Heating costs rise as temperatures drop
Record high prices at the gasoline pump this fall will contribute to making the cost of heating Lake Tahoe-area homes this winter more painful than usual.
The price of firewood, propane, wood pellets and natural gas all are projected to rise.
“Everything we do is driven by fuel costs,” said Ed Wagner, district manager of Truckee Tahoe Propane. “It’s out of our hands.”
Wagner’s propane distributor currently charges $3.08 per tank, but he expects this price to increase during winter.
“This is the industry high that we’ve ever paid in 25 years, and we expect it to go up,” Wagner said.
North Shore and Truckee residents relying on natural gas also may see an increase in heating costs by Jan. 8.
The estimated cost to heat an average residential home in Truckee this January is $236.62 – nearly a $20 increase from last season, said spokeswoman Cynthia Messina of Southwest Gas.
While wood pellets generally are a less-expensive heating option, customers in the area may be paying slightly more this year for the alternative home-heating source.
Randy Kesler of Wood Stove Distributors in Incline Village said that the cost of pellets this year compared with last year is an increase of 12 percent and 15 percent, or about $1 per bag.
The wood-pellet increase is modest compared with natural gas and electricity, he said.
Last year, many owners of wood-pellet stoves had a difficult time finding the pellets, but Kesler said that he does not anticipate a shortage of the pellets this year. Last year’s problem was because of losing a mill in Oregon when it burned. However, this year, several new mills have opened.
“With so many new mills this year, it is even possible that there will be so much competition that we may actually see a drop in prices,” Kesler said.
Kesler said another reason to use pellets is that they are a renewable source.
“We are not destroying our planet when we use pellets like we are with the fossil fuels,” he said.
Both the wood stoves and the pellet stoves are in stock and available at Wood Stove Distributors. Kesler said they have been located in Incline Village for almost 30 years and in the past four or five years moved to the current location. Because of local interest in the wood and pellet stoves, they have even added a local service person to handle warranties and other service issues.
Donnie Lee, who manages North Shore Ace Hardware in Kings Beach, said pellet manufacturer Lignetics may fall short in supplies again this winter.
“If we get a cold snap, we could run into a problem,” Lee said. “We have plenty in store right now, but we have limited space on what we can store.”
The cost for a 40-pound bag of Lignetic wood pellets at North Shore Ace Hardware currently is $7.99 – nearly a $2 increase from last season.
Firewood retailers around Truckee and Lake Tahoe have reported varied price projections for the upcoming winter season.
Reno Tahoe Firewood in Truckee will be charging $400 for a cord of wood, and owner Greg Purdy expects that price to go up around Dec. 1.
“Fuel prices are eating into our profits,” Purdy said.
The price increase is tied to a variety of factors, including the cost for the diesel delivery trucks and gas for chain saws, Purdy said.
The owner of A-1 Firewood, which delivers to 18 cities in Northern California and Nevada, said the price for a cord of firewood is down this season and will be staying that way.
“There’s more supply this winter, so the price is down from last year,” said Lee Wetherbee, who charges $365 per cord plus the cost of delivery.
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