Last year’s mild winter may have been a blessing in disguise since it reduced the demand for heat significantly, but for homeowners in Boston, heating has come to the forefront this winter. Heating assistance programs in Boston are struggling to meet requests for help from families who simply can’t afford to heat their homes this winter.

According to the United Way, last year in Boston, heating assistance factored into about two-thirds of the agency’s 3,100 requests for help from area families. The agency budgeted about $750,000 for heating assistance (during last year’s unseasonably mild winter) and still saw unmet assistance requests of nearly $500,000. This year, federal fuel subsidies have been cut, leaving many states and private agencies to fill in the gaps. Those programs are running low on fuel assistance dollars largely because of the high cost of heating oil in Massachusetts. The current average price for heating oil in Boston is about $3.81 per gallon, while some suppliers have broken the $4.00/gallon mark.

When meeting basic necessities is a major priority, most homeowners don’t contemplate major home improvements like heating and cooling system replacements. For homeowners who are in a position to do so, upgrading to high-efficiency heating equipment or converting from oil to natural gas heat right now can pay dividends down the road. Reducing heating costs and fuel consumption now may help cushion the blow of an unexpected job loss or loss of income in the future.

In 2013, homeowners can take advantage of some exceptional rebates, tax credits and 0% financing programs that can help reduce the cost of upgrading or converting to natural gas. In some cases – particularly with oil-to-gas conversions – homeowners can start to reap the return on investment right away.

Natural gas is plentiful, and can slash winter heating bills by half or more during an average winter. Moving to a natural gas furnace or boiler makes a lot of sense for homeowners who are still working, but who are either contemplating retirement or approaching retirement age. By making major upgrades now, these homeowners can help ensure cost-control for winter heat once they’ve transitioned out of the workforce and into retirement – when their household income may be both reduced and fixed.
Natural gas conversion or upgrades may also make a home more attractive to prospective buyers, and may reduce the amount of time it takes to sell the home. A recent Massachusetts real estate survey, which we discussed recently on this blog, shows that the majority of prospective buyers strongly prefer a home that is heated with natural gas.

There’s no reason to continue using low-efficiency heating equipment or spending thousands of dollars more than necessary on old, expensive-to-operate and potentially hazardous heating equipment. If you are considering an upgrade to your low-efficiency (less than 80%) heating equipment, or an oil-to-gas conversion, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 362-0377 . We’ll set up an appointment to inspect your current heating equipment and let you know about programs that are designed to help reduce the cost of upgrading to less-costly and more environmentally friendly heating options.

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DIY Blog, DIY Heating, Water Heaters

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