Home Heating Costs In Focus

generic oil heating
The weak El Nino under way in the Pacific Ocean should contribute to a mild winter for much of the United States, the National Weather Service announced Tuesday.

The Department of Energy said winter heating bills are expected to be slightly lower for most families across the nation, with the highest reductions for those who use natural gas.

What Are This Winter's Projected Heating Costs?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast for December through February, the 48 contiguous states can expect about two percent fewer heating degree days than average, but about five to 10 percent more heating degree days than last year's very warm winter.

Americans using natural gas to heat their homes should expect to pay an average of $119 less during the upcoming winter compared to last year, a decrease of 13 percent, the Energy Department said. Those who heat their homes with fuel oil will pay $91 more, an increase of 6 percent, and propane users can expect to pay $15 less this winter, a drop of 1 percent.

How Will This Year's Winter Costs Compare With Previous Winters?

Homes that use natural gas are expected to see their heating costs average $826 this winter, compared with $945 last winter. According to EIA figures, the average winter heating bill for a home using natural gas was $465 in 2001-2002.

Homes using fuel oil are expected to pay $1,522 this winter, an increase from $1,431 last winter. Those residents had an average cost of $627 in 2001-02, the EIA reported.

Propane users should pay $1,265 this winter, compared with $1,280 last winter. Propane customers paid $736 in 2001-02.

How Can I Save On Energy Costs?

Water heating can account for 14% to 25% of the energy consumed in your home. You can reduce your monthly water heating bills by selecting the appropriate water heater for your home or pool and by using some energy-efficient water heating strategies. Here are some tips from the Energy Department.
  • Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120° F.
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Consider natural-gas on-demand or tankless water heaters. Researchers have found savings can be up to 30% compared with a standard natural-gas storage tank water heater.
  • If heating a swimming pool, consider a swimming pool cover. Evaporation is by far the largest source of energy loss in swimming pools.
  • To Learn More About Heating Costs:

    • Click here for energy saving tips from the Department of Energy.

    • For tips on how to save money this winter, click here for a CBSNews.com interactive on energy savers.

    • Click here to read the energy outlook for 2006 from the Energy Information Administration.