A near perfect storm of price increases across multiple energy sources. Propane shortages and price hikes, Electricity price increases and billing issues, Fuel Oil tank regulation changes.
Source: Ontario energy board
Recent bills have residents taking a long hard look at their electricity bills due to a large increase in charges. Those with accurate bills are simply dismayed at the increase. With the introduction of time of use pricing and smart meters Ontario’s ombudsman has received complaints from 3100 Hydro 1 customers about inaccurate and sometimes ridiculous smart meter bills.
Taking a long term view provides a clear picture. Ontario hydro prices have increased significantly in recent years rising by 50% since 2007. The outlook for the future is even worse with the recent announcement of price increases of another 42% over the next 5 years. Ontario electricity price projections article.
Conclusion: Homeowners should consider reducing electricity use, especially for heating, water heating and cooking.
What are your options?
If you are lucky enough to have access to natural gas consider replacing your electric heating, water heater, stove and dryer with natural gas replacements. If natural gas is not available consider a propane furnace or fireplace. Rural customers may also consider pellet or wood burning furnaces, pellet or wood burning stoves or fireplaces.
Courtesy National Energy Board of Canada
Fuel oil prices have been steadily increasing over the last decade making heating oil a less attractive way to heat your home. On January 1st 2013 Ontario issued an amendment to the safety standards for Fuel Oil Storage the full document can be accessed here….Fuel Oil Code Amendment, containing significantly tougher requirements for above ground steel tanks and fittings. In addition home insurance companies have raised rates and insisted on expensive fuel oil tank replacements. The cost of furnace oil tank replacement can run into thousands of dollars driving homeowners in rural locations to install alternate heating systems, predominantly propane.
Conclusion: Furnace oil is one of the least attractive methods of heating a home, with legacy customers actively seeking alternatives.
If you are lucky enough to have access to natural gas consider replacing your furnace, water heater, stove and dryer with natural gas replacements. If natural gas is not available consider a propane furnace or fireplace. Rural customers may also consider pellet or wood burning furnaces, pellet or wood burning stoves or wood fireplaces.
Ontario residents have experienced an alarming shortage of propane this winter, combined with severe short term and unexpected price increases of up to 50% in the 6 months. News article The short term shortage has been attributed to a combination of increased winter demand and Canada selling too much propane to the US earlier this year and problems with a pipeline in Alberta. The current condition is by all accounts short term and unprecedented. Long term, propane has proved an attractive energy source and is likely to return to normal this summer.
Conclusion: While painful the current propane shortage is short lived and propane remains and attractive fuel source for rural homeowners, though if this winter taught us anything should maybe not be the only source of heat.
Convert to natural gas, if you are lucky enough to have access to it. If not, and propane prices return to their traditional low levels this summer you will probably want to keep propane as you main source of heat, though we recommend locking in prices for 12 month contract based on the summer price of propane (if this year is anything to go by). Another thought would be to consider installing a backup source of heat such as a pellet stove or wood stove, to mitigate against future shortages.
Natural Gas prices have remained relatively stable over the last decade and in recent years have actually decreased. Local shortages in some areas of Nth America this winter have not impacted consumer prices in Ontario yet, but Enbridge has applied for a short term increase to cover shortfalls due to the prolonged winter. BREAKING NEWS – Enbridge gas prices increase takes effect April 1st 2014, is reviewed every 3 months, and is expected to fall next winter once the cost of last winters shortfall has been recovered.
Conclusion: Natural gas, if you are lucky enough to receive it, is the most attractive source of energy in the long term
Consider replacing any remaining electric appliances with natural gas. Water heaters, stoves and dryers are all available in natural gas versions. More convenient BBQ cooking. Convert your BBQ from propane to natural gas by having a gas line installed and your BBQ converted by a licensed installer. Also, if your gas furnace is 15 years or older consider replacing it with a new gas furnace with an ECM electric motor. Depending on the size of house the more efficient blower motor can reduce your electricity bill by $500 per year at current prices, rising to $750 per year as the planned hydro price increases take effect.
The overriding trends are to reduce energy usage and not become dependent on any one source of energy. Aside from the weather, Ontario is also affected by global demand for energy, both of which homeowners have have no control over. It may be advisable to have a backup source of heat. Based on price and reliability of supply consider the following priority:
1) Natural gas
3) Wood pellet
6) Fuel Oil
Give some thought to where your heat is going to come from during a power outage or brown out. Most people don’t realize that a natural gas fireplace is capable of operating without electricity. Other popular options are propane or wood fireplaces or stoves. No power, no problem.