BUFFALO, N.Y. — National Fuel predicts customers in Western New York will have lower bills this winter season compared to last year.

The prediction is based on how much the average residential customer is expected to pay during the five-month winter heating period, which runs from November through March.

According to National Fuel, the average residential customer paid $599.57 last winter. This year, however, the average customer is expected to pay $511.25. National Fuel predicts the average bill will drop by approximately $17.66 per month.

But there is one important thing to note about that projection. National Fuel says the $511.25 estimate is based on this winter being more typical than last year, which was slightly colder than normal.

National Fuel also says the savings this year come from a decrease in the commodity price of natural gas.

Once again this year, the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) will be available to help families and individuals who qualify for federal help paying their heating bills. HEAP will open in mid-November. More information is available at www.HEAPhelps.com or by calling 1-877-443-2743.