This winter’s utility bills present good news and bad news. The good news is that your gas bill should be noticeably smaller than last winter’s, thanks to a strong supply in storage and a mild hurricane season this fall. The bad news is that average electric bills are expected to increase. Here’s a look at the numbers.

The Ups and Downs

The price of natural gas has dropped by 40 percent, which, after taxes and delivery charges, translates into a 13-percent savings on your total bill.

gas price comparison chicago

Average electric bills are expected to jump 22 percent starting this month, marking the end of a nine-year rate freeze. (Lawmakers are trying to extend the freeze, but by press time, they had not been successful.)

electricity price comparison chicago 2007

TV Time
 remote control illustration

Too cold to go out? Holing up at home with a blanket and the remote costs more in Chicago than other big cities, especially the warmer ones. Cable companies seem to know a captive audience when they see one.

Price for basic digital cable package (200 to 300 channels depending on the city, plus HBO and Showtime)

Chicago   $83.99
Philadelphia   $83.95
New York   $76.90
Los Angeles   $71.95
Houston   $66.99

How We Compare

>> The price of natural gas and electricity varies from city to city, depending largely on the means of delivering utilities to consumers, which, in turn, affects supply. In New York and California, for instance, constraints on building new power plants keep electricity supplies tight and prices high. By comparison, says Jim Chilsen of the Chicago-based advocacy group Citizens Utility Board, “Illinois is awash in power.” And despite the electric rate increase, the average Chicagoan’s electric bill is still smaller than those in three of the four other largest cities.

chicago utility price comparison

Did You Know?

>> Maximum amount of electricity the new Trump Tower will require in a day: 18.9 megawatts | Number of single-family homes this could power: 4,000 | Miles of ComEd power lines in Northern Illinois: 90,200 | Number of times they could circle the earth: More than three | Source: ComEd

Illustrations: Fred Rix Illustration