Blog : Combating Rising Fuel Prices and Staying Environmentally Conscious

By Craig | Oct 28, 2014 | in

Simply Green Biofuels and Yankee Thermal Imaging are offering a joint energy audit program available until October 31. For more information, call Simply Green at (603) 430-9919 or Yankee Thermal Imaging at (603) 330-3377. Proulx Oil & Propane is offering fixed-rate programs for their different home heating options. Call 800-287-1921 or their offices in Newmarket at (603) 659-7011 for rates.

Last year, with some of the most frigid winter months on record, homeowners felt left in the cold by high home heating costs. But this winter the U.S. Energy Department predicts lower home heating costs for customers. This prediction comes as crude oil prices dropped to an average of $3.41 a gallon in September, 29 cents below the month of June's average. That number is estimated to continue to drop to an average of $3.14 a gallon in December, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) short-term energy and winter fuels outlook for the 2014 and 2015 winter season.

And while those numbers have some New Englanders breathing a sigh of relief, it also has many homeowners thinking about the winter to come and wondering if the moderate temperatures seen through the fall will continue. A drastic drop in temperature like last year could send oil prices skyrocketing once again.

Home heating is not an easy market to gamble with. Fuel options – propane, Bioheat, oil – see fluctuating costs each year. Many people choose to switch their home heating option for a cheaper, more efficient product after the previous year's expenses. So what are homeowners in the Northeast to do come this winter season? How can they ensure the lowest expenditure for their home heat, even if the downturn ends and fuel rates climb once again?

Three seacoast companies are making that dilemma a little easier.

Northampton-based Simply Green Biofuels offers an environmentally-friendlier alternative to standard fuel oil in the form of Bioheat – a blend of No. 2 heating oil (a form of diesel) and U.S. grown or recycled plant-based biofuel. But the price of Bioheat is still determined by the ebb and flow of the oil market. That said, even with low oil prices such as those reported in September, Simply Green knows its customers work within tight budgets and are looking not only to pay less for fuel, but also to make certain home repairs that will help them burn less fuel, whatever its price tag.

"When the price of fuel is lower we find that customers are willing to spend more money on repairs, maintenance, and efficiency items if they think it’s going to be a long-lasting, downward trend," said Guy Marshall, General Manager of Simply Green.

To engage this budget-conscious, green-minded consumer-base, Marshall and his company have collaborated with Yankee Thermal Imaging (YTI) on an energy audit program to help their customers create far more energy-efficient homes and thus save on heating fuel costs.

The program, which began in late September and is available until Oct. 31, has proven popular with Simply Green customers. Customers who join the program receive YTI's $300 audit for $150 and earn a $50 credit on their next fuel delivery from Simply Green.

“We have been surprised by the depth of the response,” said Matt Silva, the client services manager for YTI, located in Rochester. “People are being proactive because they know winter is coming.” Silva said more than 50 audits have already been conducted with more being scheduled.

YTI’s certified energy auditors conduct complete audits of all heating and cooling systems, provide thermal images and insulation inspections of a property, and execute a blower door test to identify any air leakage. When the audit is complete, YTI gives the customer a written report explaining their recommendations, available rebates and credits, and their additional services that will help save energy and money. To date, nearly all of the audited customers have taken advantage of YTI's weatherization and insulation services.

Newmarket's Proulx Oil & Propane, like many New England fuel companies, has its own program to help new and existing customers get the best available price per gallon. To help homeowners prepare, Proulx Oil & Propane offers different fixed-rate plans for their selection of home heating options including oil, Bioheat and propane – an environmentally-friendly option growing in popularity. The EIA estimates an average of five percent of homes in the U.S. heat with propane with that number growing each year.

To protect against fluctuations in the market, Proulx offers a basic prepay plan that enables customers to secure a fixed price for fuel used over a specific contract term. If preferred, customers can also purchase the same prepay plan but with the additional benefits of downside protection. Purchasing downside protection allows Proulx's customers to benefit from a lower price in the event the daily price of the fuel they pre-purchased should drop below the initial lock-in price during their specified contract term.

Like Simply Green, Proulx Oil & Propane understands that many homeowners work within a set budget each month and that prepaying for fuel might not be an option. Thus, like many other local fuel providers, Proulx allows customers to continue to receive the company's fixed price including the downside protection while making affordable payments over 12 months.

As well as price awareness, consumers in the Seacoast region are revealing a growing focus on sustainability and this is another priority for all three companies. “Most individuals come to YTI with a dual purpose,” says Silva, “to save money and use less energy so as to lower their footprint.” Understanding this encouraged all three companies – YTI, Simply Green, and Proulx Oil & Propane – to join the Green Alliance, a union of local, sustainable businesses and consumer members working to grow the green community throughout New Hampshire and southern Maine. Indeed, it was through their partnership with the Green Alliance that YTI connected with Simply Green for their audit program.

And, Marshall says, that connection between maximum price competitiveness and maximum environmental awareness is a value that has driven his company from day one.

“Bioheat in particular has always been a huge attraction for the eco-conscious customers of Simply Green, in many instances it’s the main reason they started purchasing their fuel from us,” adds Marshall. “We will continue to look for ways to help people both heat their homes affordably and lessen their impact on the environment.”

Green Alliance Members receive 10¢ off every gallon of B5 or B20 heating oil from Simply Green, save 50% on a home energy audit now thru Oct 31, or $150 off the Home Comfort Savings Plan at Yankee Thermal Imaging and 7¢ off posted per-gallon price of B5 Heating Oil and 10¢ to 25¢ off posted price for propane (discount price for propane based on annual usage) with Proulx Oil & Propane. Not a member? Join here!