As prices at the pump start to soar, and the temperatures outdoors start to drift down, the prices of another pump soon enter the minds of area homeowners. What will home heating oil set you back this year?
An article in the Chicago Tribune says that the East Coast could be in for home heating oil price hikes due to a combination of refinery closures and methods to go “green” throughout the region.
"If we get a real cold spell this winter, we'll see spot heating oil prices go to $5 a gallon," said Philip K. Verleger in the Tribune article. Verleger was an oil market economist who advised both the Carter and Ford administrations.
"A rush by northeast heating oil users to react to the cold weather could push prices up," Adam Sieminski, the head of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), said to the Tribune on Wednesday. "I'm actually a little concerned about that."
The EIA estimated that the current cost of home heating oil, without any further increase in 2012, would lead to an average of $400 more per homeowner in home heating cost.
According to a report in the New York Times, the steep increases in prices affect those in the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, more than other parts of the nation.
“Gas and oil prices used to run in tandem, and gas prices were at times extremely volatile,” said the report. “But since 2003, even as heating oil use, heavily concentrated in the Northeast, has declined, its price has risen sharply above gas, a gap that is expected to continue widening.”
So what can a Pennsylvania homeowner do to budget for these changes? Steve Oehlert, president of Oehlert Bros., Inc., “The Energy Experts” located in Royersford, Montgomery County, said that homeowners can best prepare with a few key steps.
“The top two items would be to make sure your heating system is tuned up annually … and to check your home’s energy efficiency,” said Oehlert.
He suggested starting with a check of your heater, whether it uses oil or not.
“Nothing wastes more energy than a system running with 20-percent less efficiency,” he said. “Reduce your overall oil consumption by having it serviced.”
Oehlert said that another wise decision is to have a home checked for overall energy efficiency, as well.
“If your house is not efficient, you are going to give money to the outside,” said Oehlert. “As an energy company, we conduct an energy analysis for our customers.”
Oehlert said that anything from a simple addition of caulking around leaky windows or being sure a wall is well insulated can help save you money when the heating oil truck pulls up to your home.
Besides using less energy, Oehlert also suggested being on a budgeted plan to balance your finances when oil prices are so up and down.
“We have two price protection plans,” he said. “Because the market is very volatile, we at least recommend customers be on a protection plan so your bill is not all over the place.”
According to Scientific American and the EIA, the average household will spend $2,535 for oil heat during this year’s winter season (from October 1 to March 31). Just two years ago, that cost was $1,752. With such a quick and dramatic change, a budget is recommended to plan ahead.
Besides Oehlert’s suggestions, the state and federal governments often offer financial incentives to make a home or business more energy efficient. To find out what might be best for your home, visit The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) here, which catalogues all available savings for the state of Pennsylvania.
For more assistance in budgeting or finding ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency, those in the Montgomery County area can call Oehlert Bros. at 610-879-7646.