By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some good news to report today with regards to home heating costs.  While some fuel prices are rising bills are expected to be lower this winter because of milder temperatures.

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3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan takes a look at the numbers.

Last year, persistently low temperatures forced people to crank up the heat.  The high demand jacked up the price of fuel, and heating bills soared.

This year, milder temperatures should reduce fuel use resulting in lower monthly bills, according to the Energy Department’s annual prediction of winter heating costs.

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While natural gas prices in the northeast are expected to rise 7 percent as a result of less use, the average natural gas bill is expected to drop $31 for the October-to-March heating season.

Electricity prices are expected to be up 2 percent in the northeast, but again, if weather predictions are correct customers should use less electricity to heat homes this winter.  Nationwide bills dropping from $955 to $938, a $17 savings.

Heating oil customers will get a big break on their bills, both because of lower prices and lower consumption, paying on average $362 less than last year.

Finally, the propane market was thrown into chaos last year. Supplies fell sharply and prices skyrocketed.  With supplies now at their highest since 1993, prices are down 5 percent, use is expected to be down 9 percent with bills being 13 percent lower.

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But it’s probably not wise to spend those hoped-for savings just yet.  Even though the forecast is for temperatures about 11 percent warmer this winter, it’s just a forecast after all, and we all know how mother nature likes to surprise us.