How do you manage your electric/heat bills?

by beth on January 9, 2015

Post image for How do you manage your electric/heat bills?

Above: Changing old fashioned thermostats like these out for programmable ones is one method people use to save on heating costs. Perhaps readers have other tips worth sharing. (Image posted to Flickr by C Jill Reed)

This time of year, a lot of people are concerned about containing the cost of heating their homes. (Especially, during a week like this one!)

In a recent open thread, some were discussing options for propane tank owners. And this week, a reader complained to me that her National Grid rates “absolutely skyrocketed”.

(She didn’t state that her home has electric heat. Perhaps it doesn’t, but  I know plenty in town do.) She was wondering what others in town have experienced and about options.

Over a year ago, an open thread commenter asked about other residents’ experiences with alternative electricity suppliers without much response.

So, today, I’m dedicating a post to the topic. I encourage you to share with each other your experiences and any helpful tips in this area.

Have you tried local alternative electricity suppliers? Was it a boon or boondoggle?

Have you made investments in lowering your heating or electricity costs? (Maybe installing a wood stove or solar panel?) Was it worth the investment?

Post any helpful comments (or questions) you have below.

1 Mary January 9, 2015 at 6:41 PM

Electric Bill:
As you mentioned National Grid rates have increased. The delivery charge (on front of bill) did not go up and you can’t change this. The actual electricity usage (on back of bill) doubled! I had heard it was going up but never thought it would be so much. When I called National Grid they said you can use a different supplier for the actual electricity and it would be billed from National Grid. They have a list of suppliers on their web site. I found several companies that were four to five cents cheaper, doesn’t sound like much but it does make a difference. I am still deciding what to do. Would like to hear from folks who use other suppliers.
My home is not electric heat and we use a wood stove so I am saving some money. Just got an oil delivery Wednesday and it was $2.35 a gallon. WooHoo!!!

2 Judy January 9, 2015 at 9:17 PM

I use an alternate supplier for my electricity. Friends said their bills had gone up a huge amount, but mine did not. My supplier is NRG. Where did you get fuel oil for $2.35/gal?

Also, I recently had the Mass Save energy audit. I had more insulation put in, and had many of my single pane windows replaced. I think it is saving me a great deal, but I don’t have the hard data yet.

3 SL January 10, 2015 at 11:45 AM

Judy, does this alternate supplier get delivered through National Grid?

4 Judy January 13, 2015 at 9:53 AM

Yes, and I will admit I just got my most recent bill, and it DID go up, but not by as much as my friends say theirs has.

5 Denise January 10, 2015 at 7:48 AM

Hi Mary. $2.35 is a great price. Can I ask who you get your oil from? Thanks!

6 Al Hamilton January 10, 2015 at 8:22 AM

My understanding is that the recent rise in rates (approved by your government by the way) is driven by the lack of natural gas infrastructure. Most of the country is enjoying relatively inexpensive electricity and natural gas but in New England the prices are high because we do not have sufficient supply due to the lack of pipelines.

So, the next time you see a stop the pipeline sign just remember the real price will be in your heating (if you use gas) and electric bills.

7 Neil Rossen January 10, 2015 at 10:28 AM

We heat the house and hot water with gas. Nevertheless, electricity bills have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, a few days ago I was visited by a solar city rep offering an alternative. However, the alternatives to National Grid have complexity. Has anyone found an economic alternative to NG?

8 Dean Dairy January 10, 2015 at 11:26 AM

How much of the town is piped to deliver natural gas to homes?

9 mike fuce January 10, 2015 at 1:54 PM

Al, you are correct, the northeast has one natural gas pipeline and it is called coincidentally, the Algonquin Gas Pipeline. We are now approved and scheduled to get a second line in by 2018. It is approved finally. That will bring some relief but it simply is supply and demand. What people need to do is get on 12 or 36 month agreements and just simply dollar cost average their energy. I just went with a green energy supplier and got .0999 for 3 years. Electricity and oil and gas will always be higher in November through March. Lock in your 6 month contracts in April and august or there about. The other thing to do is to go solar. I design and install solar or I did and now I work with another company who is installing on my home. I locked that in for .11 per KW/hr all in, supply and delivery. That will supply 85% of my electricity use. So I will pay Ngrid a little delivery, $4 month for the account with ngrid, .11/kw/hr to the solar company (install for free and no out of packet expenses 774-245-5542 be glad to help anyone interested), so my electricity just went down by literally 60% over the next 20 years (have to really have a new roof within the past roulhgy 10-15 years). I also heat my main kitchen, living room with a very clean and efficient pellet stove, I have a beautiful wood insert in my family room that looks great and has tremendous btu output. I spend $1000 on pellets, $600 on cord wood, and roughly $100 a month one electircity (three kids, 3300 sq/ft home), and maybe one oil fill up a year for hot water heater and heat (I run it for 10 minutes twice a day when it is this cold to break up the tough cold thermals from the granite and wood in the home. Hope this helps everyone. Stay warm.

