Winter Preparedness 2019-20

Winter Forecast:

For the 2019-20 winter season, electric bills are expected to be about the same as last year and natural gas bills are expected to be lower. An average residential electric customer using 600 kWh of electricity per month is expected to pay about $34 per month for supply. Natural gas bills are projected to be about 11% lower than last year. The average residential natural gas customer, using 740 therms of natural gas from November through March, is expected to pay about $760 in total for gas supply. Actual bill impacts will vary by utility and with the weather: a colder than normal winter will cause usage and bills to increase.

The guide below is to provide information on the resources available to help consumers manage their heating costs and ensure that consumers heat their home safely.

Downloadable copies of winter preparedness materials are available at the end of the page.

Control Your Heating Costs

Whether you own your own home or rent an apartment, there are steps you can take to control your energy use and manage your energy bills. This page provides information on controlling your heating costs - including simple no-cost or low-cost measures to cut your energy use.

Conserve Energy

Your heating costs are made up of two factors: the cost of the heating fuel and the amount of heating fuel you use. No matter where prices go or what the heating season is like, you can make the most of your energy dollars by taking basic steps to reduce your usage. The less fuel you use to heat your home, the more you will save.

    • Energy Efficiency Tips: You can reduce your home heating costs by

        maintaining your heating system

        insulating your home

        sealing air leaks around windows, doors and foundations

        adjusting your thermostat settings, and

        following other simple and affordable steps outlined in this checklist in the below pdf.

    • Energy Efficiency Programs: In addition to low-cost or no-cost steps you can do yourself, there are programs available through several government agencies and New York's major energy utilities to make energy efficiency improvements to your home or business. These improvements will help lower your energy use and make energy bills more affordable. There are also programs to help low income customers with energy efficiency solutions. For details about their programs, contact:

        • NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers financial assistance and energy efficiency improvement programs. Call 1-877-NYSMART (1-877-697-6278) or visit

        • NYS Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR) oversees the New York’s Weatherization Assistance Program. Call 1-866-275-3427 or visit
        • NYS Electric and Natural Gas Utilities offer a variety of energy efficiency programs to help their customers reduce their energy use. Contact your utility and ask about its available programs.

    • Home Energy Assessment: One of the things that you can do to control your bill is to find out where you are losing energy and money. You can conduct an energy audit of your home or apartment that will help show where problems exist and how they can be corrected.

        • Professional Assessments: New York State agencies and some utilities offer home energy assessments at little to no cost. A licensed contractor will come to your home and evaluate your lighting, heating, cooling equipment and appliances, and offer energy-saving recommendations. With some programs the contractor will install energy-saving items at no charge, including LED bulbs, smart power strips and more.

            New York Statewide Programs: Visit NYSERDA’s website at

            Utility Programs: Contact your utility to see if it offers a home energy assessment.

        • Do-It-Yourself Assessments: There are many do-it-yourself audits available on-line, such as the US Department of Energy’s on-line Energy-and Cost- Savings Calculators to identify ways to save energy in your home. You can also conduct a do it yourself energy audit.

Consider Bill Payment Assistance Programs

You or someone you know may need financial help to get through this heating season. Various bill payment options and financial assistance programs are available.

    • Payment Options: available from your utility include:
          Budget Plans - which provide equal monthly payments

          Deferred Payment Agreements - which may be available if you have fallen behind on your bill and cannot pay in full.

    • Financial Assistance Programs: are also available to help consumers with their heating costs from the following sources:

        • Government-sponsored programs: Contact your county's Department of Social Services or Office for Aging to learn about assistance programs such as the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a federally funded program that provides heating grants to help low-income consumers pay for their energy costs. Additional information regarding the HEAP program can be found at the mybenefits website, or you may go to the HEAP website.

Regular Benefit: November 12, 2019 through March 16, 2020 or until funding is exhausted.

Emergency Benefit: January 2, 2020 and will close March 16, 2020

Heating Repair Replacement & Heating Clean and Tune: November, 2, 2019, through September 30, 2020

        • Community-based service programs: Service organizations like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way, and local Community Action Agencies provide financial aid, counseling services and assistance with utility emergencies.

        • Utility-sponsored programs: Payment assistance programs are available through each of the major natural gas and electric utilities. In addition, eligible low-income customers can receive a discount on their monthly electric and/or gas bills, as well as other benefits, depending on the characteristics of the particular utility's program. For more information, contact your utility directly.

Winter Safety

In addition to tips on managing winter costs, this winter preparedness guide includes information to help ensure that consumers heat their home safely.

There are steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe during the winter heating season, including preparing for weather-related outages; using precautions with alternative heating systems such as generators, kerosene heaters and fireplaces; and assisting people with special needs who may be particularly vulnerable during an outage.

Preparing Your Home

    • Winter Tips: Take the time now to get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:

        • Have your heating system checked annually by a professional. This will ensure that your system is working safely and efficiently which, in turn, will save you money. If you heat by wood, clean your fireplace or stove. Have your chimney flue checked for any buildup of creosote and then cleaned to lessen the risk of fire.
        • Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. If you did not do it when you set the clocks back, do it now.
        • Keep pipes from freezing by wrapping in insulation, UL approved heat tape, or layers of old newspapers and covering newspapers in plastic to keep out moisture. Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
        • Gather and store emergency supplies, including:
            A battery operated radio and flashlight, as well as a supply of batteries, candles and matches.

            Water, medications and foods that don’t require refrigeration or cooking

            A telephone that does not require electricity to operate

            A list of emergency telephone numbers

            Extra blankets, coats, hats, and gloves

            A first aid kit and manual

            A fire extinguisher

Staying Warm Indoors
    • Safety Tips: If your heat goes out during a winter storm, follow these tips:
          • Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
          • Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a cap.
          • Close off rooms you do not need.
          • Know the signs of hyperthermia (shivering, drowsiness, slowness) and how to treat it (wrap the person in warm clothing, move to a warm location and seek medical help).
          • Check on people with special needs (elderly or dependent on life-sustaining or health-related equipment such as ventilators and respirators).

Taking Precautions

    • Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas that also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months. Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
          • DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
          • DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
          • DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
          • Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
          • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (sleepiness, headaches and dizziness). If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.

Alternative Heating Sources
    • Fire Hazards are greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources are often used without proper safety precautions.
          • Generator Safety – follow the generator safety guidelines such as those listed in this publication when operating a generator
          • Fire Safety –
              Always keep a screen around an open flame
              Never use gasoline to start your fireplace

              Never burn charcoal indoors.

              Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.

              When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, wood stove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation.

              Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.

              Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup -- and then clean it.

              Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors ... and make sure they work!

              Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.

          • Kerosene Heaters – If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:
              Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

              Use only the correct fuel for your unit.

              Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool.

              Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.

              When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.


The Department has several publications regarding winter preparedness and managing bills. We encourage consumer groups and municipal leaders to order our materials (free of charge) and distribute them to their constituents.

Click on the publication order form and printable brochures to view, download and order our educational materials related to winter heating.

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