Depending on the type of heating fuel you use at home, your energy bill could go up a little - or a lot - when compared to last year's heating season.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Winter Fuels Outlook uses energy price projections and forecasted weather data from NOAA to predict winter heating bills in the United States.
Here's how this season's projected heating expenditures (October 1, 2012 - March 31, 2013) in the Midwest stack up when compared to the 2011-2012 season:
• Natural Gas: Consumers will pay about 19 percent more this year, or about 119 dollars.
• Heating Oil: Consumers will pay about 20 percent more this year, or about 407 dollars. (National average)
• Electricity: Consumers will pay about 10 percent more this year, or about 99 dollars.
• Propane: Consumers will pay about 11 percent more this year, or about 173 dollars.
Of course, if this winter is colder than expected, expenditures could go up even more. A warmer than expected winter would reduce expenditures.
Viewer Tip: No matter what kind of heating fuel you use, there are plenty of ways to save energy and reduce bills this winter.
• Let sunlight heat your home naturally by opening curtains and blinds on south- and west-facing windows during the day. Close window coverings at night.
• Lower the temperature in your home while you are sleeping or away. Dropping the thermostat temperature by eight degrees for seven hours each night and an additional seven hours each weekday can save up to 12 percent on seasonal heating costs. That's about $180 for the average home.
• Plug leaks! Seal air leaks around doors and windows with sealant, caulking and weather stripping.
• Check the furnace filter every month. If it looks dirty, change it - a dirty filter makes the system work harder, slows air flow and can damage the furnace.
• Add a programmable thermostat to your home. It will cost around 100 dollars on average, but can save even more by automatically adjusting the temperature in your home when you are sleeping or away.
• Time for new heating equipment? Look for a unit that has earned the Energy Star. Depending on where you live and what type of heating fuel you use, Energy Star furnaces are 12-16 percent more efficient than standard models.