Home Heating Costs

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Americans are expected to spend more heating their home this winter than last year.

More than half of Americans heat their home with natural gas. The Energy Department predicts those homeowners will see a 17 percent jump between the months of October and March. The jump averages out to nearly $700 over the six-month period.

In addition, they estimate that electricity costs will see a 12 percent increase, while heating-oil costs are expected to rise 42 percent nationwide. The government blames the potential price increase on the rising cost of oil, which ultimately affects the cost of a variety of energy products. Sold by the barrel, crude oil prices are up nearly $7 from this time last year. While natural gas is often used as an alternative, a rise in oil almost always translates into higher natural gas prices.

Utilities such as Atmos Energy, formerly Western Kentucky Gas, says the financial forecast may not be as bleak as some think.

Meteorologists at NOAA are forecasting normal to warmer temperatures nationwide, causing us to reach for the thermostat less. A spokesman for Atmos Energy says they've planned ahead. The company has already purchased 50 percent of the natural gas needed and placed it in underground storage.

The Energy Department doesn't expect the price increase to be nearly as bad as the winter of 2000-2001, where the country saw the coolest conditions and highest heating bills in more than a decade.

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Reduce High Heating Costs

  • Be modest with your thermostat. Set it as low as comfortable in winter. Use programmable ones to automatically lower heat at night. You will save as much as 10 percent a year on heating bills by turning the thermostat back 10 to 15 percent for eight hours a day.

  • Clean or replace furnace filters monthly.

  • Clean registers, baseboard heaters and radiators regularly. And make sure they aren’t blocked by furniture, rugs or drapes.

  • Check ducts for air leaks.

  • If windows leak air or rattle in the wind, you may need to replace weather stripping. Caulk can be used in the cracks during the winter. Keep the blinds or drapes closed in the evening hours to help block the cold air.

  • Unoccupied rooms that are isolated from the rest of the house can be closed up and vents can be turned off. Don't turn the heat off, however, if it would adversely affect the rest of the heating system.

  • Ventilating fans in the bathroom and kitchen can pull out a houseful of warmed air in just one hour. For this reason, in the winter, turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.

  • Do you enjoy a fire on a winter’s eve. They’re cozy, BUT they can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the outside. That air has to be replaced by cold air entering the house. Here are some fireplace tips:

    1. Plug and seal if you don’t use your fireplace.
    2. Keep the damper closed when there is no fire.
    3. Check the seal on the damper and make sure it’s snug.
    4. Caulk around the hearth.

  • Allow sunlight to help warm your home in winter. Keep draperies and shades open on windows with a southerly view.

  • Choose energy-efficient equipment when replacing a heating system. Look for models with high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).

    Source: The U.S. Department of Energy Contributed to this report.