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Prepare now for heating with delivered fuel

Published July 24, 2020

Thinking about how you are going to heat your home this winter? Maybe not. After all, it’s still the middle of a hot summer! At CUB we think about heating and cooling all year long, so we can help you plan ahead.

Just over 12 percent of Minnesotans heat their home with delivered fuels like propane or heating oil. Propane is the most common, with 10 percent of Minnesota households using it as a heating fuel. Delivered fuels are not regulated like electricity and gas, and price swings for these fuels are not uncommon. During the winter of 2013-2014, for example, there was an unusually large cost increase for propane that put a strain on many household budgets, but even in normal years, prices are often higher during the winter, when demand is up. No one can predict future prices, but it can be worth investigating options that might help you budget better. 

Some households buy fuel as needed and then pay the market price at that time. Others try to fill up when prices are lower. This time of year, many fuel providers offer summer fill discounts and pre-buy programs to lock in a purchase price ahead of time. Many providers also offer budget payment plans that provide more price certainty. 

Many families that use propane lease their tanks from the fuel provider. If you lease your tank, you can only purchase propane from that provider. If you can afford it, the Attorney General’s office suggests you consider buying your own tank, so that you can shop around for the best price when it’s time to refill. They suggest customers may be able to buy a used tank or purchase a tank they’re currently leasing from their supplier. 

We encourage consumers to look into these options and decide what might work best for their households based on their budgets, need for price certainty, and cash flow considerations. Keep in mind that if you are struggling to pay your energy expenses, Energy Assistance can be used to help with heating fuel starting October 1. Contact your local energy assistance provider for more information.

As always, please reach out to CUB staff, especially about questions about how to reduce your energy usage so that your heating fuels last longer between fills. You can contact me at 651-300-4701 ext. 2 or carmenc@cubminnesota.org.

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Author: Carmen Carruthers

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