Nova Scotia

Heat your home with oil? It'll cost you 

Roughly half of Nova Scotians use furnace oil to heat their homes. It is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many.

Home heating oil prices have increased by 70% since January

The cost of home heating oil in Nova Scotia has doubled since last May, making it increasingly unaffordable for some. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Nova Scotia homeowners who rely on furnace oil to heat their homes have been hit hard by price increases.

The price of heating oil in Nova Scotia has increased by 70 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to Natural Resources Canada. 

This month, the average retail price for furnace oil in the Halifax area hovers around 225.7 cents per litre, with similar prices across the province. It is more than double the price of 111.2 cents per litre this time last year.

Janice Mosher, who lives in Beechville, N.S., heats her home with furnace oil. She budgeted around $200 for heating costs in the colder months, but her most recent bill was more than double that. 

"It's frustrating because I obviously need to purchase oil to heat my home," she said. "It seems like it's a struggle to really get ahead financially when the price continues to go up."

Mosher added 221.7 litres to her oil tank on April 29 at a cost of $473.71. Just four months ago, she purchased 321.7 litres – 100 litres more – and paid $371.22.

"I'm paying $100 more for 100 litres less at this point," she said. "So even though I'm not consuming as much as the weather's getting warmer, I'm paying more."

The cost to fill a 910-litre oil tank is close to $2,000. 

High heating bills have Mosher looking for options, like a more energy-efficient heat pump. But there are upfront costs. "It's a bit of a no-win situation," she said. 

Dalhousie University engineering professor Larry Hughes studies energy security and energy systems. (Nick Pearce)

High prices are hurting many Nova Scotians who were already close to facing energy poverty, said Larry Hughes, a Dalhousie University engineering professor who has expertise in energy systems and energy security. 

"This is clearly putting a good percentage of people in the province who heat with oil into a very difficult position," Hughes said. 

In 2018, 52 per cent of residential homes in Nova Scotia heated with oil, according to Natural Resources Canada. 

Hughes said it is one thing to say everyone should purchase heat pumps, but not everyone can afford it. He compared it to switching to electric vehicles "which is unfeasible for many."

Hughes said if switching heat sources is not an option, the next best thing is to try to reduce energy demand.

"That doesn't mean turning down your furnace and shivering away," he said. "It means upgrading the insulation in your house as much as possible."

It can now cost upwards of $2,000 to fill a tank with furnace oil. (CBC)

Some organizations provide upgrades for improved energy efficiency, like HomeWarming, a provincewide initiative offered by Efficiency Nova Scotia and Clean Foundation.

Nova Scotia's Heating Assistance Rebate Program offers up to $200 in heating rebates to low-income homeowners and renters. 

As of March 7, the province received 46,849 applications for 2021-22. Their application portal is now closed.

The Salvation Army also has two funds for low-income earners. 

In Beechville, Mosher has automatically programmed her heaters to lower the temperature.

"It's definitely not warm in the house all the time. Like, we're not walking around in tank tops and shorts or anything."

Hughes said it is helpful that summer is approaching.

"Ideally, people can use less fuel oil to see it through the last couple of weeks before it starts to warm up," he said. 

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