Our gas heater may be killing me slowly

I’m curious: how much do your power bills go up in winter?

In the summer months we’ve been using 4-5 units of power a day, spending around $40 a month.

In May and June we used an average of 7 units a day, costing $55/60 a month respectively.

In July, that went up to 7.5 units and $70 – a wee bit worrying since we also started using our old gas heater partway through July rather than our inefficient little fan heater, which I thought would save us money on power. Apparently not! Add on the $30 it cost us for a gas bottle (which only lasted us the month) and we spent $100 in this area in July. (More than double our summer expenditure!)

As a reminder, we live in a tiny little house – our flat is one bedroom, one bathroom, with a small, long open space that’s about half kitchen and half lounge.

Add on to this the fact that while reading random things online, I found out that our gas heater may be slowly releasing toxic fumes into the house. It heats up super quickly, which is great, but being an ‘unflued’ heater gives off unhealthy gases into the surrounding areas.

I can testify that sometimes I get prickly eyes when it’s on, and in the past couple of weeks  that old tightness in my chest has returned, much like at our last house.

So, I guess after this gas bottle runs out, that’s it. We’ll be looking for a better form of electric heater for next winter.

It’s galling enough we have to shoulder the burden of heating this freezing place (the coldest yet of several extremely cold places we’ve rented) to a bearable indoor standard. But having our heating source slowly poisoning us? Gotta draw the line somewhere.

God, I can’t wait to buy a house.

17 thoughts on “Our gas heater may be killing me slowly

  • Reply Morgaine August 22, 2014 at 07:33

    You don’t even want to know how much it costs to heat an 1800 sq ft house in Canada during the winter 😉

  • Reply Linda August 22, 2014 at 09:18

    Yeah, that does sound like a lot for such a small place. Last winter we had really bitter weather here in Chicago, so my gas bill was outrageous. I’m on what is called a “budget plan” that spreads out the costs over the course of the year, so that softens the blow a bit. Nonetheless, my natural gas usage was so high last winter that my “budget plan” payment is currently $250 a month. Remember it’s summer here so my gas usage is at it’s lowest. I’m paying that much to make up for how much gas I used last winter. Before I went on the budget plan a few years ago I had some months where I paid $400-500 a month for heat. My house is much larger than yours, though, so maybe I still am coming out better than you.

    • Reply eemusings August 22, 2014 at 11:30

      Your house is ENORMOUS by our standards 🙂 and definitely compared to our current place, which is probably about half of just your main floor alone (like, your living room + kitchen and maybe your bathroom)

  • Reply Raquel August 22, 2014 at 09:47

    Wow your power bills are cheap! In summer we pay about $90/month, and my biggest bill this winter was $180. We’re a couple in Wellington, uninsulated and drafty house.

    • Reply eemusings August 22, 2014 at 11:30

      Like I said we live in a tiny place! Bills were higher when we lived in a full house.

  • Reply Tracey August 22, 2014 at 10:28

    Our power bills haven’t changed much from summer to winter this year – usually around $85. That’s for two people, but we don’t use heaters much. I’ve had the place insulated as much as possible and replaced the windows over time with double-glazing, but it can still be freakin’ cold. A few years ago our bills were around $50-$60, but power prices have risen a lot since then.

  • Reply SP August 22, 2014 at 13:24

    I have never heard of buying gas by the bottle – is that the norm there?

    We will be getting our first gas bills this month. In general, we paid $15 – $30 month for power in rentals in SoCal (no A/C, limited heat). In the midwest, I think my power bills were closer to $50 in the winter for a 1 bdrm apartment. Heating a house… I don’t want to know!

    Oh, but we are planning on replacing our furnace very soon in our new house, and that will be approx. $5k, so… homeownership has plusses & minuses!

    • Reply eemusings August 22, 2014 at 13:27

      Our gas heater runs on an LPG bottle.

      And if you’ve read my other posts on the state of rental housing in NZ, you know why I wrote that last line…

      Growing up we hardly used heaters at all because we lived in a properly built and insulated house. Had no idea gas heaters even existed let alone that there were good and toxic types!

      Is a furnace a fireplace?

  • Reply Anon August 22, 2014 at 19:31

    Ditch the gas heater. Even an oil column heater wld be better (gas heaters also add to the water load thus making things damp(er) in already damp Auckland). Pull the curtains before the sun goes down. Use plastic to ‘double-glaze’ your windows during winter. Wear slippers! Keep bathroom laundr and toilet doors closed. An electric blanket on your bed rather than heat yr bedroom. I paid Contact $145 for last month (electricity only; gas hot water on top). I think this month will be similar. Oftentimes Sept is the worst month. But, I’m waaaaay down South from you. Keep warm!

  • Reply Michelle August 23, 2014 at 01:41

    I live in a tiny place so the range can be anywhere from $25-$100 a month. That’s me not being frugal and ridiculously cold Colorado winters. I just refuse to be cold. I will economize in other parts of my life so that I can be warm.

    I am now ranting.

    I am paying extra on my electric bill so that the cost is lower or has a credit going into the winter months. Luckily for you-Spring is on its way!

  • Reply Cassie August 23, 2014 at 12:40

    My duplex was about 1500 sqft, and my gas bills would be around $110 a month during the winter. That being said, I would also have an electric heater going in my bedroom at night, so a portion of my electrical bill would go to that as well.

    May I ask what you do in the house to retain heat? I know there’s only so much you can do about lack of insulation, but do you have issues with drafts as well? During the winter I put a plastic film up over all of the windows in the house that open to prevent outside air from circulating inside. I’ve also put weather stripping on a magnetic strip and hung it up on the door to prevent drafts from a poor doorframe fit (my external doors were metal). Insulated curtains can also help.

