MONTROSE, Colo. — If Xcel wanted to generate heat in Colorado, it certainly accomplished its mission. However, the energy company’s recent 73 percent rate increase for natural gas is getting a cool reception from consumers.

“People are upset,” said Eli Power of One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning™ in Montrose. “They want to look at alternatives and they’re interested in finding ways to conserve energy.”

With the latest average Colorado household heating bill expected to increase to more than $100 a month, the concern is understandable. Plus, the natural gas hike may not be the end of consumers dipping more heavily into their wallets this winter to stay comfortable. Some electric power generation in the state is fueled by natural gas, so electric companies might be forced to pass along the higher operating costs of generating power in the future.

Power said One Hour recently received 10 calls in one day from consumers, asking what they could do to mitigate the effects of the Xcel rate increase.

“I told them that there’s nothing they can do about the rate hike, but there’s a lot they can do to reduce their energy consumption,” he said. “With the costs going up so dramatically, now’s a good time to be proactive about your home’s heating equipment.”

Power said heating and cooling equipment represents 44 percent of a home’s energy costs, and offers the most opportunity to save money.

Tips From The Pros

Among the options Power communicated to residents include:

  • Have your furnace examined, cleaned, and serviced by a professional once a year. “Bringing the furnace up to factory specifications greatly improves its efficiency, and technicians can also check to make sure all connections are tight and the igniters are clean and operating correctly,” said Power.

  • Consumers should be diligent in changing their filters every 30 days and “should allow their fans to run continuously to keep air temperatures uniform throughout the house,” he said.

  • Check the ductwork. “Leaking ducts can add hundreds of dollars to your energy bill each year and make it harder for your system to keep up,” said Power, noting that one must check the duct insulation, too.

  • Be proactive and take a whole-house approach. “Many heating and air conditioning service companies offer you options that audit your whole house and recommend low-cost ways to reduce your energy consumption through equipment maintenance and upgrades; weatherization; insulation; and thermostat settings.”

    For example, One Hour offers a “super tune-up” to do maintenance and evaluate needs, and has a separate energy audit that determines the efficiency of a system and makes recommendations within the owner’s budget.

    “People are not interested in somebody trying to sell them something,” Power said. “They want alternatives and solutions that save them money. Otherwise, they don’t want to bother, rate increase or no rate increase.”

    Publication date: 10/13/2003