A great many homeowners in the area I live in rely on heating oil to keep their homes warm during the winter. The most common arrangement is an oil-fueled water furnace that heats water for baseboard radiators, and sometimes radiant heat floors. Seems like a no-brainer to save on heating costs during the summer, no? But there's a simple way to save more oil, beyond just not needing any heat for the home. Because in most cases, the temperature for the hot water that comes out of the tap is controlled by the same setting as the water for the radiators.
I've found myself lately taking very tepid showers, trying to cool down during the hottest period of the year. I don't take truly cold showers, but I'm guessing that the temperature that feels good right now is somewhere around 80 to 85 degrees F. Given that the house can be as hot as 80 degrees during the day, there's no risk of a chill. But the wintertime setting for our hot water is 160 degrees. For our personal use, we don't need water anywhere near that hot. Our dishwasher heats our water to an appropriately scalding temperature on its own. And I use cold water for nearly all our laundry.
So the simple fix is to lower the setting on the furnace as soon as we no longer need to heat the house. Our gauge actually has two settings, a kick-on setting for the lowest acceptable temperature, and the kick-off setting for the highest necessary temperature. I set the kick-on temperature as low as it could be set: 110 degrees. And the kick-off temperature is a mere ten degrees higher. The water that comes out of the tap is still plenty hot for washing dishes, so I don't worry much about sanitation. If we cook anything particularly bacteria-laden, like meat, we either put the cutting board and kitchen tools through the dishwasher, or sterilize them with bleach. We eat so many vegetables during the summer anyway, just trying to keep up with the output from the garden. In other words, there's no downside. The savings may be small, but it costs us nothing but a minute or two of time to accomplish.
I have no idea how much oil this simple switch is saving us, but at more than $4 per gallon for heating oil, it's something worth doing. I only wish that I had thought of it earlier in the warm months. We've got at least a few more months before we'll need to raise the temperature to effectively heat our home.
If any engineers or heating specialists out there know a way to calculate the savings, please let me know!