through hundreds of tiny (and not so tiny) gaps along the foundation and exterior walls, you not only make the basement temperature more comfortable, you also reduce the amount of force that’s pushing warm air up and out of your house.
  • What you can do about it. Before you go spending hundreds of dollars on space heaters and ugly sweaters, spend $20 on a good caulking gun and some expanding spray foam like GreatStuff and start sealing. You may be surprised at how less drafty other rooms become. 

Use the Right Thermostat to Save Money

Did you know that keeping your homes thermostat set to the same temperature (72°F) all winter will actually cause you to lose more heat, faster than leaving a window open and using a programable thermostat?
  • Why? The hotter it is inside – and the colder it is outside – the more motivated heat becomes to try and find a way out. That’s why it’s gonna take a heck of a lot more energy to keep a house warm at 72°(F) when its 15°(F) outside then when its 55°(F).
  • What you can do about it. Switch out your old manual thermostat for a programmable one. They’re simple to install and can be set to automatically turn on and off at specific times of the day or night. That way, you’re not paying for “extra” heat when no one is home or when you’re snug as bug in bed (asleep).
  • Don’t ignore your basement. Understanding that basements are the biggest entryway for cold air to enter your home, look into ways of adding insulation directly to the walls, ceiling and sealing around the sill plate (the long piece of wood that sits directly on top of the foundation wall) to reduce the amount of incoming air.

Interested in more heating oil tips? Check out Heating Oil Use Tips.

It's all connected, man.

If you start thinking about your house as an interconnected system - where ever change in one part of the house has an effect that can be felt elsewhere - it becomes easier to see how making some very basic home maintenance improvements can all add up to making your home more comfortable and using less heating oil.

Learn more about Heating Oil

Visit our Ultimate Consumer’s Guide to Heating Oil for everything you need to know about heating your home with #2 heating oil.

Stay cozy out there!
The Heatable Crew