Posts Tagged ‘oil prices’

Fall Clean Up!

November 16, 2012

In New England it is easy to see the seasons change. It’s a time of harvest and preparation for our comfort through the coldest part of the year.   There’s plenty to do outside the home never mind on the inside. 

 For one thing it is time to tune up the furnace or boiler before the heating season begins.    Preventative maintenance is a good thing and worth the minor expense to ward of a major one in the middle of the heating season.  With a contractor you trust, that clean and tune may be part of a service agreement and can save you even more.

Your heating system is not the only thing that should get a tune up though.  For many of us, it’s the home too!   Even with the cleanest running furnace or boiler in your home, it is important to consider how well the building is insulated, resists air leakage, deals with moisture and provides indoor air quality.   

Since heating systems and buildings interact with each other, it’s a great idea to consider treating them together.  Seek out certified and experienced heating and cooling technicians, and the same for your home.  Consider a BPI accredited contractor that will look at your home as a system and help you prepare for the coming season making it healthier, safer and more energy efficient.



Heating Oil Prices Higher—Insulate Yourself from High Heating Bills.

September 21, 2011

Nights are getting cooler.  Heating season is on the way.  And folks across the Northeast and Upper Midwest who heat their homes with oil are facing significantly—painfully—higher prices this winter.

For example, according to NYSERDA prices for fuel oil in the state average $3.83 per gallon, a 33% increase over last year.  In Maine, we see comparable prices.   And the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts the national average to rise further in October.

An 80 cent per gallon increase translates to an additional $800 dollars in heating costs for a home that burns 1,000 gallons per year.  That’s a real dent in the family finances.

EIA Factors that Affect Oil PricesThis highlights the risk in play home heating oil roulette.  There’s huge volatility and uncertainty from unrest in the Middle East, natural disasters like hurricanes, market forces in India and China, or many more factors.  

Homeowners are not helpless, though.  You can make choices.  You can’t control world energy prices.  But you can make your home more efficient so that the price hikes don’t hobble you.

You know how.  Start with a good assessment.  Seal the leaks in your home and ducts.  Improve your insulation.  And look at more efficient equipment, windows, lighting, etc.  We can help you figure out what makes the most sense for you and your home and tailor your project to take advantage of state and utility rebate and incentive programs.  But you’ve got to pick up the phone and start the ball rolling.  Or pick up your checkbook and send another payment to your fuel company or utility for the money you’re wasting.

Oil prices fall back below $100

May 8, 2011

With oil prices falling back below $100/barrel, I guess we don’t have to worry about energy prices any more!  [Yes, that was sarcasm.]

Gas closes in on $4 per gallon. Surprised? Ready?

April 25, 2011

Gas prices well above $4/gal. in California

History repeats itself with startling regularity in this country.  Case in point, energy prices.  The national average at the pump is approaching $4/gallon.  And it’s considerably higher in places like California.  Politicians of many stripes are claiming they are shocked this is happening and that something must be done.  The Obama administration is investigating fraud and abuse in the oil markets.

But the real trouble is that we have a pathetic energy non-policy in this country.  And as such, we’re at the mercy of energy price bouncing up and down on the world markets.  And bounce they do, but with a general upward trend.

Oil and gas price data from
Oil and gas price data from

Politicians fiddling, or feigning shock as prices rise, won’t really protect you.  Perhaps someday the pols will recognize some basic Econ 101 principles, when demand rises and supplies don’t, prices go up.  Add some market risk and uncertainty from say unrest in the Middle East, natural disasters like hurricanes, or man-made disasters like the spill in the gulf, and they rise more.

And home energy prices in the long term do the same.  Some regulated utilities like electricity and natural gas take a bit longer to change.  Others move more or less lockstep with oil prices.  Remember just a few short years ago when heating fuel and propane soared to over $4 per gallon, and other utilities followed suit?  Are you ready for this?  Had your home energy assessment?  Made the improvements?

