Hikes in heating costs to come, but there are ways to save

Despite forecasts for a milder winter, Americans should be bracing for higher heating costs this season.
It’s no secret rising fuel prices are to blame, and the Energy Information Administration estimates average household spending on heating oil will jump 8 percent compared to last winter. Natural gas is expected to increase 3 percent, propane 7 percent, and electricity should see a 1-percent hike.

Those living in the northeast will be hit the hardest since 80 percent of residents use heating oil, which the EIA predicts will average $3.71 a gallon — 33 cents more than last year.
The silver lining, however, is those that use electricity to heat their homes could actually see a 1-percent decrease in heating costs from last year, according to the EIA. With climatologists predicting a milder winter for a large chunk of the nation this year, energy users will be consuming less power.
Even so there are a number of measures Americans can take to ensure their heating bills aren’t through the roof this winter. Some efforts may take money to save money, like booking HVAC inspections or replacing windows. But others lie in just applying good common sense.
If it’s cold outside, dress the part. If you get a chill wearing shorts and a light top, grab some pants and a sweatshirt instead of reaching for the thermostat.
Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home, and after baking, let the oven cool off with the door open. Also, replace old or worn weather stripping around doors and windows and don’t leave vents open in unused rooms.
Even with the predicted heating cost hikes, available fuel supplies — oil and natural gas — are above recent historical averages. That should help temper costs as well if the winter turns out to be harsher than expected.

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