Heating costs rise as temperatures drop | SierraSun.com

Heating costs rise as temperatures drop

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunGary Fletcher sells firewood on Northwoods Boulevard in Tahoe Donner Tuesday. The Tahoe Donner resident sells firewood as a byproduct to his tree-falling service, and says November is one of his busiest months for selling wood.

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 are all projected to rise for customers shopping in the Truckee-Tahoe energy market.

“Everything we do is driven by fuel costs,” said district manager Ed Wagner 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 by the winter season.

“This is the industry high that we’ve ever paid in 25 years and we expect it to go up,” said Wagner.

Truckee residents relying on natural gas may also 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 spokesperson Cynthia Messina of Southwest Gas.

While wood pellets are generally a less-expensive heating option, customers in the area may be paying more this year for the alternative home-heating source.

Mountain Hardware and Sports in Truckee switched vendors due to a shortage in supply last winter. Lignetics, a major wood-pellet manufacturer that supplies many of the local retailers, experienced a shortage last winter because of rising fossil-fuel prices after Hurricane Katrina.

“We found another vendor from Canada, but because of shipping and gas prices, it’s more expensive than Lignetics,” said manager Sarah Britto of Mountain Hardware. “We don’t anticipate running out like last year because we’re more prepared this time around.”

Donnie Lee, who manages North Shore Ace Hardware in Kings Beach, said he will be sticking with Lignetics this winter even though the manufacturer may fall short in supplies again.

“If we get a cold snap, we could run into a problem,” said Lee. “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 is currently $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,” said Purdy.

The price increase is tied to a variety of factors, including the cost for the diesel delivery trucks and gas for chain saws, said Purdy.

The owner of A-1 Firewood, which delivers to 18 cities in Northern California and Nevada, including Truckee, 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 charge for delivery.

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