Despite drop in oil, Americans seal up for winter

Sun Nov 30, 2008 7:26pm EST
 
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By Rebekah Kebede

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When crude oil prices climbed to a record $147.27 a barrel this summer, many Americans -- their thoughts turning to winter heating bills -- rushed to line their homes with insulation and replace drafty windows.

Now, with the U.S. economy in tatters, many figure they still cannot afford to let money escape through the cracks in their homes, even though oil has fallen to $50 a barrel.

Across the northern United States, contractors, home improvement retailers and nonprofit groups report that such weatherization efforts continue apace, as Americans prepare for a frigid winter.

Francis Rodriguez, who runs the weatherization assistance program at the Association for Energy Affordability in New York said there has been no drop in interest despite the slide in energy prices.

"They know the price is going down, but they know what would have happened if the price had stayed up that way," said Rodriguez, whose organization helps landlords in places like the Bronx, a relatively poor borough of New York city.

He said volatile prices have changed the way people think about fuel, comparing the choice to weatherize a home with the choice of car.

"If you're going to buy a car, even though the gas is $2, you're not going to buy an SUV if you can buy a hybrid. Because (gasoline prices) can go up any minute."

The lagging economy has given consumers a new zeal for energy-efficient products, said Jean Niemi, a spokeswoman for national home improvement retailer Home Depot. Customers are still interested in saving the earth, but they now increasingly want to save money, too, she said.   Continued...

 
<p>Robert Dardno programs the thermostat for the newly installed pellet stove at a home in Woburn, Massachusetts in this July 10, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files</p>