Get ready: It could be an expensive winter when it comes to gas and electric bills.
Natural gas, oil, propane and even electric prices are up this year, and in some cases, they've risen significantly.
Homeowner James Mehne is already feeling it, even though he watches his thermostat closely. He just learned that his budget billing rate — what he pays for utilities every month — is jumping from $128 to $160 each month.
"My monthly bill is going up $31," he said. "That works out to about $360 a year."
Mehne says higher prices will take a bite out of next year's budget.
"Right now, with the way income is and everything else in the world, everything going up," he said. "It's going to make it harder to pay the other bills."
Unusual energy price hikes this year
It's typical for gas and electric rates to go up in the winter because it's all based on weather and demand.
But this year, a strange thing has happened. Natural gas prices have been going up all year long due to shortages in Europe and more natural gas used for electric generation.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says those who heat with gas can expect to spend 30% more this winter than last year.
But electric rates are up too, due to last winter's storms in Texas and higher electric generating costs.
How to keep your bills down
How can homeowners keep energy costs down?
Sally Thelen of Duke Energy is warning customers across the country (outside of the southernmost cities) about the importance of weatherizing this winter.
"We are just trying right now to get customers to be prepared," she said.
Thelen says homeowners will save as much as 3% on their bill for every degree the thermostat is turned down.
For those who live in South Florida or Southern California, she suggests checking windows and doors for leaks.
"Add weather stripping around doors, making sure you have a tight seal, if you need to add caulk around windows," she said. "Really just do things to keep the heat in."
Homeowners like Mehne are hoping for a mild winter because rising prices on gas, groceries and now utilities are starting to take a toll.
As always, don't waste your money.
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