10 Dean Dairy January 11, 2015 at 10:49 AM

How many square feet of solar panels (on your roof?) were the minimum needed to make the deal you have viable?

11 Mark Ford January 11, 2015 at 12:17 PM

Wow Mike! Impressive. I may indeed give you a shout to look at our situation.

12 Al Hamilton January 11, 2015 at 3:19 PM

There is nearly an unimaginable quantity of NG sitting in capped wells just 350 miles from us. The new pipelines will bring more of this to our market which should ease up on the price pressure (you are correct it is all about supply and demand for NG) by bringing more supply to market. This gas will be very competitively priced vs oil for the foreseeable future. That is the reason there is a 1/2 year waiting list for Oil to Gas conversions.

13 SouseBro January 14, 2015 at 12:35 AM

There’s also the Tennesee Gas storage tanks on the other side of the Hopkington State Park. Their line goes thru Ashland and the south side of our town, (great sledding back in the day), no idea if there are any offshoots from the main pipeline tho…

14 Mary January 10, 2015 at 5:59 PM

I get my oil from Jamie Oil in Ashland. Have for 20 plus years. They honor the Mass Energy price, even though they are not part of it, if paid within 10 days. They charge you $20 once a year to get the Mass Energy price. Great service too. You can view current oil prices at the Mass Energy website.

15 Matthew January 13, 2015 at 9:29 AM

About 5 years ago we found out that we had a bad furnace, a bad chimney and a bad tank and the estimate was well over $10K to repair and replace. We opted to go with mini split heat pumps which is a very efficient form of electric heating and cooling. Ended up saving us big time over oil over the past few years but looks like things have evened out this year.
We’ve always used the wood stove and this year bought some bio bricks and pressed sawdust logs to go along with the hardwood. Good combination since they each have their plusses.
With the heat pumps installed on an interest free loan through Mass Save and solar on our roof a few years from now I think we’ll eventually be in a good spot.

16 John January 13, 2015 at 9:29 PM

Switching suppliers is a great temporary fix The longer term possible scenario is that even the alternative supplier prices will rise. Solar installation prices have come down quite a bit. It can be a cost effective solution no matter the strategy used (owned, leased, Power Purchase Agreements). A homeowner purchased system will generate Renewable Energy Tax Credits currently 30% federal and 5% Massachusetts in the year of installation. There are also recurring Massachusetts Tax Credits that continue for 10 years (this part could certainly change with the whims of the state’s political climate). Under current law, the tax credits will amount to approximately 100% of the installed cost of the system.

What can cause solar to not work financially is predictably, shade; whether from trees or hills, the direction of the house, pitch of the roof. There are also other costs sometimes not brought up in sales presentations such as maintenance and insurance costs. Although neither is onerous, they should be included in the analysis.

I have a client who is a solar installer and I assist them in producing Net Present Value analyses for commercial installations. Larger buildings with flat roofs are an ideal site.

Many of the systems that are installed free to the business owner or homeowner with power purchase agreements are owned by private investment groups in order to harvest the tax credits. Nothing wrong with that, but then the business owner or homeowner is sharing most of the financial benefits in exchange for no upfront investment.

17 Matthew Brownell January 17, 2015 at 9:30 AM

For those on oil heat, a good resource is http://www.newenglandoil.com

This site will provide the current per-gallon rates for a dozen or so local home heating oil dealers. You will need to double-check to make sure that they deliver to Southborough.

18 beth January 26, 2015 at 9:05 AM

For those of you still interested in this topic, Metrowest Daily News ran a story this weekend you may want to look at: “Utility rates can drop using alternative suppliers”
http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150124/NEWS/150127563

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