Heating bills expected to increase with predicted colder temps

With this winter likely to be colder than last, home heating bills are expected to increase.

That’s the bad news. The good news? The coming winter is expected to be a bit warmer than the average of the five winters preceding last winter, according to forecasters.

Compared to last winter, this winter is expected to be “much colder” in the Midwest and will increase prices for natural gas, electricity and heating oil, according to a warning by the U.S. Energy Information Administration this week.

But then, last winter was pretty warm. This coming winter should still be about 3 percent warmer than the average of the five winters preceding last winter, according to the EIA.

Vectren — which delivers natural gas to 315,000 customers in Dayton and Western Ohio — warned customers this week that gas bills will likely “feel” more expensive this winter compared to last year.

The average Vectren customer paid around $70 to $75 per month for natural gas service in the 2015-16 heating season, which Vectren counts as November to March.

“Recall last winter was extremely mild — 12 percent warmer than normal – so a likely return to more normal weather, coupled with higher gas prices, may lead to higher bills,” said Colleen Ryan, president of Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio.

Historically, though, natural gas is something of a bargain these days. Vectren said that during the 2006-07 hearing season, customers saw five-month bill totals around $750, about twice what they cost last winter.

Vectren doesn’t forecast precise winter bills. Heating bills depend on house or apartment size, condition of heating equipment, number of gas appliances, number of residents in a home, thermostat settings and more, said Natalie Hedde, a Vectren spokeswoman.

Natural gas costs are expected to rise 22 percent nationally, according to the Energy Department, while heating oil will rise 38 percent and electricity costs could go up five percent, again according to the Energy Department.

Dayton Power & Light, which provides electricity to more than 540,000 customers in western Ohio, noted in a statement that most of its customers use natural gas for heating, and those customers likely have an electric starter and fan. Electric space heaters also impact bills.

DP&L said for every degree a home’s thermostat is set above 68 degrees increases, a home heating bill rises three percent.

If service calls are any indication, then Greg McAfee, owner of Kettering’s McAfee Heating and Air business, said his customers appear to be expecting a colder winter. “We’re due for one,” he said.

“We’ve started the preventative maintenance probably a month earlier this year,” McAfee said. “We’ve had a lot more calls.”

WHIO TV meteorologists are predicting a return to more normal winter weather.

“Last winter it was really mild because we had El Nino,” said WHIO-TV meteorologist Brett Collar, referring to climate changes around the Pacific Ocean. “That’s not the case this winter. So it’s looking to be more fairly typical.”

Whether you dread or love snow, though, this winter does not look to be a replay of the one the Miami Valley experienced two years ago, according to WHIO-TV meteorologist Kirstie Zontini.

“But it’s Ohio,” Zontini said. “We do have periods of cold; we’ll have periods of snow. But it should be closer to average.”

Polar Vortexes aren’t necessarily expected at this point, the meteorologists said.

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