    • Reply eemusings August 23, 2014 at 13:09

      Not sure I follow – Are you talking about this stuff or something else? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Window_insulation_film Is the plastic film supposed to help somehow when the windows are open? Or do you just mean they help when the windows are closed? Or both, ie just in general? I’ve been reading a lot online this month and hear good things about the plastic stick on stuff and wondering if it’s worth a try. (Our windows are all dark tinted for some reason, not sure if that makes any difference. Makes it horrible to step outside for the first time on a sunny day.)

      I don’t *believe* drafts are an issue as it’s actually a fairly newly built property. Doors and windows are all new and don’t have issues with gaps or fit. I am flabbergasted that such a new construction could be such an icebox. But it was obviously not a ‘nice’ job – this is basically a sleepout type dwelling. I didn’t *think* it was a converted garage (that happens a lot here and at a previous house our bedroom was a converted garage) but now I’m second guessing that assumption.

      We have fitted vertical blinds here, not curtains. Definitely do not plan to stay here beyond another year or two tops.

      I would say ventilation is an issue though – obviously we have to open windows at regular points even in winter to ventilate or we’ll be living in a moist swamp indoors. We have window stays so we can leave them open during the day to air out and then close them when we get home in the evening, but of course that means coming home to an extra freezing house on those days.

      It just pisses me off. Until I moved out of home I never realised how terrible housing could be. I’ve never been inside an owned house remotely as cold/damp as a rental, and I cannot wait to get out of renting.

      It shouldn’t be this hard … we don’t have an extreme climate and it doesn’t even snow.

  • Reply Funny about Money August 23, 2014 at 13:12

    Uh, wait, what: “unflued”? Is that legal? Run, don’t walk away from that place.

    What kind of gas do you burn? Is LPG the same as propane? Here in the Yoonited States, propane is a VERY expensive way to heat a living space — it would be cheaper by far to heat with space heaters or to hardwire in electric wall heaters.

    Seriously, if your heater isn’t vented, you’d be well advised to just eat the cost of the rest of the gas and get space heaters ASAP. That’s outrageously unsafe.

    LOL! You have my sympathies… I remember how cold it was in London, back in the day…yowie! We did go out and get a couple of electric space heaters, which helped, sorta. Especially if you sat right in front of one of them. The fireplace had been retrofitted with a kind of space heater, too, but it was useless.

    My house has a heat pump (electric: AC and heater in one unit). In the winter, when I don’t run the heat at all the power bill is about NZ$71/month. If we get a cold snap and I have to turn the central heat on (usually an electric space heater will suffice), it’ll be around NZ$95. The gas bill (water and stove cooktop) runs about $NZ36 all year round.

    In the summer, though, when the air conditioning bangs away 24/7, a typical July power bill can be about NZ $270. That’s with the thermostat set at 80, meaning most of the house is at about 82 or 83 degrees F. (27.8 to 28.3 degrees C.) for 1860 square feet. That’s actually a fairly low summer bill — my son’s summertime bill runs upwards of NZ$357 in July & August.

    • Reply eemusings August 23, 2014 at 13:24

      From Googling it seems unclear – they’re banned in many other countries but looks like the odd unflued heater is still available for retail sale here. And obviously lots of them still floating around in people’s homes. When T’s family had one spare sitting we grabbed it; only chance web browsing last month informed me that we shouldn’t be using them at all. If you’re looking for it, there’s tons of info out there about the health hazards… but you gotta be looking! Having grown up in a decently warm house I knew nothing about these kinds of heaters – didn’t even know they EXISTED until this one fell into our laps. Guess it’s going back to their garage for good. It’s a shame – it heats up the place, fast! Faster than any electric heater I’ve ever used. If ever a place needed a fixed form of inbuilt heating, it’s this place.

      But I will be grateful for our summers – even 27 degrees indoors is insanely high! I could probably handle it but T would want it at more like 20 or below, which sounds like it would bankrupt us by your numbers.

  • Reply cyclist August 31, 2014 at 16:43

    I remember doing a conversion calc a while back and finding that the self-filled LPG bottles work out more expensive per unit than electricity. Combine that will the extra moisture etc, then definitely best avoided.

    Your best bet would be to try and persuade your landlord to install a heat pump. Failing that, have a look around for portable heat pumps. The Dimplex ones for example are around 1.5 kW input power (so roughly $0.35/hr to run at continuous full output), and put out 3.5 kW of heat – or about the same as the LPG heater. (There is presently one on Trademe on the North Shore)

    Your present power usage is insanely (impressively) low. Even in a modern build you still need to spend some $ to stay warm. A heat pump is about as efficient as it gets.

    • Reply eemusings August 31, 2014 at 16:55

      It’s low because we live in a tiny, tiny place (as described in the post). We’ve lived in bigger places – proper 3 bedroom houses – before, and power bills were proportionately higher. But this is the coldest place we’ve ever rented and we’ve never had to spend so much more proportionately in winter. It’s less the raw $ as $50 a month is not a lot, but more the overarching principle; I’m so sick of what passes for ‘housing’ in NZ, because otherwise this is a pretty great country to live.

      I grew up in a newly built house (my parents built their own) and we barely ever had to use heaters AT ALL. No heat pump either. Quite literally, the only thing we regularly used was leaving towels on the oil fin heater to warm up while we were in the shower since we had no heated towel rails (yes I know that’s a bit naughty). The same is true of the other newer places we’ve rented … this one is a total anomaly, even colder than the old bungalow we last lived in.

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank September 3, 2014 at 22:48

    Mine is 2000 sqft, and my gas bill would normally go up to $150 per month in winter. I would also have electric heaters in bedrooms and in living room, so my electric bill will skyrocket as well! 🙁

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