Adding insult to injury in an economy that is less than stellar, economists warn homeowners and renters that the prices for fossil fuels will likely continue to go up, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor. The paper points out that this fall, the first tank of home heating oil will cost about 7 percent more than last year's.
Those who heat their living spaces with natural gas have slightly better odds: through July, natural gas prices were 5.5 percent higher than last year. Natural gas also burns cleaner than heating oil, so greens prefer it anyway. Of course, the price increases reflect the record highs for crude oil, as well as speculation and some new regulations on keeping oil and diesel separate. For the year, energy costs are up 12.7 percent.
So what is a conscious, budget savvy homeowner to do? There's no better time to get that home energy audit, which will measure how much energy you are currently using, and suggest ways to make simple changes to cut back (examples include sealing drafts, adding weatherstripping and beefing up insulation). Do it yourself, or hire a pro service. The latter may be covered by your utility, which is probably worried about ever increasing demand and tightened supply.
If you are planning for the long term, it may be time to consider a solar water heater, geothermal heat pump or even solar panels. You'll have to invest some money upfront, but over time you'll worry a lot less (or not at all) about heating bills. Eventually, you may be able to make some money selling power back to your neighbors through the grid.
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