Heating bills could cost more this winter

Published 5:15 pm Friday, December 31, 2021

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Local homeowners can expect to pay a lot more on their heating bills this winter as prices surge worldwide for heating oil, natural gas and other fuels.

The U.S. government recently announced it expects households to see their heating bills jump by as much as 54% compared to last winter.

The biggest reason for this winter’s higher heating bills is the recent increase in prices for energy commodities after they dropped to multi-year lows in 2020.

U.S. natural gas has climbed to its highest price since 2014 and is up roughly 90% over the last year. The wholesale price of heating oil has more than doubled in the last 12 months.

This winter is forecast to be slightly colder across the country than last year.

Nearly half the homes in the U.S. use natural gas for heat, and they could pay an average $746 this winter, 30% more than a year ago. This could be the most expensive winter for natural gas heated homes since 2008-2009.

The second-most used heating source for homes is electricity, making up 41% of the country, and those households could see a more modest 6% increase to $1,268.

Heating oil – Homes using heating oil, which make up 4% of the country, could see a 43% increase – more than $500 – to $1,734.

This is the time of year that citizens need to start preparing their homes for winter to keep heating cost down.

Windows – Check for leaks around the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit. Clean the tracks of any debris that might be interfering with seals. Lock windows once winter sets in and apply a quality exterior caulk to seal any leaks.

Doors – Feel around the perimeter of the door for any cooler air coming in. Check the weatherstripping around the door, including the door sweep attached to the bottom. Apply exterior-grade caulking to seal gaps if necessary.

Attics, basements and crawlspaces – Leaky ductwork is a primary escape route for warm air, so inspect all visible ductwork openings that can be easily accessed. Check for any holes that go through the main floor to the basement or attic, for small openings in the ductwork, electrical or plumbing connection. Caulk or foam around them or use foil tape or mastic to seal any leaks.

Pipes – Disconnect, drain and store any garden hoses as the weather turns cold. Any exposed water pipes in uninsulated spaces such as in a crawlspace, attic or exterior wall should be protected with foam insulating sleeves. Burst pipes from freezing can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home.

HVAC – Change air filters on a regular basis. Operate the system on the “auto” fan setting on the thermostat. Ensure proper airflow by inspecting ducts for dust buildup and obstructions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, HVAC preventative maintenance can help save homeowners up to 25% in energy cost.