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How to keep heating costs down this winter amid rising inflation


A woman shovels her car out of the snow during a major snowstorm on Jan. 29, 2022 in Stony Brook, New York.

Andrew Theodorakis | Getty Images

After a few months of winter and two major snowstorms pounding much of the eastern U.S. in January, many Americans may be realizing they’re in for elevated heating costs.

For some, that will put an additional strain on budgets already hit by rising inflation.

About 20% of Americans struggled to pay their energy bill in full at least once in 2021, according to a December study by HelpAdvisor.

Those who weren’t able to pay their bills often put off paying for necessities such as energy, potentially putting themselves and their families at risk. In the last 12 months, at least 18% of Americans kept their house at a temperature that was either unhealthy or unsafe, and 28% skipped a basic expense such as food or medicine to pay an energy bill.

“It’s absolutely startling,” said Christian Worstell, a senior writer at HelpAdvisor.

In addition, the households most vulnerable to not being able to pay bills or skipping other essentials to do so tend to be those with children under the age of 18, people of color and folks who already struggle to live on the lowest incomes, he added.

“It does appear the problem has been accelerating slightly, but this is nothing new,” he said.

Rising costs

Nearly half of U.S. households that heat with natural gas are projected to spend 30% more than they did last winter on average, according to the Winter Fuels Outlook 2021 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The 41% that heat with electricity are expected to spend 6% more.

The smaller number that heat with propane or heating oil — 5% and 4% of households, respectively — could see even bigger leaps in cost. Propane users will spend 54% more this winter, while heating oil users could see bills go up 43%, according to the report.

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Inflation is the culprit. Energy prices were up 29.3%, according to the December consumer price index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fuel oil is roughly 40% more expensive than last year, electricity is up 6.3%, and natural gas rose by more than 24%.

Those increases could crush household budgets if families aren’t prepared.

“It’s important for homeowners, renters and businesses alike to keep costs down as best they can, especially as we head into these colder winter months,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

How to keep bills in check

There are a few things people can do to help keep heating costs lower this winter.

One is to check your windows for any leaks, something you can do on your own or with the help of a home energy audit,…


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