The cost of heating your home this winter likely will be a bit lower than last year, according to the winter fuel forecast released by the federal government Tuesday. Costs are expected to be lower, in part, because the forecast is for higher temperatures than a year ago.

The cost of keeping your home warm and toasty this winter is expected to be a bit lower than last year, especially if you use propane.

The forecast of a warmer winter gets much of the credit for the lower expected fuel bill, according to the Energy Information Administration's winter fuels forecast released Tuesday.

The one exception could be for households that use natural gas, which heats two-thirds of the homes in the Midwest, because higher prices for the fuel might exceed the decline in consumption because of the higher temperatures, the forecast said.

Nationally, the average home heated by gas should pay $580 this winter, down 1% from last year. In the Midwest, the cost is expected to be $611, up about $30 from last year.

Columbia Gas of Ohio, which serves 1.4 million customers in Ohio, is forecasting that its average monthly budget bill this year will be $65 from August through next July. Columbia Gas says as of now, the cost of natural gas is below where it was last year.

Heating a home with natural gas remains a far cheaper option than the other main sources of fuel.

Homes heated with electricity, about 40% of the nation's households, should spend an average of $1,162 this winter, a drop of 1% from last year.

Households that use propane, will be the biggest winners this winter, spending $236 less in the Midwest because of a 12% drop in prices and the warmer forecast. Their bill this winter in the Midwest is expected to be $1,131.

Nearly 8% of households in the Midwest use propane.

Families who heat their home with oil should pay $1,501 this winter, down $69, or 4%, from last year, due to a combination of lower oil prices and expected lower consumption.

The forecast is based on fuel prices and consumption forecasts along with weather predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Of course, if turns out to be much colder or warmer than expected or fuel prices change, the EIA projections will be off. Fuel bills also depend on several other factors, such as the energy efficiency of homes and where families set the thermostat.

mawilliams@dispatch.com

@BizMarkWilliams