You’ve likely heard the news about home heating costs rising this winter. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Winter Fuels Outlook, all residential customers should expect to pay more for heat this winter. How much more depends on the source:
|Winter heating costs by source|
|Heating source||Percentage of homes in U.S.||Predicted price increase|
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration Winter Fuels Outlook
Why the rise in prices? The COVID-19 pandemic and the predicted colder-than-average 2021-2022 winter season, which both contribute to increased demand.
On average, it will cost $746 to heat homes with natural gas this winter and $1,268 for electricity users. When it comes to managing these costs, consumers have several options. Below are just a few of the many solutions available:
A wide variety of assistance programs are available for eligible Ohioans to help pay their utility bills. Such programs can provide one-time payments, adjust monthly costs or reduce energy use. Many of these programs are administered by the Ohio Department of Development and local energy assistance providers; you can check your eligibility and get started at energyhelp.ohio.gov.
- Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
- HEAP pays a one-time payment for PUCO-regulated utility customers reflecting their usage for the current winter heating season.
- Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP)
- This program reduces low-income households’ energy use, thus saving more on their bills. Available services can include insulation, heating system replacements or repairs, air leakage reduction and more. All measures provided are based on an on-site energy audit.
- Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP Plus)
- PIPP Plus helps make monthly payments more affordable on a year-round basis and can erase old debt with on-time and in-full payments.
- Special Reconnect Order (Winter Reconnect Order)
- This Commission order allows residential customers, at any income level, who are disconnected or are threatened with disconnection to pay a maximum amount of $175 to have their service restored or maintained.
Budgeting through payment programs can help you manage your bills by spreading high costs or past-due payments across multiple months.
- Extended payment plans
- PUCO-regulated natural gas and electric companies have extended payment plans available to help you to make affordable payments on current or past due amount to help maintain service.
- Budget billing
- Budget billing spreads out the cost of energy used during high-demand times of the year. Instead of seeing a larger increase in winter heating bills, budget billing breaks down your total annual bill into manageable monthly bills by averaging your bill over the last 12 months
Other programs may be available based on your local utility or personal circumstances:
- HeatShare programs are administered by the Salvation Army to help qualifying households pay for natural gas bills.
- Electric Partnership Program
- The Electric Partnership Program (EPP) is a home weatherization program for eligible electric customers who are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, have high energy use and reside in certain utilities’ service areas.
- Patriot Plan
- The Patriot Plan provides protections and benefits to military personnel and their families. The plan can assist qualifying customers with maintaining utility service while serving on active duty.
Changing your plan with energy choice
Remember that you can always choose your energy supplier, which is the company that provides the generation or natural gas commodity portion of your bill. Suppliers can offer a variety of plans with different rate structures, term lengths and other product offers. If you find a plan that fits your preferences, switching is easy. However, some assistance programs may be incompatible with energy choice.
Your local utility will still deliver the electric or natural gas, maintain infrastructure and bill you for the distribution portion of your bill.
Visit EnergyChoice.Ohio.gov to see and compare all the options available in your area.
For more information or application details about any of these programs, contact the PUCO either by phone at 800-686-7826 or online through our contact form.