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Good news for winter heat

There's good news for people worried about winter heating bills.

People using natural gas this winter stand to save $105, compared with last year, and propane users will get even bigger savings, the government said. Households that use heating oil or electric heat also are expected to spend less during the heating season.

The Energy Information Administration said in its annual winter outlook Tuesday that lower fuel costs across the board and an expected milder winter will cut average heating costs for the upcoming season by 8 percent compared to last year -- to about $960.

Households are expected to pay an average of $783, nearly 12 percent less than last winter, for natural gas, and $1,821 for heating oil, about 2 percent lower. People using electric heat will pay $933, a decline of 2 percent and those using propane $1,667, or 14 percent less than last winter, the agency said.

The report cautioned that the projections reflect average costs and that expenditures for individual households will vary depending on local weather conditions, the size and energy efficiency of homes and the efficiency of heating equipment.

About half of all households depend on natural gas for heating, especially in the Midwest where seven in 10 homes use the fuel.

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