Rising utility prices heat up the winter blues | News, sports, work

Sandy Wood, a customer service representative for Dominion Energy Ohio, checks a gas meter for leaks Friday in a downtown Warren building. The cost of heating your home is expected to rise this winter heating season, which runs from October to March, whether it’s natural gas, electricity or fuel oil.


Expect to pay more, and in some cases much more, this winter to heat your home, whether it’s natural gas, diesel or electricity.

Higher prices combined with higher consumption in what is expected to be a colder winter this year than last year are driving the expected increase, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

In the United States, home heating on average is estimated to rise 17.8 percent from last winter to $1,208, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which also reports between the 2020-21 and 2022-23 winter heating seasons. , the cost of home energy has increased by 36%.

Adding to the problem, the backlog hasn’t gone down, according to the directors’ association.

In August, the association of directors estimates the national arrears balance to be nearly $16.1 billion, which is about unchanged from August 2021. That means 1 in 6 households — about 20 million households — in the U.S. is behind schedule on its heating bills, according to the association.

Rising home energy costs, Mark Wolfe, executive director of the directors association, said in a news release “It will put millions of low-income families at risk of falling behind on their energy bills and having no choice but to make tough decisions between paying for food, medicine and rent.”

An outlier are Midwestern propane consumers. They can expect to pay for what they did last year.

GIVE THE NUMBERS

The EIA’s latest short-term outlook contains some chilling numbers for the winter heating season, which runs from October to March.

According to the latest data, those who rely on natural gas, which heats nearly half of all U.S. households, will spend about $900 this season, up 25% from 2021-22.

In the Midwest, natural gas users can expect to pay around $995 for their seasonal bill. This is a 31% increase over last year, according to the US agency, largely due to low inventories.

Approximately 4% of US households that use heating oil as their #1 heating fuel 1 can expect a seasonal bill of around $2,694.

That’s a 45 percent increase over last year and the largest percentage jump among the top four sources of heat.

At Newton Falls diesel and heating oil suppliers, Falls Home Oil Co., some customers are already feeling the pinch, owner Evaline Cutlip said.

“But in the middle of winter I really worry a lot about my clients”, that, if they don’t have extra help, they could be faced with the choice between heating their homes and other vital needs like food or medicine, she said.

To ease the pain, Falls Home Oil Co. allows customers to sign up for a 10-month budget program. It made a big difference, Cutlip said.

The program allows customers to start paying in June for heating oil deliveries starting in late October or early November. Their tank would be filled and then topped up every month until their balance allows, but she expects “that budget money will start to run out quickly” with the increased price.

Also, customers can sign up for auto delivery. Doing so helps keep tanks full and helps customers avoid a minimum delivery fee if supply is too low. A minimum delivery is 150 gallons, he said.

Business is also feeling the pinch. His delivery trucks run on diesel, which has risen in price and driven up his expenses.

ELECTRIC HEATING

Meanwhile, households heating primarily with electricity will spend $1,366 for the season, an 11% increase from last year. Electric users in the Midwest will spend 8% more on a bill of about $1,440.

The estimated bill for users of propane, which heats about 5 percent of all U.S. households, in the Midwest is about $1,565 for the season, according to the agency. This is roughly the same amount as the bill in 2021-22.

Households will spend even more if the weather is colder than expected.

“Predicting weather and energy trends by months isn’t an exact science, but it’s very likely that global dynamics affecting energy commodities will lead to higher heating prices in the US this winter,” Joe DeCarolis, administrator of the EIA, said.

An estimated 1.7 million U.S. households, or just 1.3 percent, will use firewood or wood pellets as their primary heating fuel this season. It is estimated that another 7% of households will use wood as a secondary source of heat, second to electricity.

Wood is most widely used in rural areas, with 22% of rural households using it as their #1 heat source. 1 or no. By comparison, about 6 percent of urban households use wood as their first or second heat source, according to the agency’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

Earlier this month, the White House announced it was making $4.5 billion available through a low-income home energy assistance program to help with heating costs.

