Winter heating bills are expected to be slightly lower for most families across the nation, with the highest reductions for those who heat with natural gas, the government said Tuesday.

Families using natural gas should expect to pay an average of $119 less during the upcoming winter compared to last year, a decrease of 13 percent, the Energy Department said. Those heating their homes with fuel oil will pay $91 more, an increase of 6 percent, it said.

The department said that propane users can expect to pay $15 less this winter, a drop of 1 percent.

Natural gas is the most widely used source of fuel for residential heating in the nation, especially in the Midwest. Fuel oil is used heavily in the Northeast.

Government and industry officials note that weather can always play a major factor in costs. If parts of the nation experience an unusually cold winter, heating prices can jump.

Last year, there was concern that heating bills would soar following the struggles of the oil and gas industry to recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But the warmest January on record reduced demand and helped temper some of the expenses for consumers.