by: Mark Becker Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - We can expect to pay more staying warm this winter -- not because prices are going up but because temperatures are expected to go down.
After an unusually warm winter last year, the Department of Energy is forecasting winter temperatures will be closer to normal this
year -- in a word, colder.
Naturally, that means people will have to use more energy to warm their homes, and they'll have to pay for it.
The DOE estimates that natural gas customers will see a 15 percent jump in their heating bills and people who use home heating oil will see an even bigger
jump -- 19 percent.
That will be hard on customers like Mary Sweat, who has trouble keeping the heating oil in the tank just outside her apartment in south Charlotte.
"We can't afford to fill it up... we just put a little bit in at a time if we have the money," Sweat says. On Wednesday she was washing and drying several heavy
blankets -- expecting to use them to help stay warm.
"Last winter was so
warm -- it was 20 percent warmer than the normal winter so we're certainly going to have a colder winter than last winter," says Jimmy White, who runs his family-owned oil company in north Charlotte.
White says customers can help cut costs by making sure their tanks always have some oil in
them -- avoiding expensive service calls.
Piedmont Natural Gas expects to release its winter forecast on Thursday.