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Natural gas users should expect to pay higher heating bills this winter


Fuel prices tend to go up in the winter months because that’s when people are using them most to heat their homes, but before many of us have even turned up the thermostat, the price of natural gas is rising.

Natural gas prices have already doubled this year and are currently at their highest level in 10 years.

This is due to some supply shortage and a higher demand worldwide.

An analysis done by Wisconsin Public Service predicts the typical residential customer that uses natural gas may pay about $40 more a month this winter compared to last.

WPS spokesperson Matt Cullen said the utility does take preventative measures to help shield customers from fluctuating prices.

“Some of those steps that we take include buying and selling natural gas when it is typically lower priced and then we can draw that natural gas out of storage for our customers during the winter,” said Cullen. “We also lock in guaranteed natural gas contracts at fixed prices, and we can also have the option the purchase natural gas on the commodities market.”

Cullen said this approach has lowered costs for customers by about 25%.

While there’s not as great of supply of natural gas right now compared to past years, Cullen doesn’t believe customers necessarily need to limit their natural gas use.

“But we do want our customers to be aware of the potential for their natural gas and heating costs to increase this winter which is why they can take some of those steps to manage this increase and spike in natural gas costs that’s really being seen across the country,” said Cullen.

He suggests sealing gaps around doors and windows to make sure warm air isn’t escaping.

You can use ceiling fans to better circulate warm and make the room feel warmer.

Cullen also suggests adjusting your thermostat based on the time of day.

“Turn it back seven to ten degrees while they’re asleep or they’re away from home. That way they’re heating system or furnace isn’t generating that warm air when they’re not around or might not be able to notice the extra heat that it’s providing to their home,” said Cullen.

WPS also recommends getting your furnace or boiler serviced every year before the cold weather moves in. This can help it run more efficiently.

There is financial assistance for people that need help paying heating bills this winter.

Congress recently approved $3.7 billion dollars for low-income customers. There’s also the Keep Wisconsin Warm fund that can help with bills.

National Weather Service

“The other thing for customers to keep in mind is if they ever are having difficulty with their energy bills, no matter what the time of year is, always reach out to WPS. That way our employees can make every effort to help the customer,” Cullen said.

How long and cold the winter is will also impact your heating bill.

While it’s difficult and not always accurate to predict that far in advance, right now the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for average temperatures throughout the winter in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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