Another costly winter ahead: Take steps now to save

  • October 29, 2023
870 450 Tom Content

Winter heating costs will be high this winter, if not quite as high as last winter.

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association’s winter outlook shows that homes heating with natural gas could pay $726 just for heating over the six-month heating season, making it the second costliest winter in the past decade. A separate report from the Energy Information Administration is forecasting a bigger drop for homeowners in the MIdwest who use natural gas for heat.

The outlook is even more expensive for homeowners and renters heating with propane, heating oil and electricity, all of whom face high prices for the second straight winter.

CUB and its partners will discuss energy costs and opportunities for savings during an educational webinar this Wednesday at noon. T

The webinar, “Wisconsin Homeowner Crash Course in Energy Efficiency, Tax Credits and the IRA,” will be presented on Zoom. Speakers from CUB, Focus on Energy and Green Homeowners United will provide insights. Register for free here.

The heating forecast is driven by expectations of energy prices coupled with an expectation of a colder than normal winter in the Midwest and much of the country, NEADA said. Last winter didn’t turn out to be as costly as NEADA had projected; however, it was still the most expensive winter for home heating in at least a decade.

Having the second most costly winder in a decade isn’t anything to celebrate, and these continuing cost pressures highlight why focusing on affordability is job one for CUB as it advocates for better outcomes for customers in simultaneous rate cases this fall.

Wisconsin utilities haven’t issued their forecasts yet, but the NEADA outlook serves as a reminder: Now is the time to plan ahead for cold weather by taking steps to insulate homes and tap other ways to save on energy and money.

The price of natural gas is highly dependent on the price of the commodity itself. The state Public Service Commission allows natural gas utilities to recover the cost of their equipment, such as mains and meters, but the price of the gas itself is not regulated by the PSC nor by the federal government. Those prices rise and fall based on supply and demand. CUB focuses much of its advocacy on the electric side of utility costs, where we have more impact keeping increases in check.

  • Customers who are struggling financially are eligible for energy assistance, and more people qualify for energy aid than actually apply for it.
  • CUB urges customers to take advantage of Focus on Energy rebates that can help homeowners and renters save this winter if they add some insulation before the cold snaps hit. The Focus on Energy Marketplace currently has discounts on smart thermostats, LED bulbs and smart thermostats. Utility customers can also receive a free Energy Saving kit from Focus on Energy.
  • Add more insulation or upgrade your furnace. Add extra insulation to make your home more comfortable and efficient. Focus on Energy has incentives  available for attic insulation and air sealing. Plus, Focus offers heating and cooling rebates if you’re looking to upgrade your equipment to a more efficient unit. Some utilities, such as Xcel Energy, offer enhanced incentives to bring down the cost even further.
  • Consider getting an energy audit to identify opportunities to make your home more efficient and comfortable. Tax credits are now available for getting an audit done. This is especially helpful if your home feels drafty or your energy bills seem higher than average. Focus on Energy trade allies can help with you by coming out to perform a home energy assessment. Find a trade ally near you.
  • Adjust your thermostat to match the changing temperatures. When you need to turn the heat on, set the thermostat to 68 degrees and turn it down further when you are asleep or away. Adjust a degree at a time as necessary to balance comfort and energy savings.
  • Service or tune up your furnace or boiler now to make sure it runs efficiently as the weather starts to cool down. Regularly replace furnace filters to keep your furnace running efficiently. Some utilities offer additional incentives to have your furnace serviced.
  • Take advantage of the sun. On cool days, open your curtains and blinds throughout the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home. Close curtains when the sun goes down to keep heat from leaking through your windows.
  • Consider adding energy-saving thermal insulation curtains.
  • Cook and bake efficiently. Use lids on pots and pans to reduce cooking time. Bake multiple things at once. Use crockpots and microwaves to save energy.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezers full but not crowded. If your refrigerator or freezer is empty, fill milk jugs with water to fill up space, and throw out old food if your refrigerator or freezer is too full. Unplugging that second refrigerator or freezer can help you save.
  • Inspect and clean your fireplace. Make sure your fireplace is safe before using. Close fireplace dampers when you are not using the fireplace to prevent heat from escaping.
  • Turn off electronics not in use. Electronics that are not being used should be turned off completely to save energy, particularly for televisions, game consoles and home offices.  A great idea for TVs, DVD’s and game consoles as well as home office equipment is to plug into power strips and turn the power strip off.