With winter almost here, Wisconsinites are being warned they will not be getting a break on their heating bills this season, and experts pointed out there are big and small steps households can take to reduce the impact.
The Energy Information Administration predicts Midwest households relying on natural gas will spend an average of $1,000 on heating bills this winter, a 33% increase over last year.
Whitney Hayes, research analyst for the nonprofit advocacy group Elevate, agreed the region will see cost headaches in the coming months.
“We’re expecting gas prices to continue to go up this winter because of things like the war in Ukraine, and we’re still doing a lot of recovery from COVID and shipping and supply shock and whatnot,” Hayes outlined. “We see it coming.”
She advised small things, such as making sure there is air sealant around windows and doors, can produce savings on your bill. And energy experts noted electric heat pumps have come down in price and are now more reliable in extremely cold weather.
David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, argued heat pumps are a strong alternative to natural gas. But he stressed they still might be out of reach for low-income households, and policymakers need to offer more incentives to make them accessible to everyone.
Meanwhile, he emphasized maximizing the options will make a difference.
“There is sort of like a layer cake,” Kolata explained. “And if you take advantage of this program, and then you seal cracks and windows and maybe install energy-efficient light bulbs, all of that works together holistically to help you basically save on the price of energy for your home.”
Kolata added for those worried about their heat being disconnected this winter, most Midwestern states have cold-weather rules, which require utilities to offer a payment arrangement to avoid shut-offs.
“Most utilities that we’re aware of do have what’s known as budget billing programs,” Kolata acknowledged. “Those don’t save you money over the course of a year, but they smooth out your payments, so you pay less in the winter and more in the summer.”
Disclosure: Elevate contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environmental Justice, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
This story was written by Mike Moen, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.