Forecasts call for the coming winter season to be "kinder and gentler," with less snow in the nation's mid-Atlantic region, according to that font of climatological information, the Farmer's Almanac. That's good news for the region, which was buried under record accumulations of the white stuff last year.

The bad news, the 194-year-old publication says, is that much of the country will be colder than normal, and New England residents should brace for a "cold slap in the face," having escaped brutally cold temperatures last winter.

Luckily for consumers who heat their homes with oil, as many do in the Northeast, historic surpluses of crude mean heating oil prices are relatively low compared to the record high prices some paid just two years ago. After rising in June and July, crude oil prices have dropped about 7% in August, according to HeatingOil.com, a fuel-delivery pricing service.

Though it's difficult to forecast where volatile oil prices will trend in the coming weeks and months, HeatingOil.com managing editor Josh Garrett says the "massive oversupply" of petroleum products will likely keep prices in check in the near term. "That oversupply, we're hoping, will keep prices down throughout the season," he says.

Unleaded Regular Is Down


Of course, where oil prices head is in part a matter of the economy's health. After falling to historic lows in early 2009, oil prices resumed a loftier perch in anticipation of robust economic recovery and possible oil shortages. But with the U.S. recovery now seemingly stalled -- and plenty of crude on hand -- oil prices have little momentum to move higher.

One example is gasoline prices, which have fallen more than 7 cents a gallon in the two weeks ending Aug. 27, according to the Lundberg Survey. The national average price for regular self-serve fell to $2.70 a gallon and is likely to stay there, absent any shocks, the market research firm said.

Home heating oil, which is less refined than gasoline, is even cheaper. A random sampling of heating oil prices Tuesday in two New York cities on CODOil.com showed a range of $2.33 a gallon in Poughkeepsie to $2.43 a gallon in White Plains, for one-time delivery.

Prices are about on par with what consumers paid last year, HeatingOil.com's Garrett says. Further, he says, with the industry moving away from traditional price-lock contracts, which guarantee a set price for the heating season, consumers could save more if oil prices drop further.

Still, Garrett says, consumers should be mindful that savings don't only come from lower fuel prices. Beefing up home insulation, caulking leaks that allow cold air to seep in, and lowering thermostat settings are other ways to save big bucks.

Lastly, he says, homeowners facing tough financial times should keep in mind that many dealers offer budget payment plans that allow them to spread out heating oil payments over the year.

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Tito & Wendy

We all need a hidogin powered car, and a hidro plant in our homes, to make all the electric we need.

September 05 2010 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dx75

How about telling us how accurate (or not) the Farmer's Almanac may be. Do they do "global warming" forecasts based on the thickness of mouse fur as well? Is the Farmer's Almanac the BEST AOL can do for a long term outlook? Probably cheap, though.

September 04 2010 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
thdpkr01

"Steady", my ass. They should be dropping. That is, of course, if you believe in the myth of "supply and demand". Energy price fixing is old news. It would be shocking to see the manipulators prosecuted.

September 04 2010 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
havinfun440

Fools, just wait until the furnaces fire up in the north east this winter,people better fill there tanks now! Prices are low because the demand in this depression is still droping, but while you have a choice to drive and buy less from wal-mart, most don’t have a choice about keeping their home above freezing. We are in for some very hard times, and we haven't seen nothin yet

September 04 2010 at 3:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Devorah

You are not basing the heat cost taxes on Cap and Trade yet. If Cap and Trade passes, you better do a rewrite!

September 04 2010 at 3:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Alice

Believe it or not, oil is the best fuel to use since it is so much more efficient. A good way to save on oil is to use a small ceramic heater in the living room in the evenings until going to bed since there is no need for heat in the bedroom. Obama type people however seem to need heat more than we do and they may spend more on oil.

September 04 2010 at 3:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alice's comment
dx75

Natural gas is more efficient, if you can get it. No soot, so no yearly cleaning, no powered burner blower needed unless you do a flueless, and the exhaust is mostly water vapor. BTW a fuel, by itself, is neither efficient or IN efficient, what counts is how the system extracts the energy contained therein and transfers it to the heated spaces. The enviroweenies, of course, hate it all because they want us to freeze in the dark.

September 04 2010 at 10:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pat

I live in GA. Heating is never an issue. The trick here is to survive until its cool enough to shut down the AC. If we're lucky, that's only another month or so away. OK, maybe 2. I'm thrilled that the forecast for today says we won't hit the 90's again for a couple of days. My winter gas bills are nothing compared to summer electric.

September 04 2010 at 12:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
HoldEmGal72073

Look into pellet stoves. I was spending almost $2000 a year for oil to heat my home. I put in a pellet stove. $200 as a rough estimate on a TON of pellets. It now costs me $600 a year to heat my house and the pellet stove keeps the house warmer than I ever had my thermostat set. It even keeps my 2nd floor at a very nice 74 all winter. It even dropped my electric bill so I saved money all around.

September 04 2010 at 12:15 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to HoldEmGal72073's comment
dx75

Meanwhile, the neighbors gag and choke.

September 04 2010 at 10:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joyce

enjoy your columns.I have a question about natural gas estimated cost for the coming winter of 2010 2011 so that I can tell weather or not to lock in the exsiting price that my supplyer is trying to get me to do. thanks in advance. Joyce............

September 04 2010 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dancenaked07

Isn't it funny that "Oil" will be needed most for home heating in the Northeastern US during this winter. Remember that this is the part of the country with the most oil furnaces. Do I smell Oil involved?

September 04 2010 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dancenaked07's comment
dx75

Enviroweenies OPPOSE the construction of pipelines and CNG delivery by ship (oh the horror). Electricty is expensive to generate and grid upgrades are opposed by - you guessed it. Oil is sold by small retail operations, while the gas line is a monopoly unless you do propane which has to be delivered by truck, like oil, adding to the cost. There is a pretty good history as to why COAL used to be primary heating fuel in New England, and it has nothing to do with dark plots by "oil barons". It is simply cleaner, easier to move around and packs more energy per storage space. The conversion to oil in New England started about the same time the railroads went diesel (same basic stuff) No plot, common sense, nothing funny about it. Most folks would switch to gas if they could get it though sometimes "gas go BOOM".

September 04 2010 at 10:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply