Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the availability of resources to help New Yorkers save on their home energy bills. A second emergency benefit through the Home Energy Assistance Program is now available for eligible New Yorkers in danger of running out of heating fuel or having their utility service shut off. Additionally, the Department of State is sharing practical tips to help consumers reduce their utility bills and has released a new Guide to Home Heating with Oil and Propane, which provides tips to help consumers who use heating oil and propane fuel reduce their heating bills and save while shopping for fuel.
"We are at the peak of this winter season which can lead to higher heat and energy bills, and my administration will continue to take action to make utilities more affordable in New York," Governor Hochul said. "It is important for New Yorkers to take advantage of the State's cost assistance and residential programs to help reduce these energy costs. Following these tips can help save money and protect our vulnerable populations during the cold season."
Home Energy Assistance Program
HEAP, which is overseen by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, is federally funded and can help eligible New Yorkers heat and cool their homes. Normally, eligible households can receive one regular HEAP benefit each winter and could also be eligible for a single emergency HEAP benefit if they face an energy crisis. Those that have already received a regular and emergency benefit this winter will be able to apply for an additional emergency benefit, if they are facing a utility shut off or are running out of heating fuel and cannot afford to replenish it.
The amount a household receives from HEAP depends on income, household size and how the home is heated. A family of four can earn up to $5,485 per month and still qualify for assistance. A needy household that heats with oil and qualifies for a regular HEAP benefit and two emergency benefits could receive nearly $3,000 in total assistance this winter. Applications for emergency HEAP benefits are accepted at local departments of social services in person or by telephone. A list of offices by county can be found here.
New York State also offers numerous cost assistance programs for qualifying applicants, as well as a variety of residential programs to help reduce home energy costs for all income groups:
Home Energy Efficiency Programs
NYSERDA offers a range of residential programs designed to help New York State residents identify areas where their homes are driving up energy costs and can provide assistance in completing energy efficiency improvements for a healthier, more comfortable home. More information is available here.
Home Energy Audits
New Yorkers can conduct an energy audit of their home or apartment to learn about recommended efficiency improvements to save money on your energy bill. An audit can provide information on low-cost improvements as well as large-scale investments and available financial resources. Contact NYSERDA for assistance here.
Weatherization Assistance Program
The NYS Weatherization Assistance Program, which is administered by NYS Homes and Community Renewal, is the largest residential energy conservation program in the country. The program assists income-eligible homeowners and renters in New York by reducing heating and cooling costs through energy-conservation measures, while also addressing health and safety issues in their homes. More information is available here.
In addition to the Home Heating with Oil and Propane Guide, the Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection is offering the following tips to help consumers reduce energy costs and heating bills:
- Check your thermostat: Each degree you lower your thermostat can cut your fuel consumption by approximately 3%. Installing a programmable thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature based on your home, work and sleep schedule and provide an estimated cost savings of 10-20% on your monthly heating and cooling bills.
- Weatherize and insulate your home: Help your home to retain heat during cold weather by insulating your attic and outside walls, sealing and insulating heating ducts, removing window air conditioners, wrapping or covering wall air conditioners and sealing any cracks around walls and windows.
- Get your heating system tested and tuned: Conduct annual checkups to help ensure the efficiency of your system. Replace your furnace filters at least every three months to keep your equipment running efficiently and consider replacing the filters once a month during heavy use months such as the summer and winter. A dirty filter slows down airflow and makes your system work harder to keep you comfortable.
- Use ceiling or floor fans: Avoid heating or cooling an entire house when only using one or two rooms by shutting off heat in any unused areas and closing vents in unused bedrooms. Use ceiling or portable floor fans in the rooms you are using to assist with heating and cooling.
- Use radiators efficiently: Move rugs and furniture away from heating vents and radiators. Blocked vents can disrupt air circulation and cause an imbalance in a home's heating system. Placing heat resistant reflector panels between radiators and walls can help heat the room instead of the wall.
