Inflation is about to hit home in yet another assault on family budgets. This time it's due to a chilling increase in heating prices along with expectations for a winter that's colder than normal.
Energy officials predict your heating bill could take an enormous hit compared to previous years. It partly depends on the type of heating your home is equipped for, but nearly half of Americans will see a significant spike in heating costs, somewhere around 28%. Those living in colder climates will face the highest energy bills, and that's not just the Northeast.
"It all comes down to how you heat your home this winter and where your home is," said Chris Higginbotham with the Energy Information Administration.
The Winter Fuels Outlook indicates your heating bill will join the long list of escalating costs getting pushed higher by inflation as well as the war in Ukraine.
"Our forecast for those expenditures includes the National Oceanic Atmospheric forecast for what they expect to be a slightly colder winter than last year," said Higginbotham. "Because of that, we expect households to consume more energy to keep their homes warm."
What to Expect Based on Your Location and Type of Heating Fuel
The largest increase is likely to be felt through the Midwest where residents can expect a 33% cost increase to keep warm this winter.
Mark Wolfe with the National Energy Assistance Director's Association warns this winter will be very expensive for many.
"Close to 50 percent of households use natural gas, so that's the primary fuel," Wolfe said. "So that's going up from an average of about $700 to about $950. It depends on where you live, and the colder states will be even higher."
The outlook anticipates natural gas users will see about a 28% increase. Heating oil will increase by roughly 27%. If you have electric heating, that increase should be closer to 10%, with a 5% increase for propane homes. Wolfe says those numbers can change depending on the market and how cold it gets.
"I'm very concerned about elderly families that are living on a fixed income, maybe only living on Social Security," said Wolfe. "We know Social Security is going up, I think close to 9%this year – that won't be enough for families living in colder climates."
Tips to Get Help with Your Heating Bill
Wolfe works with congressional leaders to help low-income families pay their bills. He says families making under $45,000 per year can tap into government supplemental assistance, and that everyone can learn to cut costs.
"If you can turn down your thermostat by five degrees at night, that can save you up to 10% on your bill," Wolfe said. "Get your furnace tuned up and replace filters. Go around the house with a caulking gun and look for leaks and fill those leaks. And if you don't feel you can afford the bill this year, and many people won't be able to, apply for help from a low-income home-owners assistance program."
There is a silver lining for residents with gas-powered furnaces. Although costs will go up, your bill is expected to be about 30% less than those with electric furnaces or heat pumps. That's because electric heat costs more to generate and isn't as efficient in colder climates.