Oct 132005
Authors: James Baetke


Conservation Tips on Keeping Heat in the Home

*When your house or apartment is occupied keep the temperature at a comfortable 65 to 68-degrees Fahrenheit

*Close doors and heat registers to rooms that are unused

*Close curtains and shades at night

*Replace furnace filters once per month during the cold months

*Caulk doors and windows

*Make sure your furnace is checked every three years by certified maintenance personnel

Above information used with permission by Lloyd Walker, CSU emeritus faculty member

Statistical information: Average Growth rates in utilities on CSU Main Campus in the past 10 years

*Electricity: .5% per year

*Water/Sewer: 4.4 % per year

*Natural Gas: 6.1% per year

Source: CSU Utilities

Statistical information: The history of total utility costs for al of CSU campus (and all utilities – water, sewer, natural gas, & electricity) is:

FY05 – $13.5

FY04 – $12.4

FY03 – $12.2

FY02 – $13.2

FY01 – $10.8

FY00 – $10.3

FY99 – $9.9

FY98 – $9.6

FY97 – $9.3

FY96 – $8.5

Source: CSU Utilities

The cold weather that is slowly tiptoeing in Fort Collins' neighborhoods is likely to leave a different kind of chill in the pockets of customers heating their homes.

Xcel Energy, which heats most Fort Collins homes and businesses, is projecting a 34-percent increase in natural gas bills this December compared to the same time last year.

The average bill for a typical residential home is expected to be about $170, a jump from last year's $127, according to Xcel's projections.

Small businesses can expect a 35-percent increase in heating bills for the upcoming snow season – an average December bill at about $776.

Rates beyond December are expected to remain the same during the winter.

To some business owners and residents in Fort Collins, the response to the rate increase is icy at best.

Shirley Norda, a Fort Collins resident, worries that she won't be able to pay her heating bill on time.

"I understand the prices of gas are rising, but I'm a single mom worrying about how I'm going to pay all my bills this winter," Norda said.

According to research by Lloyd Walker, a CSU emeritus faculty member, the average house expends 38 percent of its total annual energy use on heating.

CSU will be affected by the increase, said Steven Hultin, utilities manager for the university. He said the increase is not prompted solely by rising rates from Xcel, but also by direct sellers from whom CSU buys a majority of its natural gas.

"Every dollar we spend for utilities is a dollar less for the school," Hultin said.

According to Hultin, the university spent $13.5 million on utilities during the fiscal year ending last June. That number is expected rise after this increase and students can expect to pay for the difference in the future.

"We all see the effect of natural gas price rising," he said.

On-campus housing passes on higher fees to students and university activities and programs coming from what is known as the exempt account are slashed in an effort to pay for rising gas cost year to year, Hultin said.

"Most of the common reports see utility rates to continue to rise," Hultin said.

University utility documents show the university invested about $1.9 million in the past two years in conservation efforts. The utilities department saw about a 30-percent return on what they initially invested.

Xcel says the increase is due to soaring rates anticipated in the price of natural gas and customers are paying for the service on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Officials for the energy company said the price bump would not result in additional profit.

Before the rates can officially be increased, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission must approve Xcel's request.

Xcel is also proposing a rate increase for electricity customers, but Fort Collins residents will not see the rate hike because the city of Fort Collins owns its electric utility.

Walker's report said electricity use for lighting and running appliances accounts for 43 percent of the average home's energy use.

Patty Bigner, spokeswoman for Fort Collins Utilities, said rates for electricity will remain the same.

"We will not increase electric costs this year and it is very likely we will not raise them in 2007," Bigner said.

Last year, the Fort Collins City Council voted to increase electric rates by 4.35 percent to take effect Jan. 1., which equates to an average of $1.85 more per month compared to 2004.

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