SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — While the weather is still unseasonably warm, South Dakotans know October means it’s nearly time to start turning on your furnace again. But in tonight’s Your Money Matters, what you should know about prices before you turn up the heat.
“Natural gas prices have hit and have been caught in that perfect storm,” South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Kristie Fiegen said.
The demand is growing and the supply is down, a perfect economic storm all caused by some real-life storms.
“The lower supply is because of the hurricanes in the south, so they haven’t been able to get us prepared as well as we were last year for our winter season coming up,” Fiegen said. “So we have 15 percent less in storage right now going into our winter than we did last year.”
Right now, natural gas prices have seen a 100 percent increase, which could double your bill from last year. But this could be just the beginning.
“When you read about natural gas markets, they say it could go up,” Fiegen said. “Right now its around $5.00-$5.50; it could go up to $10. That is where we saw it in 2008; it is a volatile market.”
“Have the furnace tuned up and cleaned,” Gary Black with Waterbury Heating & Cooling said.
It’s why this year it’s more important than ever to make sure your furnace is running as efficiently as possible.
“Change the furnace filter if it’s a one-inch filter, change it monthly, don’t wait the three months the manufacturer says,” Black said.
Black also says leaving your thermostat at the same reasonable temperature all day can conserve gas.
“Don’t raise your temperature up and down,” Black said.
He says the best way to cut back on your gas bill is to install a high-efficiency furnace.
“Typically the furnaces that are 96 and 99 percent efficient will typically give you anywhere from 25 to 30 percent reduction in your gas usage,” Black said. “Now there are variables like how well your house is insulated, what type of windows you have, things of that sort.”
Those are all areas you can check right now before the cold weather hits, knowing this year’s heating bills are going to be higher.
“We want to make sure that consumers are prepared,” Fiegen said.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission says they regulate the delivery fee gas companies charge, about 20 to 30 percent of your monthly bill. But they have no control over the gas charge, which is a volatile commodity based on the market that currently has no government regulation.
“These estimated increases are only projections. Actual bill impacts may end up being higher or lower than what utilities are projecting. Regardless, South Dakota customers should prepare for higher bills by planning ahead and taking steps to manage their budgets and these costs now,” said PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson in a news release Tuesday. “Completing a home energy audit is a good way to determine where your home is losing energy and identify what fixes or upgrades are worth the investment. Some utility companies offer a professional assessment to customers free of charge, so contact your local utility to find out more and while you have them on the phone, ask about a budget billing plan that helps spread out higher utility costs over several months rather than having to pay them all at once,” he continued.