October 6, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

With natural gas prices expected to rise more than 50 percent this winter, Kentuckians are trying to find ways to minimize the impact on their checkbooks. 

The Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas consumers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama paid on average $12.20 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in the final quarter of 2004 and the first quarter of 2005. The administration estimates that the cost will increase to nearly $19 per mcf for the same quarters this winter.

Consumers with all-electric homes will not be immune to higher energy costs. Utility plants use natural gas to produce power. Electric-only residential consumers may see an increase of as much as 15 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The report said those increases will vary depending on whether a state has a deregulated power industry, which Kentucky does not have.

Linda Adler, University of Kentucky Extension home furnishings specialist, believes now is the time for consumers to check their homes and take steps toward saving energy.

“Start by checking the condition of your roof,” she said. “Inspect common trouble spots and find out how to locate a leak from the inside. If necessary, hire a licensed roofer to replace any missing or broken shingles and make sure the flashing around vent pipes, skylights and the chimney is secure.”

Aside from making sure the roof is secure, Adler said checking home insulation is the most important task in cold weather preparations.

“Check the condition of the weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows and make repairs now,” she emphasized. “It will help make your house weather-tight and draft-free. You may even want to consider replacing older windows with newer, energy-efficient windows.”

The home heating system is often the culprit of higher-than-necessary energy costs. Adler said it is important to check the heating system each fall and have it serviced by a qualified professional.

“Check your pilot lights and burners and be sure to change your furnace filters on a regular basis,” she said. “It really can make a difference. Cleaning and servicing the heating system now will save you money and help prevent heating problems during the colder months.”

Most gas companies offer some type of average billing plan that might help predict costs and help consumers budget their heating costs this winter.

Some easy things to do around the house to prepare for colder weather include:
• placing plastic sheeting in windows for added insulation;

• sealing cracks around windows and doors with caulk or some type of foaming sealant;

• caulking and sealing leaks where plumbing, ducting and electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors and ceilings;

• putting an insulation blanket around water heaters in basements and crawl spaces;

• placing foam seals under electrical outlets and switch plates on outside walls to prevent drafts;

• replacing inefficient heat pumps;

• upgrading insulation in the attic to R-38;

• sealing all joints in sheet metal ducts in a forced air furnace with mastic or appropriate tape and insulating ducts passing through unheated spaces;

• repairing leaking faucets;

• and replacing aging appliances and heating systems with newer energy-efficient models.


Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Linda Adler 859-257-7771