Anyone who has purchased gasoline recently already suspects that energy may cost more this winter, but some families, in some parts of the country, may be in for a really big surprise. On October 13th the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released their annual report known as the Winter Fuels Outlook. In this assessment, EIA calculates home heating costs for four regions of the U.S., and the five major fuels used, based on the most recent weather and energy price data.
One of the most striking items in this report is that virtually all households in the U.S. will see an increase in heating costs, based on the combination of higher energy prices, and forecasts of a colder winter than last year.
Families that heat with oil will see an average increase in expenditures of 43% over last year. While households that heat with natural gas will see an average national increase of 30% in expenditures, those in the Midwest will see an increase of 48%, followed by western families with an increase of 23 %. Even families in the south, that heat with propane, will see a 43% increase in winter heating costs. All the details can be found in the EIA report.
This report makes no assumptions about power outages, which are increasingly common in many areas, as we saw in Oregon and Texas last February. HPBA members know it has always paid to have a secondary source of heat, to provide security, and create options to balance out price spikes. In Texas, Todd Harkrider, a fireplace retailer, noted: “most of our customers stayed nice and cozy inside their homes despite the electrical outage last winter, using their gas fireplaces for heat and cooking on their gas stoves. Some told me they were the most popular house in the neighborhood since they were the only place with heat.”
In Colorado, Lesley Short, owner of Lehrer’s Fireplace shops in Denver, adds, “If you’ve lived in Colorado very long, you know that blizzards can knock out our power, which is why lots of folks have either a gas fireplace, or an EPA-certified wood insert to keep warm, not to mention an outdoor grill for emergency cooking.”The annual report from EIA is an early warning for what consumers are going to face this year. Our hope is this encourages consumers to think about a secondary source of heat – something our retailers know all about.