Most U.S. households can expect lower heating expenditures this winter (October through March) compared with the past two winters. In most regions, the decline in expenditures is attributed to the combination of warmer weather and lower fuel prices.
According to EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook, average household expenditures for homes heating primarily with natural gas will total $578 this winter, a $64 decline from last winter’s average. Homes primarily using propane are expected to spend $1,437 this winter ($322 less). Homes heating primarily with heating oil are expected to spend $1,392 ($459 less). Homes heating primarily with electric heat are expected to spend $930 ($30 less).
The average household winter heating fuel expenditures summarized above provide a broad guide to changes compared with last winter. However, fuel expenditures for each household are highly dependent on the size and energy efficiency of individual homes and their heating equipment, thermostat settings, local weather conditions, and market size.
Most regions of the country are expected to have warmer weather this winter. The Northeast, Midwest, and South are expected to be about 13%, 11%, and 8% warmer, respectively, based on forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The West, which had unusually warm weather last winter, is expected to have 12% cooler weather. Because weather patterns present great uncertainty to winter energy forecasts, EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook includes projections for 10% colder and 10% warmer scenarios.
Additionally, the choice of heating fuel varies considerably by region, resulting in regional differences in total expenditures. Natural gas is the primary space heating fuel in every region except the South, where electric heating is more prevalent. Heating oil is much more common in the Northeast than in other regions, while propane is more common in the Midwest than it is elsewhere, although it is still a small portion of the total (see map).
Almost half of U.S. households use natural gas as their primary heating fuel. EIA expects households heating with natural gas to spend an average of $64 (10%) less this winter than last winter. The decrease in natural gas expenditures is the net result of 6% lower fuel consumption, and 4% lower residential natural gas prices compared to last winter. Heading into the heating season, EIA projects storage inventories will total 3,956 Bcf, which would be a record high.
Principal contributor: Stacy MacIntyre