But as high as gas prices are, it isn't gas prices that are worrying homeowners and tenants this time of year. Instead it's #2 heating oil, natural gas, and propane costs that concerns folks in these parts. The heating season is upon us and with the higher fuel prices some families are having to find ways to reduce their heating costs or cut spending in other areas to pay for fuel.
Pressed to pay rising natural gas energy bills, a middle-aged man from Hillsborough County plans to close off his living room and bedroom to heat fewer rooms in his apartment. He also is relocating his beloved recliner, where he sleeps most nights.
"I'm going to live in the kitchen.”
Home heating oil prices have reached record levels -- an average $2.914 a gallon in the weekly statewide survey done last Monday. That's 56 cents -- or 24 percent -- higher than a year ago.
Propane costs about $2.61 per gallon here in New Hampshire. We use propane here at The Manse and would normally use between 900 and 1100 gallons for heating between mid-October and the end of April. At $2.61 that would cost us $2350 and $2970 over the heating season, or up to $442 per month. An extra $442 per month may not strain some folks budgets, but I know it would put one heck of a crimp in ours. We are fortunate because we have an alternative means of heating that will cost us about $160 to $320* for the entire heating season. It also costs a bit of sweat equity due to cutting, splitting, and stacking. It's a small price to pay in order to save a ton of cash. Unfortunately this option isn't open to a lot of other families out there.
(* That's the cost of the gasoline we've used/will use to cut, split, and transport the 3 to 4-1/2 cords of wood we'll burn this year.)
In the mean time people will bundle up and close off rooms in order to minimize their heating bills.
At least most homes in New Hampshire use less heating fuel than in the past due to upgraded insulation in existing homes and better design and insulation on newer homes. Ten years ago the average home in New Hampshire used about 1800 gallons of heating oil while today it's about half that. Even so, fuel prices have more than tripled since then, meaning consumers are spending more to heat their homes than 10 years ago. Wages haven't increased anywhere near that, so heating costs are taking a much bigger bite out of the family budget today as compared to 1997. I expect the same is true through the rest of the snow belt, though your mileage may vary.