Good news: Your energy bill should shrink this winter

Last week's freezing winter was so cold it may make this coming heating season appear mild by comparison. That's why the US Department of Energy is forecasting Americans won't have to crank up the heat as much this year, so they'll pay less for energy.

John Rucosky/Tribune-Democrat/AP/File
In this Jan. 7, 2014 file photo, Denver Walker, of Somerset Fuels, makes a heating oil delivery to a home in Jenner Crossroads, Pa. The Energy Department’s annual prediction of winter heating costs released Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 says that Americans will pay less because they won’t have to crank up the heat as much.

It probably won't cost as much to stay warm this winter because a repeat of the deep freeze that kept much of the nation shivering last winter is so unlikely.

The Energy Department's annual prediction of winter heating costs released Tuesday says that Americans won't have to crank up the heat as much, so they'll pay less for energy.

“U.S. households in all regions of the country can expect to pay lower heating bills this winter, because temperatures are forecast  to be warmer than last winter and that means less demand for heat.”Adam Sieminski, administrator of the Energy Information Administration (a statistical wing of the Department of Energy), said in a statement Tuesday.

Demand for some fuels last year sent prices skyrocketing.

About one-half of US households use natural gas as their primary heating fuel, according to EIA. The Energy Department predicts that natural gas customers will see bills fall for the October-to-March heating season to $649, from $680 last year. Electric customers will pay $938, down from $955. Heating oil customers will pay $1,992 on average, $362 less than last year. Propane customers in the Midwest will pay $1,500, a savings of $767.

Propane prices also skyrocketed last year after stores were used up to dry crops in an unusually wet fall. Experts aren't predicting the same kind of shortage this year, but propane sellers in Ohio say customers should think about filling their tanks now before winter hits.

The Ohio Propane Gas Association says it doesn't expect another propane shortage like the one that hit Ohio and other states across the country last winter.

But the group's executive vice president says weather and transportation issues will play a role in whether homeowners will face shortages again.

David Field tells The Cincinnati Enquirer that customers should secure a contract with a supplier because those without one will be first to be hit by supply shortages.

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About 6 percent of Ohio households are heated primarily using propane, most of them rural homes.

For more information, visit the EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook.

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