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We break down what’s behind the expected hike, along with small steps you can take to save money.

I hate to tell you, but your heating bill is going to be higher than usual this winter. Much higher.

Xcel Energy, one of two state-owned investor-owned electric utilities and the largest supplier to the Denver metro area, predicts that its Colorado customers will see an average increase of $ 28 on their monthly bill. natural gas this winter compared to last winter. In addition, a report released by the Energy Information Administration in October, U.S. households that use natural gas for heat will spend an average of $ 746 on heat this winter (October through March), a peak of 30% from the previous year. last winter.

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This expected increase is very concerning, says Denise Stepto, communications director at Energy Outreach Colorado, a nonprofit that helps Colorado residents pay their energy bills. “Natural gas,” Stepto explains, “has generally been an affordable product for households. Over the past year, however, the Coloradans have struggled to afford that cost due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. About 738,000 residents have struggled to afford basic necessities due to COVID-19, according to a survey published in October 2021 by the Colorado Health Institute. And from April 2020 to early 2021, Energy Outreach Colorado saw an increase of about 46% in call volume from residents anxious to pay their heating bills, according to Stepto.

Now, with heating prices set to climb, Stepto believes there is a real risk for some Coloradans will be being disconnected from services because they will not be able to pay their bills. To help you, we’ve answered your questions about what’s causing the rising costs and how to save on heating this season.

What is the cause of the increase in heating costs?

Don’t blame utility companies for this increase; blame the economy.

“We buy natural gas at a wholesale price and then pass it directly to our customers at no markup,” says Kelly Flenniken, director of community relations for Xcel Energy in Colorado. This means that the predicted surge in heating costs, not only in Colorado, but across the country, is primarily due to soaring natural gas costs. There are a number of reasons for this price hike, including labor and material shortages impacting the natural gas industry, as well as general inflation as a whole. economy, explains Peter Rosenthal, head of North American electricity and natural gas at Energy Aspects, a research consultancy.

Projections for heating costs in winter were even higher two months ago, Rosenthal points out. In fact, Xcel originally predicted that its residential customers in Colorado would see a 71.56% increase in their monthly bill this winter. Last week, that figure was revised to 37.4% because better-than-expected weather conditions in November and December reduced concerns about the overall natural gas supply. As a result, prices have fallen by about a third from their peak two months ago, Rosenthal explains.

That means that in January, customers could start to see their bills cut due to falling gas prices, according to Keith Hay, director of policy at the Colorado Energy Office. Indeed, Flenniken predicts that monthly invoices for Xcel customers will drop by about $ 4 by the end of March 2022.

Even with this drop, however, overall energy costs will be considerably higher this winter than last winter.

What programs are available to help me pay my heating bill?

Xcel customers can call 1-800-895-4999 for information and assistance, including programs, incentives and discounts as well as resources to help make their homes or buildings as energy efficient as possible.

Residents who have their heat turned off or are worried about paying their heating bills (whether they use Xcel or not) can call 1-866-432-8435 for assistance. Stepto also encourages qualified residents to apply for Colorado Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), a federally funded program that helps residents pay part of the cost of heating their homes in the winter.

Are there things I can do to save money on my heating bill?

To save energy – and therefore money – on your bill, Flenniken offers you the following:

  • Lower your thermostat. Try to keep it at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Reduce the temperature while you are away and also while you sleep.
  • Open your curtains and blinds in good weather. This will allow the strong Colorado sun to naturally heat your home. When it’s dark or the sun isn’t shining, close your curtains and blinds.
  • Turn your ceiling fan clockwise. This will push the hot air down, make your living space more comfortable, and lower the costs on your bill.
  • Keep interior doors open. This allows air to circulate freely in your home and helps maintain constant temperatures.