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Heating oil explained Heating oil prices and outlook

What are the main components of the price of heating oil?

The main cost components of the retail heating oil price for residential consumers are the:

  • Cost of crude oil for refiners
  • Cost for refiners to produce heating oil
  • Costs to market, distribute, and deliver heating oil to consumers

These costs include the profits (and sometimes losses) of refiners, wholesalers, and local distributors.

From the winter of 2012–13 through the winter of 2021–22, the cost of crude oil accounted for 48% of the average price of a gallon of heating oil during the winter months (October through March). Distribution and marketing costs accounted for about 37% of the cost of a gallon of heating oil, and refinery processing costs accounted for 15% of the price.1

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What is the outlook for heating oil prices this winter?

The October 2023 edition of the Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) includes the Winter Fuels Outlook with a detailed forecast for U.S. residential heating oil (and natural gas, propane, and electricity) prices, average household heating fuel consumption and expenditures, and the number of households that use each type of heating fuel by region and nationally for the months of October through March.

Every edition of the STEO also includes historical data and forecasts for national-level monthly and annual average retail heating oil prices in Table 2. Energy Prices.

How can consumers reduce their heating oil bills?

Purchasing options

Heating oil consumers can arrange to have their heating oil tanks filled in late summer or in early fall when prices are generally lower. Heating oil dealers may offer their customers a budget plan to help even out monthly heating oil bills. Some dealers may also offer fixed-price protection programs that may help keep costs down.

Efficiency and conservation measures

Consumers can reduce heating oil consumption by caulking and weather stripping windows and doors to seal out cold air, by installing proper insulation in the attic and walls, and by reducing temperature settings on thermostats.

Find out about home energy efficiency and energy conservation.

Assistance programs

Both federal and state energy assistance programs are available to heating oil consumers who have limited budgets. For example, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that distributes funds to states to help low-income households pay heating bills. Additional state energy assistance and fuel fund programs may be available to help households during a winter emergency.

Find out if you qualify for financial assistance to help with your heating bills.

Find out if you qualify for weatherization assistance.

1 Data for winters past 2021-2022 are not available because data used for marketing and distribution costs were discontinued in March 2022.

Last updated: October 13, 2023, with data available at the time of update.