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Varying Costs

Price of heat to depend on method

October 30, 2011
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

What people can expect when they open their home-heating bills this winter may have a lot to do with the manner in which their homes are heated.

National Grid is forecasting the cost of home heating to drop this winter, while the price of No. 2 heating oil is sitting higher than where it was last year.

According to a news release from National Grid, the utility's forecast of an approximate 8 percent lower prices is based on wholesale and retail market conditions for natural gas. The utility predicts a customer who normally uses about 711 therms during the heating season of November through March will pay $695 in heating costs during that period, amounting to a $61 decrease.

Article Photos

Harvey VanValkenburgh, owner of Home Heating Headquarters in Johnstown, looks at a Harman wood-pellet stove Thursday at the store.

The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo

"We are encouraged by what we are forecasting for the coming winter season," Melanie Littlejohn, director of customer and community management for National Grid, said in the release. "We work hard to help customers manage their energy usage and bills, and lower commodity prices is a great way to start."

However, despite the utility's forecast, actual natural gas usage and weather conditions will have the final say in what a customer's bill looks like, Littlejohn said. Sever eweather can affect usage and market prices for supply.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority paints a different outlook. As of Oct. 3, the last time NYSERDA polled dealers, the statewide price of home-heating oil was $3.77 per gallon, up from $2.97 at that time last year, a 25 percent increase.

The picture isn't much different locally as NYSERDA reports the Capital Region, which includes Fulton and Montgomery counties, saw an average oil price of $3.64 per gallon, up from $2.82 last year, a 29 percent increase. The North Country, which includes Hamilton County, saw prices jump by 27 percent to $3.69 per gallon from $2.91 per gallon.

On Thursday, Midnight Oil in Broadalbin listed No. 2 heating oil as costing $3.59 per gallon, and low-sulfur kerosene was listed at $3.99 per gallon. Shepard's Oil in Johnstown listed kerosene at the same price and fuel oil at $3.65 per gallon.

Some people may turn to wood to heat their homes. According to the website for Home Heating Headquarters in Johnstown, New England wood pellets are selling for $235 per ton as of Tuesday, while Curran pellets are going for $259 per ton. A mix of soft and hard wood cost $219 per ton. Dry Creek pellets, which are all hard wood, are selling for $259 per ton.

"All of our wood pellet stoves, we are right out selling," said Harvey VanValkenburgh, owner of Home Heating Headquarters said. "When you can save half of what it will cost you for oil for your home, it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out the savings."

VanValkenburgh said he had electric heat in his home before switching to a wood-pellet stove 20 years ago. He said last winter he heated his 2,000-square-foot home for $660. Oil, he said, would have cost him $2,500.

VanValkenburgh said people have been steadily turning to wood to heat their homes, and this year, he took cues from 2008's oil spike when planning for this winter.

"It's been steady," he said. "Last year wasn't as great, but in 2008, when oil did the same thing it's doing now, we were sold out of our best stove for four months. This year, we've been fortunate that we planned six months ago to order more stoves. Now, we have a good supply of stoves."

Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at



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