Metrowest Daily News

Warming trends
Tuesday, October 31, 2002

Joyce Mueller's house looks like many other houses built around MetroWest during the 1950s.

Known as a Campanelli slab - after the builder who put up thousands of ranch houses in the area - it was never an easy home to heat.

The houses were built with a series of heating coils in the concrete floors. Hot air rises from the floor to heat the whole house. But it is not the most efficient way to heat a home, according to local energy experts.

Mueller got tired of her rising heating bills, and recently converted to a baseboard heating system that allows her to control the heat in different areas of the house. Now she can turn the heat to 70 degrees in her bedroom and turn it down in the living room while she sleeps.

With heating oil costs expected to skyrocket again this year, many MetroWest homeowners are taking steps to keep bills low.

New Englanders living at the end of the fuel supply line and without an oil refinery in the region, stand to be the hardest hit by soaring oil prices as cold weather sets in...

there are other less expensive ways to lower heating bills without replacing an entire heating system, local home oil retailers said.

"You can spend zillions of dollars, but what you really want to do is spend as little as possible to save as much as you can," said Tom Carey, president of Jamie Oil in Framingham.

Carey walked through Mueller's Framingham home recently to find ways to save her money.

Windows and doors are the biggest heat-loss culprits. Anywhere light peeks through, heat escapes, Carey said, examining a crack at the bottom of Mueller's front door.

"For $15 you can replace the metal striking plate at the bottom of the door and take care of that draft," Carey said.

The easiest way to save money: turn the heat down at night or during the day when no one is home. Buy be careful not to turn it too low - nothing under 60 degrees - because pipes can freeze and burst, oil heat retailers said.

"You can outsmart yourself," Carey said. "When it is extremely cold, turning down zones (areas of the house) that are exposed to the elements could freeze pipes."

If homeowners cannot trust themselves to remember to turn the heat down when they go to bed or when they leave the house for work, a clock thermostat will do the trick. Available at any hardware store, clock thermostats - which sell for around $130 - can be programmed to lower or raise heat at set times...