Commonwealth Journal

November 14, 2013

Heating costs to stay on par with last year

Adequate insulation can reduce expenses

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

With Arctic air nosing its way south so early and often in November, folks around here are wondering about costs for heating homes this winter.
A spot check by the Commonwealth Journal indicates heating costs will be about the same as last year unless colder than normal weather increases monthly heating bills.
Electric and natural gas rates are unchanged from last winter. Fuel oil and kerosene costs are slightly higher and propane is a bit lower. A permit to cut your own firewood is still $20.
Weather has a big impact on winter heating cost. Joy Bullock, corporate communications coordinator for South Kentucky RECC, points out that more electricity will be used for heating “ ... if we have more weather like yesterday (November 12)” when the temperature hovered in the 30s all day with a strong northwest wind.
Nick Comer, spokesman for East Kentucky Power Cooperative, wholesale electric supplier for South Kentucky RECC, agrees.
“We strongly recommend that our customers keep doors and windows tight and their houses well insulated,” said Comer. He cautioned that when comparing heat bills this winter with last, it’s important to remember it was very mild last winter.   
It’s early, but the current weather pattern is pushing Arctic air deep into the southern and eastern parts of the country. Another cold spell is expected next week with temperatures far below normal.
Comer said market prices for both natural gas and coal, fuels for generating plants, are low, and this favorably affects fuel adjustment charges on customers’ bills.
Bullock said the average electrically heated home uses about 1,300 KWH (kilowatt hours) a month. This generates an electric bill of between $123 and $124 a month which includes a $12.82 customer charge to help pay for the utility’s fixed costs.
South Kentucky RECC has several energy-saving programs to assist customers with holding down costs, Bullock reminded. Each office has energy advisors to answer questions, she added.
Cliff Feltham, media relations manager for Kentucky Utilities, said KU has had no rate increases this year and none is pending. The monthly bill depends on usage and the recent cold spell adds to home heating costs, he noted.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler has good news for the some 5,000 customers of Somerset Gas Service.
“There will be absolutely no increase in the cost of natural gas through heating seasons this year and next,” said Girdler.
Somerset has a plentiful supply of natural gas. During a natural gas shortage in the early 1970s, Somerset Gas Service borrowed slightly more than $4 million from Farmers Home Administration and built a natural gas pipeline to Eastern Kentucky. 
The pipeline allows Somerset to transport natural gas from previously landlocked wells in the mountains. The collection system has expanded and in addition to being Somerset’s primary source of natural gas, transportation of natural gas out of the hills has been a profitable venture for the city.
If you heat your house with fuel oil, it may cost a little more this winter. The current price for home heating oil is $3.57 a gallon. Last year at this time the price was $3.30 a gallon. Prices vary, depending on the distributor.
Kerosene for home heating is a bit higher.  Kerosene is currently $3.97 a gallon. Last year at this time the price was about $3.90 a gallon.
The price for propane is lower now than at this time last year. A spokeswoman for Ferrellgas said the current price is $2.47 a gallon. Last year at this time, propane was $2.64.9 a gallon,
If you have a fireplace and need wood, you can cut your own. A $20 permit from the U.S. Forest Service allows you to cut about four cords from dead and downed trees in the Daniel Boone National Forest.
There is a procedure you must follow. A permit is necessary either from the London or Stearns ranger district at a cost of $20. Kim Morgan, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, says permits, obtained at ranger district offices, specify designated areas where wood may be cut. 
To cut firewood north and east of the Cumberland River, permit seekers should come to the ranger station at London. South of the river, permits are available at the Stearns Ranger Station.