Heating Fuel Price Protection Programs
One-way citizens may be able to protect themselves from higher fuel prices is by participating in a “price protection” program. This may include "Pre-Buy" programs where customers purchase a specified volume of fuel at a discounted price; “Fixed Price” programs, where a pre-determined price is set for all fuel delivered during the heating season; or “Cap” programs, where the fuel price will not exceed a pre-determined value, and may go down based on market conditions. Cap and Fixed Price programs may be part of "Budget" programs in which the customer agrees to make equal monthly payments, often for 10 to 12 months.
Price protection programs are beneficial for several reasons. First, they provide a degree of certainty. Customers make commitments to local dealers, who make commitments to their suppliers, who make commitments to the refining industry. This chain of commitment reduces market volatility and increases the ability for market participants to efficiently schedule their resources. Secondly, customers are better able to budget their finances and thus are not caught short during the heating season. Lastly, price protection programs typically save customers money as the costs of buying fuel at the current or "spot" price can add up quickly.
The average price for heating oil pre-buy programs last summer was about $2.64, the average price for heating oil this past heating season (October-March) was $3.15, so those that participated in programs most likely realized substantial savings.
The DPS conducts a seasonal survey of fuel dealer’s price protection programs starting in June. We would recommend that customers who are interested in participating in a price protection program call their local dealers now to see when they will start their programs and what prices they are offering. However, price protection programs don’t guarantee savings so citizens need to consider their options carefully.
Additional information on fuel prices and price protections programs is available online in the Vermont Fuel Price Report.
BuildingGreen.com has an interesting Fuel Calculator, where users can compare the costs of the different types of home heating fuels.
Home Energy Audits
A home energy audit is often the first step in making your home more efficient. An audit can help you assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate what measures you can take to improve efficiency. But remember, audits alone don't save energy. You need to implement the recommended improvements. ENERGY STAR provides extensive information about home improvement projects to enhance energy efficiency, lower utility bills, and increase comfort.
You can perform a simple energy audit yourself, or have a professional energy auditor perform a more thorough audit.
If you have five minutes and your last 12 months of utility bills, use the ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home's energy efficiency to similar homes across the country and get recommendations for energy-saving home improvements from ENERGY STAR. You will also need to enter some basic information about your home (such as zip code, age, square footage, and number of occupants). If you don't have your bills, contact your utility for a 12-month summary.
Home Assessment Tool
Vermont's own Sustainable Energy Resource Group, or SERG, has an online tool that people can use to better understand their individual heating situation.
Home Energy Audits and Retrofits with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR
If you are interested in getting detailed recommendations for improving the efficiency of your home, consider hiring a certified professional. Home Performance with Energy Star is a national program sponsored by the EPA for improving the efficiency of homes. In Vermont, there is a network of trained and certified contactors who provide this service with support from Efficiency Vermont. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractors perform energy audits and retrofits that:
• Take a whole-house, comprehensive approach to solving problems
• Use diagnostic equipment such as a blower door and infrared camera to assess air leakage
• Identify health and safety concerns such as mold, carbon monoxide, and gas leaks
• Provide you with a proposal for making and prioritizing recommended improvements
• Provide you with access to discount financing for energy-efficient home improvement loans
• Bring expertise that comes with Building Performance Institute certification
To find a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor in Vermont, visit www.efficiencyvermont.com/homeperformance.
Customers of Vermont Gas Systems may be able to receive an energy analysis and cash incentives from Vermont Gas if they meet certain criteria. Check with Vermont Gas at www.vermontgas.com or 863-451. Others interested in finding a professional home energy auditor can find a listing of providers at: http://efficiencyvermont.org/pages/Residential/Marketplace/.