The latest survey from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that the average family will have up to a ~40% increase in the cost of their 2016 winter heating bills. The exact amount of the increase will depend on exactly how cold this winter is as well as the type of fuel that the family uses. But in almost all scenarios this up-coming winter will be much more costly than last year.
The United States Energy Information Administration provided their best estimate for this upcoming year. They try to factor in the expected weather conditions (whether it is forecast to be colder or warmer than in the past) as well as various fuel types. So while the EIA data will never be perfect, it is a good baseline.
The ranges of what a family can expect to pay vary widely. It is estimated that people who heat their homes with electricity will spend 5% more. Propane users will spend about 26% more than last year. Natural gas heating costs are expected to go up 22%. Last, but not least, for homes that use “standard” heating oil they will be faced with a 38% higher bill according to the EIA.
Of course those estimates all depend on how cold it will be in 2016. If it is colder than expected that expect to pay more than the 5% or 38%. If it is warmer than expected, then you should then expect to pay less money. But those figures can be thought of as a good baseline.
Much if this EIA data is regional as well. Millions of homes in the northeast use heating oil, and they should expect to see a 30-50% increase in their costs. But if you live in other parts of the country, such as the northwest or midwest, then your bill may only go up 5% to 15% or so as most of those homes use electricity or natural gas. So costs vary widely, but the bottom line is you should expect to pay more money during the winter of 2016.
Why show this data if it is just estimates?
We report on this data now so that families can plan for the future. It provides you a little more time to save some money for paying your heating bills. Maybe you will decide to cut back a little on your holiday shopping and plan on spending that money for their energy costs. Or maybe you can decide to take a part-time, seasonal job (of which there are hundreds of thousands) to make a few extra dollar. The more advance notice that anyone has the better.
Another reason why we share this information is that the 2016 low income energy bill assistance programs (such as LIHEAP) either are now open for enrollment or they soon will be. Since these are first come and first served, and funding is limited, if you think you may struggle this upcoming year now is the time to apply for help. Once the funds run out, there will be no other government sponsored heating bill assistance programs available for 2016.
One additional reason that we report on this is for conservation reasons. We of course always recommend saving energy and doing things such as turning down the thermostat. Or buy some extra blankets, caulk a leaky window, or buy a programmable thermostat. There are many simple and inexpensive things do to to mitigate the cost of your 2016 heating bills.
So if you think you may struggle to keep up this winter with up to a 38% increase in the cost to stay warm, now is the time to plan. Whether it is applying for financial assistance, saving money, or conserving, take some steps now.