How We Saved 31% on our Heating this Winter

An example of changing one’s orientation

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The Backstory

I am not a fan of corporations. It’s their unaccountable greed that irks me. Case in point: here in Central Europe, because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the wholesale price of natural gas doubled in early winter 2022. Energy corporations responded by raising the price they charge to consumers. Fair enough.

However, interestingly, the energy corporation serving us tripled the retail price. So, yeah, their costs doubled, and they tripled what they charged their customers.

By spring of 2023, the wholesale price of natural gas had fallen to levels below the start of the invasion. That happened because European governments took action to, among other steps, dramatically reduce dependence on Russian natural gas. Even when winter began in 2023, the wholesale price remained below pre-invasion levels.

The cost to energy corporations was now lower than before they raised their retail rates. Did they pass their savings onto consumers? Are you kidding? They continued to charge that tripled rate.

Stonewalled

As was our legal right, we applied in July 2023 to switch to a different energy corporation who would charge us a rate one-third charged by our current price-gouging provider. After a few weeks, the new energy provider said that despite their best efforts, the price-gouging corporation was refusing to allow the transfer. We contacted the price-gouging corporation, and their reply was that they weren’t legally required to release the account until April 2024. If we didn’t like it, we could file a dispute with the appropriate governmental agency. Said agency had a six to eight-month backlog. I could hear the price-gouging corporation laughing at us.

Action

Fine, we said. Frell you, price-gouging corporation. We can live without gas. We bought two electric space heaters and didn’t turn on our radiators all winter. You want to try to exploit us, the price-gouging corporation? We’ll not be your victim.

I grew up, as we all probably did, with the notion that when it gets cold, we fire up the central heating. True, there is a certain comfort in every room in the house being warm when we move about. But, mainly, that’s because it is what we are used to. One can get used to a different way of living, and not waste money and energy hearing empty rooms.

This winter, I was reminded of a tour I took of Split Rock Lighthouse on the northern shore of Lake Superior. The guide explained that in the winter (which in northern Minnesota prior to global warming was quite brutally cold), the lighthouse keeper and his family closed off all but one room of the house. That way, they only had to heat one room. Less firewood was needed to survive the winter. We did a contemporary version of that.

We were soon used to carting around one of the space heaters from room to room — bedroom, offices, dining room, living room, bedroom again. It worked fine, and I have to admit, much better than I anticipated. Given our large 19th century house, we weren’t any colder with the small space heaters than previous winters with the radiators.

Pay Off

Here’s the delicious part. Our action reduced our gas usage 76% over the winter. We still used gas to heat water (showering we did not give up), but not turning on the radiators saved us significant money. Yes, our electric usage went up, but even factoring in the cost of the heaters, we came out ahead. All told, our gas plus electric costs this past year were 31% less than the year before. And we stiffed the price-gouging corporation. Don’t care if they can’t hear me laughing.

I share all of this information not to brag but as an example of how changing one’s thinking and orientation to a situation can result in significant changes. In our case, we switched orientation to heat the person, not the house. Then, it was being willing to do a series of small acts of carrying a heater from one room to another.

Changing how we thought and acted about staying warm saved us the equivalent of $90 a month. Even including the price of the two electric space heaters — one for spouse, one for me to use in our separate offices — we spent less on heat. Plus, we have the heaters again for next winter and hopefully years to come.

Heat the person not the house. Simple lifestyle changes saved us money and reduced the usage of fossil fuels. Think outside the box. There are many more ways to do things than repeating what you are used to doing.

We don’t need to constantly change how we act, but it is good practice to always reassess what we do and why. Be willing to question and be open-minded about other possibilities.

Plus, it sure was fun to stick it to the gas corporation that triples what they charged to consumers when Putin invaded Ukraine but then didn’t lower the prices when the wholesale price of gas declined. Yeah, always good to stand against corporate greed.

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