As temperatures continue to fall with the approaching winter, most will likely feel the chill not only in the air but in their monthly budgets, as well, with higher home heating costs.

Assuming normal winter weather, MGE is forecasting a $25 to $35 increase in monthly heating bills compared to last year, according to Steve Schultz, MGE’s corporate communications manager. Schultz noted that MGE does not “mark up” the price of gas, but charges customers the same price the utility pays.

Schultz noted that natural gas prices have doubled from last year and are the highest in more than a decade.

Demand is outpacing supply, Schultz said. The past summer’s hot weather drove up air conditioning usage and energy demand. As a result, storage of natural gas nationally is currently about 5% below inventory levels compared to a five-year average, Schultz said.

With prices up worldwide, U.S. exports of liquified natural gas have increased, contributing to higher prices in the United States.

But, Schultz said, MGE expects a full supply of storage throughout the winter, Schultz said. MGE tries to protect consumers from price spikes during times of high demand by purchasing and storing gas when prices are typically lower, and by buying natural gas from a variety of suppliers with varying contract terms, Schultz added.

To reduce the usage, MGE advises customers to lower thermostats at night or when they are not home and to be sure furnace filters are clean. They also recommend having a professional tune up furnaces every other year.

Customers can also save energy by sealing around the sewer vent pipe in the basement and attic to keep in heat, closing the fireplace damper after the fire is out to stop drafts, opening window coverings to let sun in during the day and closing them and night to keep out drafts.

Focus on Energy is also a resource for homeowners seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their homes; for more information, visit www.focusonenergy.com.

MGE customers looking to manage their bills in the winter can sign up for MGE’s Budget Payment Plan, which levels heating payments throughout the year. Information about the plan can be found at mge.com in the Customer Service section.

Individuals in need of assistance paying their utility bills can contact MGE at 608-252-7222. Energy Service, Inc. also provides assistance with furnace repairs and heating costs. To learn more, visit the website, https://www.esiwi.com.

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