Winter heating bills are expected to be lower for most families across the nation, with natural-gas customers getting the steepest reductions, the government said Tuesday.
In Southern California, the average monthly cost of home heating could drop as much as 18%, according to Southern California Gas Co., which serves 5.6 million customers. The average monthly bill will be about $80 to $85 this winter, compared with $98 a month last winter, said the utility, which is owned by San Diego-based Sempra Energy.
Families using natural gas -- 58% of U.S. households -- should expect to pay an average of $119 less during the coming winter compared with last year, a decrease of 13%, the Energy Department said.
The 30% of U.S. households that rely primarily on electricity for heat are expected to pay an average of $58 more, up 7.4% from last winter.
Those heating their homes with fuel oil -- 7% of U.S. households -- are likely to pay $91 more, a 6.4% jump. The 5% of homes that use propane for heat can expect to pay $15, or 1.2%, less.
Government officials cautioned that if parts of the country experienced an unusually cold winter, heating costs could be much higher than forecast.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration projected Tuesday that most of the country would see above-normal winter temperatures, though slightly cooler than last year's.
Homes that use natural gas are expected to see their heating costs average $826 this winter, compared with $945 last winter. Electric households could pay an average of $839 for heat this winter, up from $781 last winter.
Homes using fuel oil are expected to pay $1,522 this winter, an increase from $1,431 last winter. Propane users should pay $1,265 this winter, compared with $1,280 last winter.