I’m not holding my breath that as a country we’ll figure out how to productively address energy policy.  But that doesn’t mean you are helpless.  You can make choices.  You decide what and how you drive.  You decide whether your home is an energy hog (and not as comfortable or healthy as is could be). 

Very few people, if any, can control world energy prices.  A government panel isn’t going to do it for you.  So, as energy prices rise, we can pretend we didn’t know it was coming.  And suffer the consequences.  Or we can take steps to improve our homes—and insulate our personal finances against rising energy prices.

Home energy vs. auto fuel costs, its a tie!

April 19, 2011

Maybe post-tax deadline some of us have had a closer look at our household budget.  Something that should be revealed for many us over the past few years is a recent shift in where our money goes.  Since 2009, Consumer expenditures for home energy (electricity, natural gas and fuel oil and other fuels) has matched expenditures on gasoline. This comes from a March report from the Consumers Federation of America titled  Public Attitudes toward Energy Efficiency and Appliance standards: Consumers see the Benifits and support the standards.

The survey from the organization that has researched consumer opinion of auto and fuel usage over the years has discovered that we have interest in improving the appliances we use in the home for the same reasons we have concerns for fuel efficiency for vehicles.  Energy Efficiency and the drain on our household budget is part of it but so is dependency on imported oil. It has been proven with cars that we will invest for the long term if the paybacks are reasonable and now the same goes for appliances in our houses.

As we have seen the price of oil swaying in the breeze of political and economic instability, the cost of heating fuels has not done the same, yet. More and more these costs are becoming intertwined.  When we try and get away from our dependence on foreign oil by moving to electric vehicles, what demands will be placed on our grid?  What an opportunity to reduce our dependence on oil by reducing our load on the home.

The survey focuses on appliances. This is a good start, but misses the importance of the interaction with the home itself.  We have written about LED lighting  and the need for better appliance standards, but the big driver in all of this is the building envelope, and for some there are greater gains in fixing the building before investing in the appliances in them. 

The survey is a call to arms for policy makers since homeowners have spoken.  Increasing efficiency requirements for appliances is a good place to start.  Let’s take it one step further make sure our houses are in order for those appliances to do their best.

Oil Prices Continue Climbing

March 21, 2011

Business Week sums it up.  Unrest in the Middle East–and Libya in particular–helps prices continue to nudge higher, passing $102/barrel.  Do you think things will stabilize soon?  Like betting your family’s bank account against pushes for democracy in oil-rich countries?  That’s what we’re all doing if we don’t decrease our dependence on foreign energy sources.

Oil closes above $105. Gasoline averages over $3.50

March 7, 2011

Chris Kahn of the AP reports:

“Oil prices continued to set new post-recession highs Monday as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi pounded rebels near a key oil port in Libya. It’s unclear how long the country’s oil exports will be cut off, and traders prepared for a worst-case scenario in which world supplies would be under pressure for months.”

The climb continues to the pre-recession levels.  And we’ve done very little over the past 30 month the would enable us to smoothly staunch the flow of foreign energy to the U.S.   And so price spikes–or new higher plateaus–leave us very vulnerable.

Politicians recognize the link between energy savings and national security and economic health–in China

March 5, 2011

While Congress has been unable to put together a coherent energy strategy, China is moving forward agressively. We certainly can’t condone their non-democratic approaches. But it is clear that they understand the urgency and are making this a priority. As reported in yesterday’s NY Times,

Bejing’s emphasis on saving energy reflects concerns about national security and the effects of high fuel costs on inflation, China’s export competitiveness and the country’s pollution problems.

And rightly so.  Oil is already back up to $104 per barrel, its highest price in more than two years.  [See also last week’s article, “A Tipping Point for Oil Prices“.]  China is whooping us in the renewable energy sector.  And with gains in efficiency, we’d better start carrying extra lunch money, because they’re going to eat ours. 

