Home-Heating Crisis Looming

By Jim Salmon

It’s the beginning of summer, but the effects of rising fuel costs are on the minds of many legislators from Buffalo to Albany.

Members of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Energy will be in Rochester Tuesday to draw attention to what they’re calling a “home-heating crisis.”

One report estimates homeowners could spend 30% to 75% more than they did last year to heat their homes this winter.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) reports that home heating oil prices in Western New York are up 75% from this time last year. Kerosene is up 67.5% and natural gas is up 15% from 2007 prices.

Those figures worry Gerard Eberhardt of Henrietta, especially when he looks at a $464 August utility bill, mostly for electricity costs.

“I can just imagine what my winter bill is going to be next winter,” Eberhardt said.

Energy Star contractors like Mike Murphy, the owner of Home Comfort, are encouraging homeowners to plan ahead.

“They really need to look at improving the efficiency of their home,” Murphy said. “There are incentives that will pay up to 50% depending on income; a lot of people will qualify for at least 10% in (state) subsidies.”

That money is offered through the state’s Energy Star program that will allow homeowners to invest in substantial energy-efficient upgrades such as air sealing, insulation, and instant water heaters. Although costly, those improvements can pay for themselves within a few years.

“You can’t do the same old thing, that’s not going to save you that much,” Murphy said of home improvements in the face of record-high utility costs. “The majority of houses we’re going into are saving 30%, 40%, sometimes 50% on utilities.”

The State Assembly’s Energy Committee plans to push for legislation that will offer more assistance to homeowners.

Some of that assistance, such as the Heat Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is income-based, but many energy star improvements that save money also come with state aid.

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