Home Heating Costs

Winter is synonymous with many things in New York. Many enjoy the outdoor activities that the winter weather affords, and many enjoy the holiday festivities, but few and far between are those that enjoy receiving and paying their heating bill every month. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can reduce your heating bill, and New York offers programs that can assist lower income families to pay their heating bills, as well as programs that can help to lower heating bills by increasing the energy efficiency of consumers' homes.

One of the easiest ways to cut your heating costs is to conserve energy in your home. Lowering your thermostat can significantly reduce your bill. You can lower your fuel consumption by approximately 3% for each degree that you lower your thermostat. You can also install programmable thermostats that adjust the temperature automatically. In order to prevent heat loss, be sure to keep your flue closed when the fireplace is not in use. You can also save money by improving the heating efficiency of your water heater. Many people do not realize that water heating accounts for roughly 14% of the average energy bill. You can improve your water heater's efficiency by wrapping it in insulation or by purchasing a water heater jacket. Additionally, you may wish to lower your water temperature, insulate your hot water pipes, or limit hot water use. Also be sure that your attic and walls are well insulated and that any cracks around doors or windows are sealed to prevent heat loss.

You or someone you know may be eligible for financial assistance with their winter heating bill. The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps lower-income individuals and families cover their winter heating costs. Both homeowners and renters may be eligible. HEAP provides grants for heating bills ranging from $40 to $400 depending on a variety of factors including a household's income, family size, living arrangement, heating expenses, type of heat, and the presence of children under the age of six, adults over the age of sixty, or disabled individuals. This program is administered in New York by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), and applications for HEAP are available at their website, www.otda.state.ny.us. You may also contact the HEAP hotline at 1-800-342-3009 for application and eligibility information.

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) helps individuals and families to increase the energy efficiency in their homes. Assistance is available to both homeowners and renters. Eligibility is based on income, and priority is given to senior citizens as well as to families with children or disabled individuals. The increased energy efficiency yields an average of savings of 20% or more. For more information, visit the Division of Housing and Community Renewal's (DHCR) website at www.dhcr.state.ny.us.

Also, be aware that most areas in New York are covered by multiple heating oil and propane providers. Prices often vary considerably, and you may save money by shopping around. Area providers are listed in the Yellow pages. Consumers may call the Consumer Protection Board at 1-800-697-1220 to find out whether complaints have been filed against a company. As with any contract or major purchase, read all documents carefully prior to signing, and make sure that all of your questions have been answered to your satisfaction.

For more information on cutting your heating costs and increasing the energy efficiency in your home, consider visiting the New York State Consumer Protection Board's website at www.consumer.state.ny.us or New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's (NYSERDA) website at www.getenergysmart.org.

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