Cold reality: Get ready for an 18% spike in winter energy costs

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Cold reality: Get ready for an 18% spike in winter energy costs
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Do you love winter? The extended forecast calls for Jack Frost to nip at your nose and leave you with that sure sign of cold weather — red, rosy cheeks.

The bad news, however, is that another kind of color — green — could be draining out of your wallet because of increasing energy prices.

If the thought of six months of jacked-up energy bills sends you hurtling into a polar vortex of depression, stop and take a deep breath…

We’ve got several ways you can fight back against rising prices!

RELATED: Georgia natural gas guide

Biggest price hikes for propane, oil and natural gas

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is out with its latest Winter Fuels Outlook.

The findings show that the amount of pain your wallet will feel from higher energy prices and colder temperatures this year depends on what type of heat you use.

The EIA estimates the following average increases in cost are on the way:

  • Propane heating costs will jump by 18%
  • Heating your home with oil will cost 17% more
  • Natural gas expenditures are forecast to rise by 12%
  • Electric heating costs will be up by 8%

With the winter heating season running from October through March, that means those on a fixed income will really feel a crimp on their budget.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can consider lowering your winter energy bill.

Shop your rate in a deregulated state 

Residents of more than two dozen states are free to shop around for the best natural gas or electricity rates because their energy markets have been deregulated.

If you see your state on the map below, contact your state’s Public Service Commission. They’ll have published monthly energy prices from all the providers.

You can use these quotes as a one-stop shop to do your comparison shopping for energy.

The rates usually reset once a month. You can typically lock in a fixed rate for 6 to 24 months, depending on the rules in your state.

Shopping for this stuff may not be fun, but it can save you a whole lot of money on a bill that comes every month like clockwork.

Remember, there is no difference between a therm or a kilowatt from one company vs. another. The only difference is the price! So shopping the market is so key.

Get a programmable thermostat

Want to reduce heating and cooling costs in your home by 25% or 30%? Try a programmable thermostat.

The Nest smart thermostat is one of the most popular of these devices.

Your local utility may subsidize the cost of a Nest for your home. Sometimes you can even get one entirely for free!

Finding out about potential subsidies is simple; it only takes a one-second web search by zip code on the Nest site. You could save yourself up to $249!

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that a cheaper Nest could be on the way in 2018. It may even include remote sensors to allow for zoned heating, i.e. individualized temperature control of select rooms.

Get tax credits for energy-efficient upgrades

You can qualify for hundreds of dollars in federal tax credits for installing energy-efficient appliances and upgrades.

For example, you can get a tax credit of 30% (with no upper limits) to cover the cost of a solar energy system through 2019.

EnergyStar.gov has complete information on federal credits, while DSIREUSA.org lists all available state incentives.

Change your light bulbs

A single LED bulb can save you up to $70 per year in energy costs! But that’s just a general rule of thumb.

You can play around with bulb maker Cree’s online savings calculator to see exactly how much you could save by replacing the traditional incandescent bulbs in your home.

Kill the second fridge in your life

Nearly one in three of us have a second refrigerator in our homes, according to The Washington Post.

In theory, an old fridge should save you money by allowing you to stock up on frozen foods when they’re on sale. But the reality is older fridges consume massive amounts of electricity.

The cost of running a new fridge is next to nothing; older ones, though, can be hundreds of bucks a year to run.

So that money you think you’re saving buying food on sale, you’re actually spending on your electric bill!

Additional quick tips to save money on energy:

  1. Seal drafts around doors and windows using weather-stripping or caulking.
  2. Make sure your attic is well insulated.
  3. Get a water heater blanket if your unit is over five years old.
  4. Use natural sunlight for heating when available.
  5. Make sure your vents are not blocked by furniture.
  6. Try zoned heating and cooling. Close off rooms and vents in rooms that are not in use.
  7. Close off your fireplace and the flue on your chimney.
  8. Consider warming your bed with an electric blanket on chilly nights instead of bumping up the thermostat.
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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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