Brighter side of warm winter: Lower heating bills



After an unusually warm fall, Alaska’s urban core is heading into the winter season looking wholly unseasonable, but there could be a Christmas bonus for homeowners hidden in the picture.

National Weather Service records indicate heating degree days in the state’s largest city are down almost 32 percent from normal for the period from July 1 through Tuesday. Heating degree days provide the yardstick the NWS uses to measure energy use to heat buildings. 

The warm weather should have cut your home use of natural gas by about a third, and thus produced a similar drop in your fuel bill.

The average monthly cost for natural gas in the Anchorage Metro area last year was just over $158 per month, according to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, the state entity that oversees utilities.

At that rate, the average homeowner on an annual payment plan would have paid Enstar about $710 to date. But given that this year has been far from normal, about a third less gas should have been used, and your bill should have dropped accordingly.

A 32 percent change would drop the amount the average homeowner actually owes Enstar Natural Gas as of this date to a hair over $484, resulting in an average savings of $227 – enough to buy a new pair of ski boots for Christmas.

That’s a pretty nice Christmas blessing to make up for the unChristmas-like weather. The savings could, of course, disappear if January, February and March turn brutally cold, but that is not expected. The National Climate Center says there is a 40 to 50 percent probability Alaska weather will be above normal at least through February.

And by then things are starting to warm up.

If the climate prediction proves true, Anchorage area residents should be saving on their home heating bills all winter, but even if the weather returns to the NWS’s climatological normal” – the average of the 20 years from 1981 to 2010 – the average homeowner will still be $225 ahead.

The only way consumers lose is if the winter months prove unusually cold compared to normal, and no one is predicting that in these days of global warming.

Actual savings will, of course, depend on the size of your home and how well it is insulated. Poorly insulated homes require more energy to heat than well-insulated homes. Large homes generally require more energy than small homes.

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  1. I recall in 2000, my mother, a lifelong die hard democrat, complaining about the bitter cold they endured. As she anxiously awaited ManBearPig (Al Gore) to be enthroned as president she complained about the cold: “That’s just typical of politicians. They promise us global warming and look what we get.”

      • GoreBull warming, or climate change, has been happening since the beginning of time. Are we going to blame the droughts and famines of Biblical times on camel farts?

        • AK, no one is disputing the fact that climates have naturally changed for billions of years. In fact, the natural climate change should be headed for another ice age. You’ll notice you’re reading an article about the climate actually warming instead. That is because of the human impact, which is what Al Gore referred to. Not natural climate change.

          • Your premise is conjecture. There is a difference between opinion and ‘facts’. For barely 100 out of 4,000,000,000 years we have documented statistics to study. That is like watching one spin of the roulette wheel and betting everything on the ‘scientific fact’ of the observed results. Global warming has been happening since the end of the Little Ice Age. With luck it will continue and be as good as the last medieval warming that brought the Vikings to America. Hopefully sunspots return soon.

          • AK, are you seriously denying anthropogenic global warming is real despite virtually every climate scientist out there saying otherwise? My goodness, your ego is massive. Too bad it does not reflect your abilities, as your argument is garbage.

          • ‘virtually every climate scientist’ knows where the money is, and it lies with the greatest panic and drama they can create. Some other ‘consensuses’:
            ‘There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Albert Einstein, 1932, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830, “X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” – Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883, “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” – -W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954, “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936, “We can close the book on infectious diseases.”- William H Stewart, 1969. Global warming is real, of that there is no doubt and we should be thankful. But the idea that ‘the science is settled’ is bunk. The only science settled is where the most money can be milked from the system.

          • AK, interesting your only argument is “where is the money?” And yet you completely ignore where the money is. The money is in burning fossil fuel. The most profitable company on earth is Saudi Aramco. Silly that your only argument blows up in your face. But to be expected.

          • Fossil fuel producers do just that, they produce the product which allows the modern world to function, not just suckle at the public teat to raise panic for more money. You are correct, the money is in producing and burning profitable fuel. When the market innovates the next big thing then society will move along to that. Perhaps clean nuclear, perhaps hydrogen, perhaps many real things able to stand on their own separate from the public trough. In the mean time, society, just like the natural world, is divided into the two opposing sides, those who produce and those who live by the fruits of others.

