(NEXSTAR) – Americans busy clearing leaves from gutters and protecting their pipes may want to add another to-do before winter arrives – prepare for a spike in heating costs.
On Tuesday, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistics agency with the Energy Department, said that the residential and commercial natural gas price is hitting multiyear highs in 2022, with the price soaring to roughly double 2021’s cost in some months.
“It certainly appears that we’re going to continue to see relatively high natural gas prices in the U.S.,” Harrison Fell, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, told The Hill. “We’re going to see higher bills for a lot of customers throughout the U.S.”
In September, a study by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association found that heating costs are projected to rise, on average, 17.2% over last winter, the second year in a row of major cost increases.
Mark Wolfe, executive director of the energy nonprofit, said during a recent interview with CBS that a very hot summer is partially to blame, as natural gas is used to create the electricity we rely on to cool our homes. Further tightening the market is the war in Ukraine and subsequent U.S. exports to European countries that are scrambling to replace Russian gas.
“For people using heating oil, that’s set globally and prices are up across the board for oil,” Wolfe said. “Now they’ve come down a little bit … but they’re still higher than last year. So the impact is very significant, there’s a lot of pain.”
Wolfe said that low and middle-income families – or roughly half of the U.S. – are suffering as inflation and historically high gas prices drive up the cost of basic goods.
Tips to lower your heating bill
When it comes to lowering heating costs, there are several ways of reducing the bill.
Wolfe recommends getting your heating and cooling system tuned up now before companies get busy, think of every possible way you can keep the thermostat down, use caulk or another sealant to close off any air leak in the house, and check with your local utility for any incentive programs to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
The Department of Energy recommends a “whole-house system” that treats the house as an interdependent energy system – insulation, air sealing, efficient appliances and other elements go into reducing costs and increasing comfort. You should check with your local government as you may be able to take advantage of subsidies.
If redesigning your home heating and cooling system isn’t an option, Energy.gov has several other recommendations:
- Keep you thermostat as low as is comfortable and even lower while sleeping or before leaving the house
- Clean/replace furnace air filters as recommended
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed and make sure they’re not blocked
- Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to perform this task, contact a professional.
- Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
- Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
- During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.