Higher heating bills coming this winter

WASHINGTON The Hydronics Institute Division of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association was holding its fall meeting Oct. 12 in Absecon, N.J., just as the U.S. Department of Energy announced-that increased energy prices would lead to higher heating bills for consumers this winter. Manufacturers of boilers, controls and other hydronicheating products speculated-that sharply higher prices for natural

WASHINGTON — The Hydronics Institute Division of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association was holding its fall meeting Oct. 12 in Absecon, N.J., just as the U.S. Department of Energy announced-that increased energy prices would lead to higher heating bills for consumers this winter. Manufacturers of boilers, controls and other hydronicheating products speculated-that sharply higher prices for natural gas and heating oil would motivate con- sumers to invest in more energyefficient heating systems.

Residential space-heating expenditures will increase this winter for all fuel types compared to year-ago levels, according to forecasts by DOE's Energy Information Administration in its October Short-Term Energy Outlook. On average, households heating with natural-gas can expect to spend about $350, or 48%, more this winter on fuel. Households heating with oil can expect to pay $378, or 32%, more this winter. Households heating primarily with propane can expect to pay $325, or 30%, more this winter.

Households heating with electricity can expect to pay $38, or 5%, more. Electric rates are strictly regulated, and electricity is generated from different sources around the country.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects a 0.4% colder winter in the 48 contiguous states, in terms of heating degreedays, relative to normal winter weather, which would be 3.2% colder than last winter.

Prices for petroleum and natural gas will remain high due to tight international supplies of crude and hurricaneinduced supply losses. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil is projected to average about $58 per barrel in 2005 and $65 in 2006. Continued high crude oil prices had been expected before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Natural gas prices are expected to average about $9 per 1,000 cu. ft. in 2005 and about $8.70 in 2006, according to the EIA, which added that complete recovery of energy infrastructure from hurricane damage will take many months. Considerable recovery should occur, however, by the end of this year. The restart of two major refineries in western Louisiana and another in Pascagoula, Miss., in October is encouraging, the EIA said.

Residential electricity prices are expected to average 9.3 cents per kilowatt hour in 2005 and about 9.5 cents per kwh in 2006, with significant regional differences depending on the fuel mix used to generate electricity in each region of the country.

Meanwhile, utilities around the country have warned consumers to expect higher heating bills this winter. They've also urged their customers to use energy more efficiently.

"High demand, a tight national supply situation and the impact of the Gulf Coast hurricanes are challenging the entire U.S. energy marketplace," Northeast Gas Association President Thomas M. Kiley said. "This has caused greater pressure on the commodity price of natural gas and will lead to higher bills for customers."

The price paid for natural gas by consumers depends on the market price of the gas commodity itself and the cost of transporting that gas from production areas to customers. The natural gas commodity price has been higher throughout this year owing to higher demand resulting from a stronger national economy, a hot summer that led to greater natural gas use in power plants, and a tight supply and demand balance for all fuels.

NGA noted that the average monthly bill this winter could be substantially higher compared to last.

Many natural gas utilities in the Northeast have filed for rate adjustments with their state public utility or public service commissions that regulate rates for homeowners and many businesses.

Even in Southern California, natural gas prices are expected to rise to $120 per month from $ 80 last winter, according to a San Diego utility representative quoted in USA Today.

Kohler opens bath, kitchen design store

CHICAGO — Kohler Co., has opened a 7,000-sq.-ft. flagship store in the Luxe-Home section of the Merchandise Mart here in an effort to make bathroom and kitchen design convenient to consumers, architects and designers. Kohler's Ann Sacks tile, stone and plumbing subsidiary brand has also opened adjoining 4,000-sq.-ft. showroom space.

"The store will deliver customers a full-service shopping and design experience that allows them to appreciate the quality of gracious living that has been a hallmark of Kohler since its inception," said David Kohler, president of Kohler's Kitchen & Bath Group.

The new 7,000-sq.-ft. store features products from the Kohler, Kallista and Robern brands. Designed by the New York City firm of Janson Goldstein Architects, The Kohler Store presents a broad range of styles colors, and faucet finish options to customers.

"The Kohler Store is all about being the bath and kitchen resource for customers," said Michelle Kowalski, manager of Kohler Stores. "Imagine having a National Kitchen & Bath Association certified design consultant, technical expert and friend all in the same room guiding you through the process of building a beautiful bathroom."

One of the features of the store is functioning products so customers can see the products at work.

"Customers can flush the new Purist Hatbox toilet or see the pulsating spray of WaterTile body sprays in the performance showering area of the store," Kowalski said. "They can place their hands in our SOK overflowing bath and feel the effervescent bubbles."

The Kohler Store offers varying levels of project support, including twodimensional space planning; project planning guide; expedited shipping on featured products; personalized catalogs; fee-based, in-home consultations; and installer options. In-house project consultants, who collectively have designed more than 1,000 rooms, can help a variety of customers.