Personal Finance

Some are getting heated over rising heating bills

The cold weather and Russia’s war on Ukraine have increased U.S. gas exports to other countries, tightening supply and increasing prices.

Some are getting heated over rising heating bills
Scripps News

Some Americans are getting heated this winter — over rising utility costs.  

"I'm mad as heck and I’m not going to take it anymore," said Laurie Grant, a Vista, California resident. 

Natural gas is used to heat homes or used to generate electricity. The cold weather and Russia’s war in Ukraine have increased U.S. gas exports to other countries, tightening supply and increasing prices.  

When Grant saw her next projected heating bill, the amount was anywhere from $130 to $380 more expensive than what she paid last month.  

"The extra couple hundred dollars, means either I can't pay my mortgage, buy groceries or I can't pay for my pharmaceutical medications. Something has got to give," Grant said. 

On the other side of the country, in Kentucky, senior citizens Melissa Justice and her husband Robbie are on a fixed income of disability and social security benefits — yet their utility bills are increasing at an alarming rate.  

"I paid this year, January 4. When I paid it, the fuel adjustment costs had went up to $160.45" Justice said.     

Their total bill: $885.   

"$885 in one month — how do you pay that on a fixed income?" Justice said.  

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association says on average, households will pay 12.7% more to heat their homes this year.  

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Heating oil expenses are projected to jump 25.9%. Consumers will pay about an average of $500 more this year than last year.  

And if you use natural gas, you may see an increase of 14.5%, and consumers will pay about an additional $100 more.  

Mark Wolfe of NEADA says consumers should prepare for rising prices well into the future. They can cut costs by reducing consumption and creating efficient heating options.  

"You might think prices should drop now because natural gas prices have come down. But it's not that simple, because utilities buy their natural gas in the fall before the winter so they have enough supply. Prices were peaking in the fall. So that's why prices haven't come down," Wolfe said. "Tune up your furnace. It's a very simple measure, but if the furnace isn't tuned up and you have dirty furnace filters, it doesn't work as well using more energy. Turn the furnace down at night. Every degree you turn it down saves an average about 2% on the energy bill."

LIHEAP, or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, can assist with families struggling with paying utility bills. And Wolfe says don’t be intimidated by the name. 

"We still have funds available to help families this winter pay their home energy bills for a family of four earning up to $41,600. You can qualify for assistance in most states, and some states have even higher eligibility ceilings. So don't hesitate to apply if you're struggling to pay your bill this winter," he said.