Funding through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will be provided to state, local and tribal governments to help more than 5 million families pay their heat and utility bills. It can also be used to make home energy repairs.

The program served more than 5.3 million households last year and a similar number is expected to participate this year.

A wide variety of other programs are available to low-income Ohioans to help manage their heating bills, from aging homes to cash grants.

“There’s really no reason for anyone to be cold or afraid of their service being disconnected”, Stephanie Moore, a spokeswoman for Dominion Energy Ohio, said.

THE PROGRAMS

Programs include PIPP Plus (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) and HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program).

PIPP Plus is a special payment program developed by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission that allows eligible Ohioans to maintain natural gas and electricity by paying a set percentage of their annual household income for utility bills.

HEAP provides a one-off credit towards your heating bill during the winter season.

The assistance available through both is based on US poverty guidelines.

Other programs are the Winter Crisis Program, which provides a one-time grant to help avoid a gas outage or restore service, and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps with grants for home weather projects.

In addition, Dominion offers its gas customers budget billing and payment solutions and direct help through the EnergyShare program for customers who have exhausted all other forms of help. The program is funded by corporate contributions and customer and employee donations.

The gas supplier also has a weather program and PUCO has a special reconnection order for residential customers, regardless of income. Customers can restore their gas service or avoid it being interrupted once during the heating season by paying the lesser of the entire overdue balance on the gas bill, overdue payments if the person is on a special payment plan, or $175 .

Ohio Edison has Project Reach, an emergency fund designed to help residential customers restore or maintain electric service, according to Lauren Siburkis, a spokeswoman for the energy supplier.

“Program funding is provided by Ohio Edison customers and employees, and distribution of funds is administered by the Salvation Army offices located in the Ohio Edison service area,” Siburkis wrote in an email.

Sarah Edmonds is Client Services Supervisor/HEAP Coordinator at the Trumbull Community Action Program. Warren’s agency helps residents enrolled in government savings programs.

The agency also helps through the winter crisis program.

Clients can make arrangements for help in a short amount of time.

“It’s kind of a one-stop shop. We can do all this for the customer,” said Edmond. “If they have all their information when they come or can give us the information, we can finish it in a day.”

Alesia A. Scott, who lives on Deerfield Avenue SW in the Palmyra Heights neighborhood of Warren, recently signed up for PIPP for Natural Gas and Electricity through TCAP.

The program helps her stabilize her budget. You know exactly how much you will pay each month.

“I Have No Surprises” Scott, who receives disability income, said.

There are easy ways to save energy and reduce your heating bill, from making sure your system is running efficiently to turning down the thermostat.

“Make sure your furnace is maintained, keep the filter changed. I’d say try buying yours in an aggregate, weatherproof your windows’, said Walt Shevel, owner of Best Furnace in Champion.

She recommends checking your oven’s air filter at least once a month. A clean filter helps with efficient airflow.

“As for the change, it all depends on how cold it is outside, if you have pets or someone in the house who smokes, there are many factors,” Shevel said. “But what I would say at least is check it at least once a month. Take it out and look at it.

If you can see through the filter, it’s probably in good shape. If the filter “looks like a carpet”, it’s time for a new one, he said.

As for keeping the oven’s inner workings in perfect working order, Shevel said it’s best to call in a trained professional for proficiency and safety reasons. He recommends at least one annual service visit.

He also suggests vacuuming the grilles covering the return air ducts. Dust, hair, debris or other obstructions can reduce efficiency.

Siburkis also provided some tips the power company recommends for saving energy in the winter, including setting thermostats as low as comfort allows. Every degree a customer can lower the temperature will result in approximately 3 percent less energy used during the winter.

Other tips include closing the fireplace damper when it’s not in use, drawing the curtains at night, and dressing for the weather. An extra layer of clothing or a blanket can provide some warmth without turning up the thermostat.

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