Heating oil consumers can expect to pay an average of $2,544 to warm homes, natural gas users $1,031, according to new fuel forecast

Despite recent mild temperatures, colder days – and higher heating bills – are on their way, according to a forecast released Tuesday by the federal government.

Heating oil consumers can expect to pay an average of $2,544 to warm their homes this winter, about $450 more than last year, according to an analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Heating a home with natural gas should cost about $1,031, close to $200 higher than last year.

Tuesday’s estimates are slightly higher than those released earlier in the season.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Driving the rising cost are predictions that temperatures this winter will hit more typical lows, as compared to the unseasonably warm weather that characterized much of last winter. Fuel consumption for both heating oil and natural gas customers is expected to increase by about 18 percent, according to the government forecast.

At the same time, a relatively tight supply of heating oil in the Northeast is keeping prices high, explained Sean Hill, industry economist with the Energy Information Administration.

“During November, when Sandy hit, all flows of refined products were basically unable to make their way into the northeast,” Hill said.

In Massachusetts, the average price for a gallon of heating oil last week was $3.91, up 3 cents from the same time last year, according to a weekly survey conducted by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.