The cost of heating a home this winter is expected to be higher than at any time in recent memory.

In preparation, many Mainers have tightened their homes through energy audits, and others have started using alternative heating methods, but the reality is that prices for oil, wood, wood pellets, kerosene and natural gas all have gone up.

Prices for No. 2 heating oil, still by far the most widely used heating source in Maine, climbed steeply last winter and into this summer, although they have dipped slightly in recent weeks.

The latest average of about $3.82 a gallon for No. 2 heating oil is down from a high of about $4.60 in June. At the beginning of this year, the average price was about $3.35, more than $1 a gallon higher than in the same month in 2007.

The surge in oil prices also has contributed to the rise in prices for other heating sources such as firewood and, more recently, wood pellets.

At this time last year, dealers were charging less than $200 a cord for green firewood. This year, prices can exceed $250. Similarly, wood pellets were selling for less than $200 a ton last year but the same amount can fetch more than $250 today.

The residential price for natural gas in Maine last January was $16.13 per 1,000 cubic feet, and in June was $21.49, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In the coming weeks, the Bangor Daily News will track the prices for the most common home heating methods: oil, wood and wood pellets, as well as current prices for kerosene and natural gas. The prices will come from four different areas of BDN coverage: Bangor, Calais, Fort Kent and Rockland. They will be published on Thursdays.

The numbers used are averages taken from calls to local dealers and from government and industry Web sites. They do not take into account the relative efficiencies for heating systems, energy output disparities, or any other costs associated with each particular heating source, but instead provide only a look at the current basic prices of the different types of heating fuel.