Expert: Cost of heating homes will increase by hundreds this year

With oil prices on the rise, a local industry expert says it could cost hundreds of dollars more to heat your home this winter than it did last year.
"We saw prices in the low $2 range, and now we're seeing them in the $3 range," said Santa Energy President Peter Russell.
Russell says since demand collapsed during the pandemic, oil refineries are still catching up to a world that's getting back to business.
"They shut a lot of these down when the downturn happened, and you just don't restart the system that easily, so it takes time to catch up with it," he said.
Russell says consumers are experiencing some sticker shock after a year when gas and heating oil were especially cheap.
"Prices really took a dip, and then we have this year where prices are only slightly above where they were pre-COVID times," Russell said.
President Joe Biden is hoping to lower home heating costs by releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve. Local vendors say the reserve isn't usually used to control price fluctuations.
"Hopefully it brings some relief, but it'll probably be minor and short-lived," said Russell.
He says the best way to control heating costs is to make sure your system is running efficiently.
"Have your equipment tuned up on a yearly basis, remove furniture and blockage from any of your baseboards or registers so the air flows throughout your house," Russell recommended.
He also suggests only using that thermostat as much as you have to be comfortable.
"The least expensive gallon of oil you can buy is the one you don't use," Russell said.
Other energy-producing nations, including China, India and the UK, also released oil from their strategic reserves.