In 2003 we purchased our home for a decent price at an exceptional interest rate and in a great neighborhood. The home did need a lot of TLC but we figured it was a good investment for the aforementioned reasons. Immediately we replaced the original boiler with an efficient oil furnace and we closed off the family room in an attempt to conserve heating oil. Our first heating season required 1300 gallons of heating oil.
In 2004, with the arrival of our daughter, we replaced all drafty single-pane windows, non-insulated exterior doors and added hot water baseboard heat to the family room (which we then re-opened). We managed to reduce our heating oil consumption to 1200 gallons. (not too bad considering we heated an additional 600 square feet in the family room area that had been blocked off the year before).
Then, in 2005, oil started to climb in price. We addressed this by setting up a budget which included setting aside enough money each pay period to pay for our projected heating oil needs. And I have to say...we did much better. We even cut back the thermostat setting to conserve even more. All told we only consumed 1100 gallons that season. But then oil prices started to sky rocket and they continued to climb through 2006 and 2007, to the point that by 2008 we grew seriously concerned as to our ability to stay on top of things financially-speaking. (It was not out of realm to pay a $700 heating oil bill and receive another only 3-4 weeks later.) So enters the pellet stove.
In March 2008 we were faced with the decision to save our tax return for the next season's heating bill (projected at $5500), potentially needing to come up with that again the following year OR use the money to invest in alternative energy. (and hopefully get ahead) A pellet stove is expensive but with the threat of $5/gallon oil it became clear which was the smarter investment. So we ordered, ahead of the mad rush of other smart Mainers, and had it installed in April.
It was hard to part with the cash...but it has been totally worth it. We love it! Not only has it transformed a cold, empty brick fireplace into a warm, beautiful centerpiece it also reduced our oil consumption to a mere 400 gallons! Okay, well maybe it doesn't get all the credit because we did also invest in a hot water solar panel system...but that will be another post. That being said, we are incredibly happy with this investment and plan to install another as soon as we can save the cash.