Posted at: 10/11/2012 5:38 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2012 5:45 PM
By: Ray Levato
As the temperature goes down, our heating bills are expected to go up. The amount you pay this year for natural gas and oil heat could be much higher than last year.
This forecast comes from an agency in the U.S. Energy Department. And it's based on the assumption that temperatures in the Northeast this winter will be near normal, compared with a mild winter last year.
While natural gas prices are relatively low, home heating oil prices are expected to be an all-time high. The government forecast says oil heat customers could spend as much as $2,400 to stay warm this winter. That's compared with under a thousand dollars for the typical home using natural gas.
Natural gas customer LaShawn Cason lives with his wife and daughter on Mohawk Street in Rochester. "It's bad when you've got to decide when to turn the heat on. Even on chilly nights you won't want to turn the heat up, especially this time of year, because you know what's coming with the bills."
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, heating costs are expected to rise by double digits this winter, except for those who heat with electricity which will go up about eight percent.
Expected Household Usage
Natural Gas Up 14%
Heating Oil Up 17%
Electricity Up 8%
Propane Up 17%
Most homes in the U.S. are heated with natural gas - almost 50 percent. But most of those that use heating oil live here in the Northeast.
"In the hierarchy of bills, there are the ones you absolutely have to pay and heating costs is one of those bills you have to pay or the service is interrupted," says Joel Kunkler of the Housing Council who adds that often means another bill goes unpaid. "Usually what we se it being is a mortgage payment or rent."
Home heating oil is near $4 a gallon. So a homeowner with a typical 250 gallon tank would be stuck with a $1,000 bill just to fill it up. The Housing Council says, with home heating oil, it's not like being able to put $5 worth of gas in your car when you need to get somewhere.
Kunkler, of the Housing Council, says "With heating oil, we have a minimum delivery gallon amount. We're not going to be able to put in just enough to carry us through the next days until our paycheck comes."
The housing council says utilities are quicker to shut off someone's service today than they used to do.
But RG&E says the last thing they ever want to do is shut off a customer's electricity or natural gas service. Customers who are having difficulty paying their bills are urged to contact RG&E right away. And RG&E says it adheres to the shutoff provisions of the state's Home Energy Fair Practices Act.
People who need help paying their heat bills can also contact H.E.A.P., the Home Energy Assistance Program, or the Red Cross.