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September 08, 2005

Winter of our discontent

Heating prices will be nuts. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that. Many people can drive a little less, but there's only so far you can turn the heat down.

The Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday Americans who warm their homes with natural gas could see their fuel costs jump by as much as 71 percent this winter in some parts of the country.

Residential heating bills for heating oil will increase by 31 percent, and electricity users will see their costs rise by 17 percent, the Energy Department's analytical arm said in its latest monthly energy forecast.

I'm not clear on why oil spikes less than gas. In any event, we were already anticipating possibly record prices this winter. People were already hurting last winter. Joe Kennedy will have a busy time of it.

Some people are, uh, cool with the whole situation, though:

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 01:51 PM in Massachusetts, National | Permalink


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You have no idea how much this screws us...

We couldn't afford last year either.

Posted by: Lynne | Sep 8, 2005 2:35:12 PM

When I was making phone calls for Kerry last fall, I heard that many times: This is *the* issue for a lot of people.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Sep 8, 2005 2:46:24 PM

but there's only so far you can turn the heat down.

But there are a tremendous number of things you can do now to lower your heating bill later. $200 and a trip to Home Depot can get you quite a bit, including:
* A hot water heater blanket, so that you aren't spending so much money re-heating hot water. While you're installing it, be sure to turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. Anything less than that and you might get bacteria. Anything more and you're likely wasting it.
* A few cans of Great Stuff (tm) or other foam insulation in a can. Unscrew all of your electrical switch and outlet covers on exterior walls of your home, and spray this stuff inside the wall but not in the electrical box. This is also great for gaps in the wall near windows and doors. Prepare all areas first, and be prepared to use an entire can at a time as the foam hardens inside the application tube, making the remaining foam in the can inaccessible.
* Storm doors cut down on wind quite a bit.
* Take stockings, and fill them with newspaper. Make it arts and crafty if you like. Use them at the foot of your doors to keep drafts out.
* Buy a sweater or two, but not at Home Depot :) .
* Make sure that the felt/foam around the sides and bottom of your door are intact and functional. If not, pick up some doorsweeps, etc. and install them.
* Take your A/C out of the window during the winter. If you absolutely cannot, do your best to insulate around it, etc.
* Get a programmable thermostat. There's no reason to heat the house all day while your at work, nor is there reason to keep the house as warm at 3am as you need it at 8pm. So, a programmable thermostat can do wonders to lower your heating bill while keeping the house sufficiently warm at all times.
* If you can afford it, upgrading your windows is a bonus.
* It's too late for this year, but evergreen trees and shrubs planted to protect the north, and to a lesser extent east and west, from wind can reduce the cold drafts quite a bit. Fences can also help.
* If you have wooden sashes with locks, make sure that all your windows can be locked closed. If not, buy the window locks for about $1.50 each to ensure that your window remains completely closed all winter.
* That plastic wrap-esque stuff you can put over your windows with the help of a hair dryer makes a huge difference. You wouldn't think so, but it really does. Put it up when it starts to get cold outside.
* If you have the ability to control heat within different rooms of your house, don't heat rooms you aren't using soon.

To also save electricity...
* switch to CF bulbs. These are the kind with the spirally glass. They're a bit more expensive, but there are often rebate programs, and you'll save money in the long run. Plus, they have lifetimes 6-12 times longer than incadescent.
* Keep your dryer lint trap clean.
* Make sure there is a gap between your refrigerator and your stove, and make sure the gasket (plastic/rubber on the door) is sealing the cold in. Also, pulling your fridge an inch away from the wall will help, as will making sure that the coils in back aren't caked in dust.
* Turn off the lights. Seriously.
* Run the dishwasher only when full. Same goes for laundry. Try to avoid using hot water if warm or cold will get the job done.

Implementing some or all of these low cost features could easily shave 10% - 20% off your heating bills. Of course, new windows will help even more, but they are quite expensive. Will it be enough to offset the huge increase in heating costs? Probably not. Will it help considerably? You bet.

Don't wait until you see your November or December heating bill to react. Get stuff ready now. You'll save a bunch of money later, albeit a bit each day and not all at once.

Many utilities will come to your home and do a free energy audit. Call up your energy suppliers and ask them. They'll find ways to save you money. I suggest you take them up on the offer.

Posted by: stomv | Sep 8, 2005 3:34:48 PM

stomv, that's quite a comprehensive list. I am seriously impressed. Bravo.

Posted by: eury13 | Sep 8, 2005 3:52:49 PM

I've had problems with those damn CF bulbs, at least in our last apt. They died really quickly, even quicker, it seemed, than the regular ones.

But I mostly have those in the new place here, my friend found a sale on them, they were selling at like $2 and bought me a bunch.

Also, find someplace other than Home Despot, those people suck.

Oh, and some of us work at home, so there's really no time when I can program a cooler temp. My parents used to program theirs to go down at night and it drove me batshit, I'd wake up freezing. I hated that.

Posted by: Lynne | Sep 8, 2005 7:18:22 PM

what about all the money texas oil people are making with these price increases. Also alot of the more expensive oil rigs to operate in wyoming are put back into service now.
Anyone see any connections?
Or am I mr. grassy knoll?

Posted by: The troll | Sep 8, 2005 10:15:06 PM

make that grassy troll

Posted by: The troll | Sep 8, 2005 10:24:04 PM

stomv, you are the man. Outstanding. My dad used to do energy audits in the late 70's/early 80's, so all that advice makes me feel right at home.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Sep 8, 2005 10:41:39 PM

"Grassy troll": you /might/ call it profiteering.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Sep 8, 2005 10:57:13 PM

This is great info! Thanks, stomv.

I'm such a cheap bastard. The heat doesn't even come on in my house until you can see your breath. ;-P I also keep fleece lap blankets on my couch. They're very cozy.

Posted by: Mariposa | Sep 9, 2005 12:19:10 AM

Yes charley, but industries and states where our pre and v/p come from and where they and their friends make their money.
I don;t know, but shouldn;t someone b asking?

Posted by: The troll | Sep 9, 2005 12:28:20 AM

Thanks to Katrina, this is finally the year when we put up insulation and new drywall in the bedroom. Contractor comes any minute.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Sep 9, 2005 8:01:01 AM

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