The Costs of Cold: Heating Expenditures Increase Nationwide

March 19, 2014

Augusta, Maine – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) conducted its weekly heating fuel price survey on Monday, March 17, 2014, and found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.80 per gallon, down four cents from last week. The average statewide price for kerosene also decreased four cents, to $4.26 per gallon. Propane prices declined as well; the average statewide price for propane (for heating customers) decreased by two cents, to $3.47 per gallon. Heating fuel prices are 27 cents (heating oil), 32 cents (k-1), and 82 cents (propane) more per gallon since the heating season began in October. Last year at this time, heating oil averaged $3.69 per gallon; kerosene, $4.15, and propane, $2.75.

The Energy Information Administration recently released their short-term Energy Outlook, which included an analysis of heating costs and projected heating expenditures for this heating season. The EIA reported a 13% increase in heating degree days (hdd), nationwide, from October to the end of February, as compared to last year (heating degree days are an indicator of how cold the winter was). Fuel demand has been up, and so have prices. Most U.S. households have had to pay more to heat their home this season. The results are hardly surprising to most Maine families – it has been a long, cold, expensive winter heating season.

According to consumption numbers compiled by the EIA, an average Maine household (using 800 gallons of oil, or 900 gallons of propane) would use 8.4% more oil, or 7.7% more propane, than they did last year. Factoring in both the additional gallons used this year and the average price of fuel this year ($3.70 for oil, and $3.07 for propane), the average Maine family will spend $3,209 for oil or $2,975 for propane, respectively, to heat their home. For the average household, this is $241 more for oil, or $518 more for propane, than Mainers spent last year.

Using this week’s average heating oil price ($3.80) and converting to a common heating unit value (million Btu), the price of fuel oil is $27.40. This compares with an equivalent heating unit value for natural gas of $15.50 (at $1.55/therm); propane, $37.99 (at $3.47/gallon); kerosene $31.56 (at $4.26/gallon); wood pellets, $14.67 (at $242/ton); cord wood, $11.36 (at $250/cord) and electricity, $43.96 (at 15 cents per kwh). These fuel-only prices do not take into account the type of heating system, nor its efficiency. For example, the electricity cost is for traditional baseboard heat. Other electric heating technologies, such as heat pumps and electric thermal storage (ETS), may offer consumers energy savings. Cold climate heat pumps, a recent technological advancement, are much more efficient than baseboard electric heat, so total energy costs are lower than many other types of heating fuels. ETS offers savings by utilizing off-peak electric rates, available in many areas of the state.

The Energy Office has a calculator on its web site that allows consumers to obtain more detailed estimates of home heating costs, and the price impacts of various types of fuel, heating systems and heating appliances. Heating costs vary considerably from home to home. The home heating calculator can assist homeowners in finding the best heating option for their home, location, lifestyle, and budget http://www.maine.gov/energy/index.html

As of March 17, 2014


Heating Oil

Statewide

Southwest

Central

Eastern

Western

Northern

Average

3.80

3.79

3.83

3.80

3.75

3.90

High

4.20

4.20

3.95

3.95

3.95

3.97

Low

3.44

3.44

3.70

3.55

3.46

3.85

Kerosene

4.26

4.28

4.30

4.26

4.20

4.29

Propane

3.47

3.51

3.53

3.37

3.34

3.64

It is important to note that the price for heating oil is a statewide average, and that prices in a given geographic region of the state may be considerably higher or lower than this average. This week, within the Energy Office sample, the highest heating oil price ($4.20) was found in one region in the state, and the lowest heating oil price ($3.44) was also recorded in one region. Also, the statewide average price for propane is based on a use of at least 900 gallons a year. Households using propane just for cooking or hot water generally pay a higher per gallon price. The table above provides current Maine cash prices in dollars rounded to the nearest penny.

Efficiency Maine Trust links Maine homeowners and businesses with qualified, certified contractors who provide access to energy improvement options. For program details call 866-376-2463 or visit www.efficiencymaine.com.

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For Immediate Release

Contact:
Lisa Smith
(207) 624-7445
lisa.j.smith@maine.gov