Now that the weather's gotten colder, you're probably using more energy to heat your home. Home heating is comparatively cheap and reliable in the U.S., and luckily for investors, many top energy stocks are also looking cheap and reliable right now. 

Three timely picks that you may want to consider to heat up your portfolio this December include Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD), Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE:BEP), and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A)(NYSE:RDS.B). Here's why they look worthy of buying. 

A pair of feet on a radiator in front of a window with snow outside

Top stocks from throughout the energy industry can warm up your portfolio this winter. Image source: Getty Images.

A reliable payout

When a company has been increasing its payout every year for the past 20 years, that should get dividend investors interested. And if it's been upping said payout every quarter for the past 60 quarters -- that is, for 15 of those 20 years -- it should be considered incredibly interesting. And when those increases have pushed the yield up to 6.7%, that's a company income investors should strongly consider buying. 

Meet master limited partnership (MLP) Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD). This midstream energy company owns and operates pipelines and terminals across much of the U.S. that move and store natural gas, crude oil, and refined products. And yes, the MLP has an impressive payout history. But history is only one component of reliability. A company also needs a solid plan for the future and a current financial situation that can support that plan.

Luckily, Enterprise succeeds on both counts. It has a big portfolio of expansion projects to maintain its growth. Meanwhile, despite its high yield and frequent distribution increases, the partnership boasts healthy distribution coverage of 1.7 times, meaning it generates more than enough cash to cover its payout. And with a valuation that's currently near the low end of its historic range, Enterprise looks like a buy this month.

A reliable management team

Although it's also an MLP, Brookfield Renewable Partners is very different from Enterprise Products Partners. For one thing, Brookfield focuses on renewable energy as opposed to oil and gas. Its renewable assets are diversified, primarily focusing on hydroelectric plants, but also including stakes in wind and solar farms and energy storage apparatus. 

Also unlike Enterprise, Brookfield Renewable Partners is one of a group of MLPs managed by the capable Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM). Brookfield has stewarded the MLP well, making savvy asset purchases that have included a stake in wind specialist TerraForm Power and an agreement to form a 50/50 joint venture in Spanish solar giant X-Elio.

The Brookfield team has been so successful, in fact, that the unit price of the MLP has soared 73.1% over the past year. However, the partnership's enterprise value to EBITDA ratio -- a good valuation metric for energy infrastructure companies, because it strips out depreciation -- has actually gone down by 16.3% over that period, suggesting the company isn't overvalued.

Brookfield thinks that in spite of the run-up in price, there is still plenty of interest from investors. To that end, it has announced a plan to create a corporation that will be listed alongside the partnership on the NYSE and other exchanges, which will offer an alternate way to invest in the company (particularly for retirement accounts that don't always play well with MLPs). Investors may want to try to buy in before that option becomes available, which would give them additional shares in the new company. That makes now a good month to consider an investment in this well-managed partnership.

EPD Chart

Brookfield's stock has been on a tear this year. EPD data by YCharts.

A reliable company overall

For investors who can't -- or don't want to -- invest in MLPs, there are still plenty of options in the energy landscape. For example, the five oil majors have proven time and time again to be reliable investments. Even in times of turmoil in the oil industry, like the oil price downturn of 2014-2017, these stalwarts have continued drilling oil, refining it, and selling gasoline while rewarding shareholders with dividend payouts.

That may sound pretty boring, and in fact, it is. But boring can pay off in the stock market. Take, for example, Royal Dutch Shell, the oil major that's currently tied with BP (NYSE:BP) for the best dividend yield (6.6%) among the five oil majors. Shell has differentiated itself somewhat from its peers by making big investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG), which CEO Ben van Beurden expects will see high market growth in the coming decade. But mostly, Shell is just doing what it and its peers have always done: producing, refining, and selling oil and gas. 

And Shell is very good at what it does. Its return on capital employed -- a metric that measures management's effectiveness -- currently sits at 10.85%, the highest of the oil majors and the only one to sport a double-digit percentage (poor BP is in last place with 6.2%). The data isn't lying: Now is an excellent time to buy into reliable old Shell. 

Why reliability matters

The energy sector is full of boom and bust cycles, and recently, there's been a lot of volatility among energy prices. Worse, a lot of once-solid companies have had a lot of trouble adjusting to the new normal. Companies like Enterprise Products Partners, Brookfield Renewable Partners, and Royal Dutch Shell have shown that they can not only adjust, but thrive in the current energy landscape. 

Those are the kinds of energy companies you should be looking to make a part of your balanced portfolio.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.