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Winter Preparedness


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.

In addition to tips on managing winter costs, this winter preparedness guide includes information to help 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
  • 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, please click on the pdf below:

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 www.nyserda.ny.gov.


  • 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 CFL bulbs, smart power strips and more.

New York Statewide Programs: Visit NYSERDA’s website at www.NYSERDA.ny.gov

· 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 on-line Home Energy Saver calculator to identify ways to save energy in your home. You can also use the checklist below for a do-it-yourself 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.

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

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



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


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. See below for additional safety tips.

· 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, woodstove, 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.

Publications

Take the Chill Out of Your Winter Energy Bills

WinterBrochure.pdfWinterBrochure.pdf


Control heating costs with simple, affordable energy saving tips, energy efficiency programs, financial assistance programs and bill payment options.
Household Electricity Use and Energy Saving Tips

GuidetohouseholdElectricity_.pdfGuidetohouseholdElectricity_.pdf


Save energy using this list of common household electric devices and appliances and their estimated operating costs based on level of usage. Also includes tips on reducing waste.
Utility Service Interruptions

Utility Service Interruptions.pdfUtility Service Interruptions.pdf


Follow this PSC guide to learn what you should do if your utility service is interrupted.

Your Rights & Protections

HEFPA Brochure.pdfHEFPA Brochure.pdf


Learn about the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA) which provides comprehensive consumer protections to residential customers regarding electric and natural gas utility service.




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