Consumer Affairs and SHOPP Coordinator, Department of Energy Resources
As the temperatures cool and kids head back to school, it is time for an annual tune-up/check-up of your heating system. No matter what fuel your home heats with, a yearly tune-up can keep your system running efficiently, which can save you money. Check with your utility or heating oil/propane dealer to see if they offer this service or call a local heating contractor. EnergyStar provides a check list for systems and DOER publishes a tip sheet for oil system maintenance.
Heating oil customers should also be aware of the Homeowner Oil Heating System Upgrade and Insurance Law requiring homeowners to upgrade their home heating system equipment to prevent leaks from tanks and pipes that connect to their furnace by September 30, 2011. The law also required insurance companies that write homeowner policies to offer coverage for leaks from oil heating systems starting this past July, though it is an optional purchase for homeowners.
Consumers should also take advantage of energy- and money-saving opportunities through the Commonwealth’s nation-leading energy efficiency programs offered by Mass Save. These ratepayer funded programs offer rebates and incentives for upgrading heating systems, along with other ways to save energy and money. (Note: Municipal utility customers can contact MassSave but have different programs offered by their individual utility.) Now is a good time to take advantage of programs offered since the Federal Energy Efficiency Tax Credit for upgrading heating systems expires at the end of this year. MassSAVE can also work with consumers who qualify for income-eligible programs, so don’t hesitate to contact them even if you are not sure what you can afford.
Massachusetts also offers assistance through its fuel assistance and weatherization programs. Visit EEA’s Home Heating Assistance Information page for links to state programs, utility shut-off protections, budget billing plans and more. Consumers can also call 211 to get contact information for local community agencies that provide these assistance programs. Additionally, the Home Heating Assistance page offers information related to oil and propane contracts, shopping options, consumer protections and more.
For consumers who use heating oil and propane, DOER publishes weekly surveys from October-March with the statewide average price for each fuel. DOER also publishes off-season surveys throughout the year. Based on data released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), DOER estimates that this season’s average oil price will be around $2.92/gallon for the heating season. Last winter’s average in MA was $2.76/gallon. Propane prices in the Northeast are expected to be around $2.77/gallon for the season, while the average last winter was $2.73/gallon. Customers of gas and electric utilities can check with the Dept. of Public Utilities for information on rate filings for the winter.
Author’s Note: thanks to DOER’s Joanne McBrien for the forecasting data on prices.