please help with electric heat and oil questions
We recently purchased a home in Southern Massachusetts. We love the home. We've been dreaming of a home like this but we've not been able to afford it until recently. We've been renters most of our lives and this is our first home.
It was built in 1979 and is mostly pine on a concrete foundation surrounded by woods. We found it in the late summer and closed on it in October. It's up on a mountain about 1600 ft above sea level. It's cool in the summers but colder in the winter (we've realized).
The main part of the house is heated by an oil fueled furnace/forced air and the other part of the house (perhaps a later extension and is mainly the master bedroom and bath) is heated with electric heat through base board units. The thermostats are all from the late 1970s or early 1980s. The electric heat thermostats/dials don't even have a number/farenheit settings but rather a dial with "comfort zones". We keep the house at 60F when we are not home and dial it up to 68-70 when we are home.
When we got our electric bills this month, we PANICKED. We were very shocked at how high it is because of HEAT and now, we think we might not be able to sustain this if it continues. We've used most our savings on the down payment and some minor improvements.
We cannot afford to change the heating system to a more energy efficient system at the moment (and perhaps in the near future). So here are some questions to all of you. Please know that I have some DIY skills but electric is not my strong point.
1.) Because we travel a lot for work and when we're not home, we actually can lower the heat low enough to a manageable temp but warm enough so the pipes don't freeze . What is the ideal temperature for this ? Would it be 50 F?
2.) Is there a way for us to replace the thermostats to a more automatic thermostat units? Something we can do ourselves ? DIY ? Are these units expensive?
3.) I have no idea if the house is efficiently insulated. We don't notice any major drafts. When we did our house inspection, the inspector did not mention any red flags regarding insulation. My guess is that the insulation on the outside walls are still the original insulation from the 1970s. Is this something I can take on myself when the weather warms up ?
4.) Should I consider using a wood burning stove to heat up our master bedroom and bath and not even turning on electric heat at all on that side of the house ? And perhaps just installing an automatic electric heat tape around the water pipes that lead to and from that bathroom ?
5.) Should I consider wrapping the windows with plastic wrap ? I don't know how to do this but I'm sure I can ask the nice people from Home Depot. Have any of you found this effective ?
6.) Is an automatic thermostat/switch for our water heater so it only heats up when we need hot water ? Is this effective ?
7.) Are there any other tips any of you can give us to reduce our electric bill ?
We don't want to have to give up our home just because we can't sustain the high electricity bills.
Any ideas or leads to websites would we most welcome.