          • And when you have no argument you insult, demean, ridicule and ultimately will cry either ‘racist’ or ‘Nazi’. Let’s see which comes first.

          • Climate scientists study climate, biologists study biology. When your field of study is narrow some times you can’t see the forest for the trees, sometimes the view is so broad you can’t see the trees for the forest. There are so many various processes that all interact if somebody tells you they definitively know the absolute truth, you should laugh in that person’s face.
            The good folks over at NASA’s JPL recently discovered that water fall, or the lack thereof, in the Indian subcontinent and the Caspian Sea area causes the wobble of the earth to dramatically change direction.
            The magnetic poles have been shifting and specifically the magnetic North pole simply decided one day about 20-25 years ago to go on a high speed eastward shift unlike anything ever seen before, and it has barely slowed down since. Scientists do not know why there was a sudden shift, nor do they know what all of the impacts will be.
            Recent studies have also shown that 1/4 of all of the carbon in the atmosphere is caused by freshwater lakes, far more than any anthropogenic source.
            D-O events, or Dansgaard-Oeschger events show us that rapid climate change has happened frequently in the relatively recent past. Climate scientists and true believers have claimed for years that we are seeing an unprecedented and sudden climate shift, when in fact sudden climate shifts are historically more ‘normal’ than slow changes over millenia.
            While climate scientists might prefer everyone jump off the proverbial bridge together, I will keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and let actual science inform me instead of following the crowd simply because there is a supposed consensus. When a scientist dismisses any data because it doesn’t fit their predetermined narrative they cease being a scientist, and become a shill for a cause, most of the consensus climate scientists fit into this category.

          • AK Steele, nazis? Racists? Why, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were all out of talking points… sheesh

          • Steve o, if someone tells me the experts are all wrong and this self described expert knows all, I won’t laugh in their face. I’ll just ignore them and their religious nonsense. It’s easy to point to all these “what ifs” and go “what if?” But it is meaningless. We know humans are the primary driver of carbon increasing in the atmosphere. Period. End of story. We don’t care that freshwater lakes or volcanoes contribute. We know they have for millennia. What we care about is what is driving the sudden shift away from the natural cycle. Humans are the cause. We know this.

          • Rich,

            What you just described is blind faith. You are accepting with religious fervor that what you read from your holy priests is the truth, feel free to disregard any and everything that contradicts your dogma. While you may believe, with all your religious conviction, that “humans are the primary driver of carbon increasing in the atmosphere” science and facts show otherwise. Just ask your priests, none of them will say what you just said with such conviction of faith. Scientists never say things like what you have said, only the truly religious.
            I mean seriously, “Period. End of story. We don’t care that freshwater lakes or volcanoes contribute.” Really, oh all yea faithful who cares what’s causing the problem, it’s us and we must be stopped, even if it isn’t us…it must be us. That’s the message? We don’t care about facts or science…how’s your faith friend?

        • Steve, blind faith is what your excuse for ignoring the experts is. Blind faith is you ignoring the facts and arguing we can’t know. You maybe don’t. That’s fine. You’re not an expert. You’re an internet commenter with nothing to offer. Unless you have something, you can be ignored.

          • Rich,

            I’m not ignoring any experts, just the opposite, I am listening to all the experts. All of the things I wrote about come directly from the experts that you are choosing to ignore because it does not fit your dogma. I’m not asking you believe me as some random internet commenter, I’m asking that you listen to what the scientists and experts are saying. Look up the information I posted above for yourself, or not, it’s your choice to remain ignorant and express your blind faith in your own religion.

      • We know. The science is settled. The religion is infallible to the faithful. All humans must die to save humanity! Only humans can cause climate change, as proven over the last 4,000,000,000 years. What arrogance.

  2. The rest of the story: If the ave temp is up due to continuing freeze/thaw cycles, the snowpack will be continually melting and running off on the frozen ground during the winter. This would be in contrast to the traditional big melt in the spring, where the ground in the recharge area of the Chugiak has thawed sufficiently to allow the meltwater to percolate vertically and recharge our aquifers. Consequently, we could be seeing water shortages in the southeast Anchorage areas supplied by domestic water wells!

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