It’s going to cost more to heat a home this winter, something that could stun consumers, especially lower-income families at risk of falling behind on their energy bills.
The average cost of home heating is estimated to increase from $1,025 last winter to $1,202 this winter, according to projections from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. That 17.2% increase would be the second year in a row of major price increases.
Based on those projections, the cost of home energy will be up more than 35% over the span of two years, and hit the highest prices in more than 10 years.
“In the context of the rest of the economy right now, it’s a really big problem,” said Cassandra Lovejoy, policy director for NEADA. “We’re seeing increases in price among all essential items ... food and housing, and then also in electricity, and natural gas and delivered fuels ... and so households are just getting hit across the board and they’re struggling to keep up.
“We were hoping to see some sort of sort of an end in sight, some sort of a plateau you know, this month and that’s just not happening,” Lovejoy said.
Estimated winter heating costs
|Winter||Natural Gas||Electricity||Heating Oil||Propane||All Fuels|
|10-year % rise||68%||24%||0%||34%||34%|
Home heating prices have increased due to a number of factors, according Tim Snyder, an economist with Dallas-based Matador Economics.
“First of all ... we have to look at the fact that there has been a substantial effort from the current administration to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to generate energy,” Snyder said. “The industry itself is feeling that pain and is producing less.”
More than a third (35%) of the electricity created in the United States is generated through production using natural gas, but the nation is trending lower in production of natural gas than what it produced over the last five years and “that does concern people,” Snyder said.
A second factor in increased heating prices are ongoing global issues, including the war between Russia and Ukraine, which continues to keep the energy market in flux. It also includes the recent “war of words” between Vladimir Putin and the United States over whether Putin will use nuclear weapons to deter nations from supporting Ukraine.
“When the word ‘nuke’ is used ... it scares people and scares markets up,” he said. “That’s increased because of risk.”
In addition, Russia has suggested that if the European Union puts a cap on prices for natural gas coming into the EU, that Russia will shut down the Nord Stream pipeline.
NEADA sent a letter this month to Congressional leadership requesting a $5 billion increase in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to cover the higher cost of home heating and cooling as a result of an increased number of summer heat waves. LIHEAP is a federal program providing formula grants to states to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills.
“This year is particularly concerning to us for a bunch of different reasons, one of which is that we’re actually hitting a cliff in terms of funding over the past couple years because of pandemic relief,” Lovejoy said. “There has been an unprecedented amount of funds in energy assistance and in housing assistance, in general, and all of that expires at the end of this month.
“States have spent it all, but for the past two years the messaging has been coming in, ‘We have money. We can help you’ and we had $9 billion for LIHEAP ... over the past two years, and it’s going to be cut back down to $3.9 or $4 billion.”
That means that nationwide, states are trying to figure out how they’re going to explain to residents how they were able to help with last year’s bills, but won’t be able to do so this year, Lovejoy said.
Costs are projected to remain elevated for months because fuel is a necessity for the energy needed to light and heat homes during winter.
CenterPoint Energy serves more than 1 million people in nearly two-thirds of Indiana and about 20% of Ohio, mostly counties in west-central Ohio, including the Dayton area. Company spokeswoman Alyssia Oshodi said the utility won’t release 2022-2023 numbers until the second weekend of October.
Customers are encouraged to contact CenterPoint if they need to discuss their options, Oshodi said.
“As the winter heating season approaches, CenterPoint Energy recognizes the concern for increased natural gas bills due to continued higher natural gas prices,” Oshodi said. “We remain committed to delivering safe, reliable service and providing our customers with the tools to assist in managing their bills.”
Dayton-based Logan A/C and Heat Services spokeswoman Amanda Kinsella said there are a number of low-cost and no-cost ways to keep a home warmer and more comfortable.
“Be mindful of your shades or blinds, and on sunny days when it’s chilly out, make sure that they’re open,” Kinsella said. “Make sure that you seal up any doors or windows where it can become drafty and keep the heat that you’re paying for inside.”
Kinsella said it’s also a good idea to check that all of a home’s register covers are open to eliminate hot and cold spots throughout a home, keep thermostat batteries fresh and ensure a furnace is tuned up yearly to maintain efficiency. Checking and changing a furnace’s air filter every 30 days also helps.
“If you have a clogged filter and you’re blocking the airflow, you’re causing your furnace to work harder, which is in essence going to take more energy to power it,” she said.
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