By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The unseasonably warm weather we’ve experienced much of the winter is having a positive impact on at least one thing — heating bills.

Centerpoint Energy says the annual natural gas bill for the average customer, like John Wicks, is $300 lower than it was two years ago.

“I prefer more snow. It snowed today, but that’s been about it,” Wicks said.

Less snow and less cold, but a little more money in Wicks’ pocket.

“It’s a bargain this year, for sure,” Wicks said.

This year when he opened his natural gas bill for January he was almost happy to pay it.

“It’s the coldest month and it was only $147. I know some years the coldest month may be $300,” Wicks said.

And that’s to heat his Minneapolis home in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. Savings vary across the Twin Cities, but overall CenterPoint Energy — the largest natural gas provider in the state — is seeing customer costs decrease while temperatures increase.

“The annual bill for the average customer is about $300 lower than it was two years ago,” said Christine Zachman, a credit and collections supervisor for CenterPoint.

From February 2014 to February 2015, the average annual bill was about $920. From February of 2016 to February of 2017, it was about $630. More affordable bills mean fewer late payments.

“These lower gas bills allow customers to keep up on their natural gas bills as well,” said Zachman.

What CenterPoint is seeing is an increase in homeowners buying new furnaces or water heaters. The theory is that the money some customers are saving is helping them get ahead.

“There are three things that impact a customer’s gas bill and that’s supply and demand, weather, and the economy and all of those things are favorable right now. Which makes for happier customers,” said Zachman.

Another homeowner who lives in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood in Minneapolis said he saved about $20 in both December and January, but he paid more in November than the year before.

Experts say energy efficiency and other factors also play a role in how much you’re saving.

John Lauritsen