Opened your gas bill? What made the price of heating your home jump?

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic
Flames from a natural gas fire place.

Opened your gas bill this month?  Did you suffer some sticker shock?  The price of a therm of natural gas has more than doubled since January of 2021.  According to utility company NICOR, the price of a therm of natural gas in January 2021 was 29 cents, and in January of 2022, it jumped to 61 cents per therm. That is more than a 100% increase.

Utility companies have been warning consumers that this winter was going to be an expensive one.  The US Energy Information Administration cites part of the reason for the increase in utility costs was a polar vortex storm last February that substantially increased energy consumption and disrupted energy supply in Oklahoma and Texas.  Other factors globally also have impacted the price of heating a home. 

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) a watchdog organization, credits the following for the high price of natural gas. "1) increased demand as economies worldwide begin to recover from the pandemic; 2) increased Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) exports to other parts of the world, such as Europe, keeping supply lower here;  3) less gas exploration and well construction in recent years; 4) increased use of gas for electricity generation in a hot summer of high air-conditioning use; and 5) Hurricane Ida knocked more than 90 percent of gas production in the Gulf of Mexico offline in late August, according to the Energy Information Administration. "

CUB also states that utility companies are only allowed to pass on the cost of gas without markup.  They make their money off of the rates they charge to deliver gas to our homes. This is according to state laws, and is overseen by the Illinois Commerce Commission. 

Winter survival strategies

Lots of tips are offered to help conserve heat in your home in the cold months.  

  • Close blinds or curtains to help conserve heat that might radiate away overnight, open them up during the day to let sunlight help heat the room.
  • Make sure doors and windows are tight, and don't allow heat-stealing drafts.  Before winter, check the seal around  them.  Locking windows often improves the seal, and improves security.
  • Close doors to unused rooms.  Closing heat vents in unused rooms helps as well.  Keep them above 40 degrees to prevent any frozen pipes. 
  • Cooking or baking at home will warm up the house.  When finished using the stove, leave the door open so warm air can heat your kitchen.
  • Use ceiling fans to help distribute warm air.  Switch them to a clockwise rotation to move cool air off the floor and warm air down. 
  • Rearrange your furniture to improve airflow.  Besides the aesthetic value, moving furnishings from in front of heat sources in a room will improve the movement of warm air.
  • If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to a cooler temperature when you are sleeping.  Otherwise, turn down the thermostat at bedtime, and add an extra blanket. 
  • Wrap up in a blanket or add a sweater if you are lounging around the house at night, rather than sneak the thermostat up a few degrees.  Even just wearing heavier weight fabrics around the house can keep the chill off. 
  • Clear radiators, registers, air returns and baseboard heaters of obstructions.  Not only does this help airflow,  it minimizes fire hazards.
  • Clean and replace filters for a forced air furnace.  A bi-annual checkup of your heating and cooling system is recommended for maximum efficiency. 

Heating your home safely

For residents having trouble paying their utility bill, please contact :

Office of Community Assistance

Illinois Department of Commerce

1-877-411-9276  or  communityassist@illinois.gov