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Heating your home this winter could be more expensive than before. What to know

Even if it’s a warmer-than-average winter, your heating bill is expected to be higher this year.
Thermostate and bill
(Getty Images)

As temperatures begin to cool, you might be thinking about turning on your home’s heater (if you haven’t already, that is). 

But if the thought of a much more expensive heating bill is enough to heat you up, you may want to hold off. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its latest forecast Wednesday, and regardless of how you heat your home — natural gas, electricity, propane or oil — you can expect a more expensive bill than years prior. And that’s true even if we experience a warmer-than-average winter.

Why will winter heating be more expensive? 

“As we head into the winter of 2021–22, retail prices for energy are at or near multiyear highs in the United States,” the EIA says in this year’s Winter Fuels Outlook. “The high prices follow changes to energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Because of this, government officials expect households across the country will spend more on energy this winter than they did the last several winters. 

“We expect the increase in energy prices as the United States returns to economic growth to mean higher residential energy bills this winter,” the outlook says. In the forecast, winter encompasses Oct. 1 through March 31. 

This comes while many households wrestle with higher prices on many other products and services as inflation hits amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How much more expensive your bills are depend on how you heat your home and how cold this winter is, but it could be as high as 50% in some scenarios. 

What’s predicted for natural gas as a heat source? 

Almost half of households throughout the U.S. rely on natural gas to heat their homes. And the government forecasts those households, on average, will be spending 30% more than they did last winter. 

In simpler terms, the EIA predicts households using natural gas as a primary heating source will spend an average of $746 this winter. 

If, however, this winter is 10% colder than average, the bills could be 50% more expensive. And, if the winter is 10% warmer than average, bills are expected to be about 22% more expensive. 

“Demand has simply grown faster than production as the economy roars back to life following shutdowns caused by the coronavirus,” The Associated Press reported. “Natural gas in the United States, for example, has climbed to its highest price since 2014 and is up roughly 90% over the last year.”

What if I heat my home with electricity? 

If you rely on electricity to heat your home, you and about 41% of households across the U.S. can also expect a higher heating bill this year. 

The EIA expects these households will spend 6% more this year, for an average of $1,268 on electricity this winter. Though increases could be as much as 15% more if winter is colder than normal or as low as 4% more if it’s a warmer winter. 

“Our forecast of winter residential electricity consumption reflects all types of electricity use such as lighting, appliances, and electronics,” the government says. “However, in those homes that primarily heat with electricity, overall winter temperatures can have a significant effect on the amount of electricity consumed by residential households.”

Will propane heat bills also be up this winter?

The forecast says yes, and the percentage increase is expected to be even higher than natural gas and electricity. This will affect about 5% of households in the U.S. that use propane as their primary space heating fuel. 

The EIA forecasts these households will spend $631 on average for winter propane, which is a 54% increase over last year. If it’s a colder winter, these households can expect to spend 94% more, or 29% more if this winter is warmer than average. 

“Propane markets are experiencing low inventory levels and high prices heading into the winter heating season,” the EIA says, though it’s important to note the forecast bill amounts do not account for propane already owned. 

“We assume consumers pay the prevailing retail price at the time the fuel is consumed,” the forecast says.

How about if my home uses heating oil?

The EIA expects that the 4% of households that use heating oil as a primary source to heat their homes will spend an average of $1,734, which is 43% more than last year. 

“These higher heating oil expenditures primarily reflect higher retail heating oil prices, which we forecast will be 33% higher than last winter,” the EIA says, as the country is facing a low inventory. 

If this is a colder winter, these households may pay up to 59% more, and if it’s warmer, they may pay up to 30% more.

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