U.S. home heating bills seen mostly higher this winter, EIA says

FILE PHOTO: A Nest thermostat is installed in a home in Provo, Utah, January 15, 2014. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

(Reuters) - Most U.S. consumers will spend more to heat their homes this winter (October through March) than last year as more folks stay home for coronavirus, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected in its Winter Fuels Outlook on Tuesday.

EIA said the combination of more people working and going to school from home, plus forecasts for a colder winter, will boost costs for households that heat primarily with natural gas, electricity and propane this year compared with last winter.

For homes that heat primarily with heating oil, however, EIA expects price declines for the fuel will offset the effects of higher consumption and lead to a decrease in expenditures.

EIA projected households will spend about 6% more using natural gas, 7% more using electricity, and between 12% (in the Midwest) and 18% (in the Northeast) more using propane for heat during the winter of 2020-2021 than last year.

Those homes using heating oil, meanwhile, will likely spend about 10% less this winter versus last year.

Even though natural gas costs are expected to rise this winter versus last year, EIA projected it will still cost much less to heat an average U.S. home with gas than any other fuel - $572 for gas versus $1,221 for heating oil, $1,209 for electricity and between $1,196 (Midwest) and $1,655 (Northeast) for propane.

There are roughly 129 million households in the United States. About half of those homes, 61 million, use natural gas as their primary heating fuel. Electricity is the nation’s second-biggest source of heat - used in 52 million homes - and is the primary fuel in the South.

Most homes using heating oil are located in the Northeast - around 4.3 million homes, while most homes burning propane are in the Midwest - almost 2.3 million.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Nick Zieminski