Ironically, as other country’s increase investment in energy with a strong eye toward energy security and economic vitality, the U.S. House is proposing moving away from this.  The at a time when there are strong concerns that the Libyan violence will deepen and the broaded unrest in the Mideast will spread to Saudia Arbia.  Prudence would dictate moving rapidly to hedge against huge disruptions.  Skyrocketing energy prices right now, given our addition, would undercut the recovery we’re slowly seeing signs of.  Indeed, the WSJ wrote last week “Rising Oil Prices Threaten Recovery“.

We can either get serious about energy policy or we can fall back to Charlie Sheenisms and deny we have a problem.  One makes good TV soundbites.  The other offers hope for our children and our grandchildren.

Nationally, we aren’t preparing.  Are you?


“Why does my new home have such high energy bills?”

March 2, 2011

We have too often heard the cry “my home is brand new and my energy bills are skyrocketing through the roof!”  Homeowners have falsely accepted that old homes have to be drafty, uncomfortable and costly to heat or cool, and most people just assume that a new home will automatically be efficient.     

It’s frustrating when you invest a great deal of time and money in a place meant to be special to us and quickly realize  that lighting, heating and cooling our home costs a great deal more than expected. On top of that it’s drafty, some rooms are too hot, or too cold, and you just can’t stay comfortable.  It’s unfortunate that energy and performance concerns are often left at the bottom of the list, if they’re considered at all. 

The problems in a new home may look different at first glance than the ones in a home 100 years old, but often they are one in the same.  Heating or cooling the air in the home too frequently because the home isn’t tight enough happens regardless of age.  Builders often overlook critical details needed to air-seal a house.  New homes like old ones can suffer from too little insulation in places, or insulation in the wrong place.   Poor duct work, inefficient or incorrectly sized furnaces and air-conditioners, and poor window performance plague new homes, too.  Refrigeration, lighting and other electrical loads often aren’t any different in a new home.  The good news is there are certainly ways to make new homes more comfortable and waste less money on utility bills.

Our customers who own newer and older homes  have happily discovered that with air-sealing, improved insulation and/or upgrading heating and cooling systems  as well as  lighting, comfort and savings can be achieved.  By acting on the recommendations of a good energy audit utility bills can be slashed in winter and summer.

Our advisors understand a house does best when it acts as a system and their recommendations work to truly fix the problems that make homeowner’s comfort levels go up and bills go down.  This works in a home 100 years old or only 1 year old. Stay tuned and we’ll talk more about how we can turn your brand new “old” home into what it ought to be.  And we’ll give  you pointers on things to look for and insist on when buying a new home—it’s always easier and less expensive to do it right the first time.  Unfortunately they’re building them faster than we can fix them!

Unrest in Middle East causes concerns about oil. Homeowners would be advised to take action.

January 31, 2011

First Tunisia.  Now Egypt.  Many are concerned about instability moving to other areas.  Unrest in the Middle East is adding uncertainty in oil markets–and higher prices.  Prices jumped a few percent on Friday.  Talk radio this morning had a couple predictions of oil moving as high as $150/barrel in the next couple of months.  That seems like pure speculation to me, but I don’t think it’s crazy to expect oil prices to climb.  They nosed up to near $100/barrel already today in London.

This is certain to increase talks of energy policy in Washington.  I got “news” for homeowners, though.  We’re not going to drill ourselves out of this one.  That may help, but by itself, it’s not a solution.  And if you’re a homeowner who heats with fuel oil (like many in the Northeast or Upper Midwest in particular), a decision to start drilling in every possible location in the U.S. probably doesn’t help you for at least a couple of years if at all.  It won’t take a lot of perturbation in the market to see fuel oil price to spike to $4-5/gallon.  And that could devastate homeowners, with monthly energy bill perhaps even exceeding mortgage payments. 

I may sound like a broken record on this, but your household’s security is tied to energy-efficiency.  Collectively,  so is our national security.  You should take a hard look at making improvements right now.  Don’t panic.   But take the right steps, make smart investments in air-sealing, insulation, furnace, boilers, etc. and protect yourself  and your family from instability in the world markets. 


%d bloggers like this: