Although the house is so cold that it is freezing, many families in the US still try to limit the heating to save fuel for the winter.
Heating costs in American homes are skyrocketing again this winter. Since last year’s spike of 17%, heating costs across the country have continued to increase by 18%, according to the Energy Assistance Directors Association of America (NEADA).
Charmaine Johnson is a hotline operator for Heater Hotline in Philadelphia, a nonprofit that helps low-income families with heating and bill costs. She sympathizes with the anxiety mentioned by people every day. She herself is also struggling to cover heating bills as costs soar because she is going through a similar situation.
With the help of his son, Johnson had to pay just over $1,000 to partially fill the tank. She hopes the fuel will be enough for most of the winter.
Because he did not qualify for the US Government bill subsidy, Johnson had to save and reduce the temperature in his home to prolong the life of the heating oil. Inflation also pushed up her food budget and other expenses.
“It’s miserable. It’s like you live in an igloo,” she said.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), factors such as the conflict in Ukraine, OPEC+ oil production cuts, increased energy exports, low energy inventories and demand for natural gas However, in the US electricity sector, electricity prices, especially heating costs for people, are increasing.
EIA projects estimate that the cost of heating a home with gas will increase by 25% this winter, and the cost of heating with electricity will increase by 11%. In particular, the strongest increase will be the cost of specialized oil heating, which is expected to be 45% more expensive than last winter. This could put pressure on the 5 million households concentrated mainly in the Northeast of the United States.
Tim Wiseley – a resident living in suburban Philadelphia – keeps the temperature in the house at ‘freezing’. He wants to keep the heating oil on for as long as possible because it can cost $1,500 to refill the tank.
The 67-year-old retired and lost his wife last year. He now lives on a monthly Social Security benefit and faces a long list of expenses.
Wiseley insists he will turn on the heater when he can’t stand the cold any longer. However, he believes that the heating oil will run out at some point in the winter.
Later this year, the Biden administration decided to allocate $4.5 billion in federal assistance to help families pay their heating bills. Funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, comes from regular congressional appropriations and a number of other sources of funding.
Annette Thomas (53 years old) and her husband received 500 USD from this program. The money will help them heat their house on the edge of Philadelphia, but only enough to fill a third of a barrel of oil. Ms. Thomas believes that the current amount of fuel can only last for 2-3 weeks.
“That is why we are still delaying turning on the heater. We will limit the temperature increase even when it is cold,” she said.
Her family is also trying to pay the electricity bill in the coming days to avoid falling into a power cut. Not stopping there, other bills and expenses are also increasing. To be as frugal as possible, the couple are using personal heaters and electric blankets to keep warm, in the hope of saving on heating oil when the kids get home for Thanksgiving.
“This is clearly not a luxury, but a necessity. Now we have to fight to live and this is unthinkable,” Ms. Thomas said.