The government forecast Tuesday that most households will pay more for heat this winter. Heating oil users will catch a slight break, but still pay near-record prices to keep warm.
Prices for natural gas, electricity and propane should be higher, the primary reason that more than 90 percent of U.S. homes will incur higher heating expenses.
Natural gas users will see the biggest percentage increase after two years of historically low prices. Their heating bills should rise to an average of $679, the Energy Department said in its outlook for heating costs for the season running from October through March. That is about 13 percent higher than a year ago but still 4 percent below the average for the previous five winters.
Homes relying on electricity for heat, about 38 percent of the U.S., will likely pay about 2 percent more compared with last year.
For heating oil customers, there is good news and bad. Their average bill should drop 2 percent. But they’ll still pay an average of $2,046 for the season, the second highest on record behind last year’s $2,092.
“If there’s one type of product that could catch fire and go higher, it’s heating oil,” says Tom Kloza, Chief Oil Analyst at the Oil Price Information Service and GasBuddy.com.
Natural gas should average $11 per thousand cubic feet, the government said. That’s $1.33 more than last year, but still below the nearly $13 per thousand cubic feet that homeowners paid in the winter of 2008-2009.
The Energy Department predicts that heating demand will fall 0.3 percent nationwide. The Northeast is expected to experience the biggest increase, up 3.4 percent, while the West is expected to see demand drop by 3.1 percent.