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A.G. Schneiderman Announces Tips To Reduce Heating Bills As Colder Weather Approaches

Basic Steps Can Help Keep Bills In Check While Protecting Families

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced tips for New Yorkers to help reduce heating costs as temperatures begin to drop. Many New York families face the dual challenge of harsh temperatures and the expense of heating bills but there are ways to reduce costs and obtain assistance, if needed.

“For many New Yorkers, falling temperatures present the difficult challenge of keeping their family safe while shouldering the burden of heating bills,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “A few simple steps can help save money while keeping the heat on.”

Cold Weather/Home Heating Consumer Tips

1.)  Shop around

  • New York is a large and diverse state and many regions have multiple home heating providers. Prices of both home heating oil and propane vary from competitor to competitor in different areas. Shopping around by contacting different providers can help consumers find the best price for their needs. Ask friends and family about their experience with providers.

    Things to ask when shopping around:

    • How long have you been in business and servicing this particular area?
    • What are your market rate prices and fixed/capped rates? Are you offering any promotions or discounts?
    • What are the standard conditions and fees contained in the contract? What services are included, is there an early cancellation fee, what is the duration, and does the rate rise or fall based on the market?
    • How does a company’s advertised rate compare to the current market rate? Consumers can check average prices for different types of energy by region on the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority website located at www.nyserda.ny.gov.

2.)  Use a reputable supplier

  • Consumers can obtain information about home heating providers by checking the Better Business Bureau website. Consumers can see if a company is accredited with the BBB, the number of complaints received in the last twelve months and the company’s BBB rating based on a scale from A to F.

3.)  Ask your provider if it offers price protection

  • Some providers will offer a flat-rate plan to insulate consumers from sharp increases in price that could occur on a variable plan.

4.)  Check your oil tank readings before and after filling

  • It may sound simple, but check the gauge to make sure you are given the amount of oil you are paying for. Some gauges may not be perfectly accurate, but look for appreciable differences.

5.)  See if an oil buying group is available in your area

  • Some areas have cooperatives that use their collective buying power to negotiate better prices for heating oil and service charges. Suppliers will offer better prices for a guaranteed customer base of likely repeat buyers.
    • Co-ops include Citizen Action Fuel Group, Energy Cooperative of New York, Galway Co-Op, NYPIRG Fuel Buyers Group, and Washingtonville Fuel Corporation.

6.)  Explore available programs

  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority website offers useful information on programs ranging from free or reduced-cost comprehensive home energy assessments and incentives to offset the cost of improvements to low-interest loans for projects and appliances that make homes more energy-efficient. Information is available here.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration website lists national and state programs and tips for consumers including weatherization and alternative energy. Information is available here.

7.)  Seek help if you are having trouble

  • If you are struggling to pay your heating bill, contact your provider and see if it will work out a flexible payment option. Contacting your provider is always better than simply not paying the bill.
  • See if you are eligible for the New York Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. More information is available online here.

8.)  Consider conservation methods in your home

  • The best way to reduce heating costs is to reduce usage. The Federal Trade Commission has these suggestions:
    • Check your attic, attic stairway, garage walls and basement to make sure they are insulated properly. 
    • Wrap your hot water heater in an insulating jacket. 
    • Schedule an annual tune-up for your heat pump, furnace, or boiler. 
    • Seal and insulate leaky ducts and doorways to prevent heat from escaping and drafts from coming in. 
    • Install drapes or coverings over windows so cool air doesn’t enter your home. 
    • Close the doors to rooms that are not in use. 
    • Prune shrubs that may block airflow to your heat pump. 
    • Install ceiling fans, which promote air circulation and efficient heating. 
    • Install a programmable thermostat, so you can set it to use less energy and heat at night and when you are not home.
  • The Attorney General’s Office also has more energy saving tips in it “Save Money, Save Energy” brochure here.

  • Check to see if you are eligible for the New York Weatherization Assistance Program. Eligible participants may qualify for assistance in modifying their home to reduce energy consumption. Information about the program is available online here or by calling 1-866-275-3427.