Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Cost of Heating a Rural Home in Scotland - Part 1

Burning Coal

Following on from previous post, I have been trying to assess the cost of 'fire fuel' and electricity in order to budget more wisely for these things in the future.

Our new home is a stone-built, 3-bedroom, end terraced cottage, located in a fairly rural area of Scotland. The cottages in our block are over two hundred years old, single-glazed with slate roofs. There are no options for things like cavity wall insulation or loft insulation, as we have no cavities and no lofts.

We hope to remedy the problems as we progress with the renovation, but I suspect the property may take quite some time to dry out completely after lying empty for a couple of years. Leaking roof and burst pipes can't have helped, especially after the past two winters endured.

The only form of heating is by way of an open fire in the livingroom, with a backboiler that now heats water and three radiators. Until we can upgrade this to a more efficient stove system, we are probably losing more heat straight up the old chimney than gets into the room!

Coal is now £12.80 per 50kg bag when buying the cheapest available. In June, when we first moved into the house, I bought 4 bags at £11.80 per bag. In September, I stocked up with half a tonne for the special price of £108.00 and then added a further 250kg to this at a cost of £60.00

The total spend on coal since arriving here has been £215.20, equating to 22.65 pence per kilo delivered. For ease of calculation, we'll call it 23p per kilo. (In 2012, the cheapest coal will be 25.6p per kilo, assuming no further price increases.)

The first 'experiment', carried out yesterday, was to light the fire at 6.30am and keep it burning all day to calculate coal costs.

Before filling it with coal, I weighed the scuttle - it holds 8kg of coal, so costs £1.84 to fill. I used two of these between 7am and 11pm , so the open fire is consuming 1 kg (23p) of coal per hour. If I factor in the need for a firelighter and the sticks used for kindling, then add on a log last thing at night, it creeps up to approximately £4 per day. For that, we have hot water and 3 rooms with a source of heat.

Then there's electricity, with the first 25p per day being taken up on standing charges. We are getting through approximately 15 units of electricity per day, mainly because the house is occupied all day, every day, the shower is electric and we now have a convector heater set on low, running 24/7. A single kWh of electricity costs 12.24p, so that's another £1.84 per day.

In this, the first of a series of cost comparisons, the overall total for heat, light, hot water and power in our rural, frugal household is costing £6.09 per day or £42.63 per week.

(The above cannot be said to 'warm' the house, as most of the heat is being lost through the kitchen roof at the moment.)

NYK Media


  1. Hi Frugaldom.

    I have been told that seventy percent of heat is lost up a open chimney. However. I think six pounds a day is very reasonable indeed!

    Years ago the country people used to go to bed early to save electricity. Do we ruin our eyesight with electric light? Perhaps we should go back to 'rush' lights. I can sell you a few clumps of rushes very cheap!

  2. Good calculations, I'll reference this when we move to see how we do with oil fired central heating and water, electric cooking and a woodburner.

    Although I'm not sure how to go about the oil calculations, I guess I'll have to let the tank get as low as possible, then fill it and wait until we've used virtually all of it to calculate a time scale of usage, so it will be a long drawn out calculation.

    Can you think of a better way?

    It is nice to know the costs though isn't it....even if they are a bit scary!

    Sue xx

  3. Reference being unable to have cavity wall insulation. Umpteen years ago, a friend of my lived in a run down Victorian terrace. It was near the river so always felt cold and damp. He also couldn't insulate the inside of the walls so he rigged up false walls - maybe not cost effect in materials but his house was certainly better insulated afterwards. Anyway, he put up wooden battens on the walls then pasted foil (shiny side facing towards his old wall) onto the back of boards. He boarded the whole room and decorated over the top of it (think he used hardboard but not sure. He left a very small gap at the base of each wall/skirting to allow it to breathe. I know nowadays you can get expensive foil backed insulating boards but he was hard up. I think I've remembered this properly but you might need to check with someone if this is correct.

    Also, well done on your calculations. We are now taking notes of how many logs a day we are using (whilst the heating is still off) so we can calculate how far our next delivery will go!

  4. Sue15cat.....if you are using oil for your heating, do not let the tank get too low before filling it or you will draw sediment into your boiler.

    Our neighbour at the cottage almost ran out of oil in last years bad weather. After she had filled the tank filled she noticed a drop in efficiency of her boiler and it also started emmitting black smoke when it was working. The new delivery of oil had disturbed the sediment in the tank, the boiler service man had to take her boiler to pieces and clean it. He told her in future not to the the tank get much less than 1/4 full before getting more oil delivered.

  5. Following a dawn until dusk lifestyle is great during the longer days but there just aren't enough hours in the day to warrant that during winter, especially with one of the household in fulltime, regular hours, employment. At the moment, there is no heat left in the house by the time we all get up, hence the reason I have the electric heater plugged in for instant warmth whenever it's needed.

    On the insulation front, the foil-backed plasterboard is what we will be using throughout the house, including the ceilings, then there will hopefully be the sheep wool insulation behind that, as it helps with any condensation problems. Very expensive to implement but it will be done over a long period, one room at a time. Main problem there will be in the attic bedrooms, as we need all the rooms functional all the time when there are 3 of us living here. We'll need to rotate use of the livingroom as a bedroom during that work.

    Calculating oil prices would probably be best done using the measuring gauge, starting bang o one mark and calculating to the next mark, assuming you know what each represents - are they marked in gallons?

    Silver, we were always told the same thig about car fuel tanks - best bot run to near empty as it helps prevent sediment from entering the engine parts.

    Today is log and coal combination day. :)

  6. I am watching this with beady eyes I am dreading the oil heating at the new house. Been doing some research on low wattage panel heaters but can't find any user feedback rather than"manufaturer claims"


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