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October 7, 2020

Winter energy bills in the United States likely to be similar to last winter’s

average winter household expenditures for heating fuels
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), Winter Fuels Outlook, October 2020
Note: Propane expenditures are a weighted average of Midwest and Northeast expenditures. All other fuels are national averages.

On average, across the United States, households can expect heating expenditures this winter (October through March) to be higher than last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Winter Fuels Outlook. EIA and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) are holding a free webinar at 10:00 a.m. ET today about the Winter Fuels Outlook; registration is required.

Compared with last winter’s heating bills, EIA expects households that primarily use natural gas or electricity will have slightly higher energy expenditures this winter, and households that use propane will spend 14% more. EIA expects households that use heating oil to spend 10% less than last winter. Fuel expenditures in EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook reflect consumption and the bills for all uses of energy in the household—not just heating.

EIA bases its forecast of winter heating expenditures on its fuel price and consumption forecasts and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather forecasts. Because U.S. winter heating demand is highly dependent on weather, EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook includes two additional forecasts, one for colder weather and one for warmer weather this winter.

EIA expects the average U.S. household to consume more fuel for space heating this winter than last winter. Based on NOAA’s forecast, this winter will be colder in the United States, and average heating degree days in EIA’s forecast are 5% higher than last winter. In addition, EIA expects that ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and more people working and attending school at home will contribute to higher levels of home heating use this winter than in previous winters.

EIA expects residential natural gas and electricity prices this winter to be similar to last winter’s prices, but with regional variations. Propane retail prices in this forecast are higher than last winter, and heating oil retail prices are lower.

Natural gas is the most common space heating fuel in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Electricity tends to be more common in southern states. Heating oil is much more common in the Northeast than in other regions and is the most prevalent primary heating fuel in four northeastern states. Propane is more common in the Midwest, but it is not the most prevalent heating fuel in any individual state.

most prevalent heating fuel by state
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2019

More information on EIA’s forecasts for winter heating fuel prices, consumption, and expenditures is available in the Winter Fuels Outlook.

Principal contributor: Stacy MacIntyre