Experts energy-saving tips bring money back to students’ pockets

Despite the sagging cost of natural gas, staying warm this winter could mean having to shell out cold hard cash for some people.

According to an Oct. 10 USA Today article, the price of natural gas is expected to drop dramatically from last year, when it spiked after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

That’s welcome news for some people who heat their homes with natural gas.

“The cost of heating energy and gas did not change this October,” said Lee Jones, an energy auditor for the City of Tallahassee. “What you’ve been seeing in the paper is the cost of natural gas. It has come down in the last few months. The current cost of gas is at a two-year low, and those prices will be reflected in customers’ bills towards the middle of winter.”Jones said that although the price of natural gas has fallen, the cost of heating a home with electricity is the same.

“The price that [students] are paying for gas and units of electricity is exactly what they were paying in the summer,” Jones said. “It last went up in April. In April it was about 30 percent higher than it was the fall before.”

Jones said the price for gas and units of electricity is not expected to change until October, but even then, there is no guarantee that it will go down.

That provides little relief for students who are being forced to foot the bill for the high gas prices in order to live comfortably.Travis M. Floyd, a 24-year-old business administration student from Miami, said his bill has been pretty inexpensive in the three months he’s lived in his home, but he’s prepared for what may come this winter.

“I’m assuming that my bills are going to be really high; probably almost unaffordable for a college student.” Floyd said the cost of heating is going to force him to scale back some of his spending habits, an idea he is not looking forward to. “It saddens me to know that my discretionary income will be on a decline until probably February.”

Floyd, who lives in a house heated by electricity, said he normally keeps his thermostat on 78 degrees in the winter; a choice Jones said may not be a good idea.

“You should be very conservative with how you set the thermostat for heating. Try to avoid heating above 68 degrees.”Jones suggested that if you must heat above 68 degrees, it is best to do it during the daytime. “Heat runs the most during the night when people are sleeping because it gets colder. You’ll save money by reducing the heat at night when you go to bed and raising it again in the morning.”

Jones also suggested added weather stripping to windows and doors, putting stuffed animals or towels at the bottom of doors and putting plastic over windows to keep the heat from escaping.

Another way to help save money is to have your home audited by an energy auditor from the city.

The audit will help evaluate how much energy a home consumes and help outline measures to make the home more energy efficient.

The inspector will check everything from the home’s insulation to how tight the doors are to assess what can be done to conserve energy.

“I think that’s a great idea,” said Akilah Henley, a 19-year-old English education student from Nashville, Tenn. “A lot of people don’t know about conserving energy and how they can keep their bill down, so having some kind of knowledge about it will be of some help.”

People who want that knowledge may have to wait.

That’s because the city has a backlog of people waiting to get their homes audited. Right now, the average wait time to get an audit is about two months.

For people like Henley, conserving energy will not just be a goal, but a necessity to maintain their livelihood.

“I don’t know how I’m going to find the extra money to pay for the extra usage. I’m just going to have to work more in order to provide funds for that,” she said. “We’ll just have to keep the thermostat on 78 and get a lot of blankets.”