- Contact your heating provider: Ask your home heating provider if they have any available bill assistance programs, pricing plans or other opportunities to better manage your bill. If considering switching to a different pricing plan, take care to consider the full terms, benefits and risks of each pricing plan. Your heating provider may also be able to provide information on external heating bill assistance programs and resources.
- Improve your water heater's efficiency: Water heating accounts for about 14% of consumer energy bills. Wrapping your water heater in insulation, lowering water temperatures, insulating hot water pipes and limiting hot water use can all decrease your energy bill.
- Buy energy efficient appliances: Appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label are designed to use at least 20% less energy than their standard counterparts and can save you money on your energy bills. Find options at www.energystar.gov/.
- Use appliances wisely: Conserve energy with larger appliances by setting your refrigerator no lower than 38-40 degrees. Load your washing machine to full capacity to minimize energy use and save water and detergent. Using your dishwasher is more energy efficient than washing your dishes by hand (even if your dishwasher is not quite full) and it saves more than 8,000 gallons of water each year!
- Dry clothes efficiently: Avoid the cost of running your dryer by drying your clothes on a clothesline when weather permits or by using an indoor drying rack. If using a clothes dryer, avoid overfilling it which can cause longer drying cycles. Clean the lint trap in your dryer before every load - it is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure proper air circulation and increase the efficiency of your dryer.
- Switch to modern light bulbs: Replace conventional light bulbs (such as incandescent or halogen) with energy-efficient light bulb options (such as led bulbs, led fixtures and smart light bulbs). Energy-efficient lighting uses less energy and lasts longer.
- Shut down your computer: When you shut down your computer, don't forget to turn off the monitor—it can use twice as much energy as the computer. Use an advanced power strip for convenience so that all computer accessories can be turned off with one switch. Even in sleep mode, your computer may cost you $105 a year!
- Use rechargeable batteries and charging units: Rechargeable batteries are more cost-effective in the long term. Plug your battery charging system or power adapter into a power strip to enable you to shut off power with the flick of a switch. For even more savings, use a power strip with a timer or a programmable power strip.
- Disconnect digital media players: Turn off DVD and Blu-ray players, audio players and video game consoles when not in use to avoid wasting energy. Even when powered off, most electronics continue to draw power, often referred to as ghost electricity, vampire power or phantom power. To save energy and time, plug entertainment products into an advanced power strip to centrally turn off all components at once.
- Stream your content smartly: Streaming through a game console uses up to 10 times as much energy as streaming on a laptop or tablet. Consider using another kind of device to stream—like a Blu-ray player, set-top box or Smart TV that has earned an ENERGY STAR® label. The New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers more tips for saving energy in your home or apartment.
Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection said, "Colder weather often means higher heating and energy costs, and these increased expenses can be detrimental to New Yorkers who are already struggling to make ends meet. These practical tips, along with the many resources available here in New York, can help consumers save money while heating their homes in the cold winter months and reduce energy costs throughout the entire year."
Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, "Cold temperatures and high energy prices have combined to make this a difficult winter for some of our most vulnerable residents as they struggle with the cost of heating their homes. Without this additional assistance, many New Yorkers would find themselves with nowhere else to turn in an emergency situation."
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "As we enter the peak of the winter season, I encourage all New Yorkers to reduce costs through simple energy efficiency and weatherization steps that create healthier, more comfortable places to live. Homeowners in New York State are eligible for a free energy assessment, to determine short-term steps or longer-term solutions, all of which lower greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage."
Chair of the State Public Service Commission Rory M. Christian said, "As a direct result of the new policies and regulations that have been put into place, energy customers have enormous opportunities to take control over their overall energy costs, to spur clean energy innovation and investment, to improve customer choice and value, and to protect the environment. Interested customers can contact their local utility as a first step to see what is available."
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "With us in the midst of the year's coldest months and parts of the State being impacted by winter weather events, this simple advice on how to reduce home heating costs could not be more timely. I encourage everyone to look into implementing these energy efficiency and weatherization measures that will reduce energy consumption and lower costs at their own homes."
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
For other consumer protection tips and consumer alerts, consumers can visit the DCP website or follow DCP on social media via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.