For the 2021-22 winter season, in general, electric and natural gas bills are expected to be higher on average than last year. An average residential electric customer using 600 kWh of electricity per month is expected to pay about $43 per month for supply. Natural gas bills are projected to be about 21% higher than last year. The average residential natural gas customer, using 740 therms of natural gas from November through March, is expected to pay about $935 in total for gas supply. The gas increase is mostly attributed to an increase in natural gas supply prices and anticipated higher usage due to potential colder weather. 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 energy usage and related bills and to raise awareness of consumer protections available during the 2021-2022 winter season.
Downloadable copies of winter preparedness materials are available on the DPS Winter Publications 2021-22 page.
COVID-19 Moratorium on Utility Municipal Shutoffs
New York State Public Service Law provides temporary protections for essential utility and municipal services during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have experienced a change of financial circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, utilities and municipalities may not shut off your service for nonpayment, must reconnect your service within 48 hours, and must offer you a deferred payment agreement to pay any balance due. For more information follow this link to the Covid-19 Moratorium informational page.
Cold Weather Rules
The Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA) – also known as the “Utility Consumers’ Bill of Rights” -- provides residential customers with comprehensive protections in areas relating to their energy service such as the application, termination and reconnection of service; customer billing; and complaint procedures.
HEFPA includes special protections and shut off procedures for circumstances where customer health and safety may be threatened by lack of service. Between November 1 and April 15, your provider must make a special effort to determine whether terminating heat-related service will result in serious impairment to your health or safety. The Cold Weather Rules can be found in §11.5(c) of the HEFPA regulations.
Winter Workshops for Community Leaders and Elected Officials
The winter season can be a difficult time for many New Yorkers, especially those on fixed or low incomes, to manage energy costs. During the 2020-21 winter season, the New York Department of Public Service (DPS) hosted virtual workshops for community leaders and elected officials about resources available for New York’s utility customers. The workshops included presentations regarding consumer rights and special protections for utility customers, COVID-19 moratoriums on service disconnections, winter safety tips and what to do if utility service is interrupted.
DPS will host workshops again during the 2021-22 heating season with new and updated information about winter preparedness that community leaders can share with their constituents. Details about the events will be provided as the workshops are scheduled. Information from last year’s events can be found below.
DPS OCS Winter Workshops 2020-21.pdf
YouTube Virtual Winter Workshop
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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. For additional information about consumer assistance programs, download the Consumer Assistance Fact Sheet by clicking on the PDF button.
Consumer Assistance Fact Sheet 21-22.pdf
Consider Bill Payment Options and 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.
View More Payment Options:
Payment options available from your utility include:
Explore Financial Assistance Programs:
- Budget Plans - which provide equal monthly payments to help reduce bill fluctuations due to seasonal patterns of energy usage.
- Deferred Payment Agreements – option to pay overdue bills in reasonable installments over a period of time. May be available if you have fallen behind on your bill and cannot pay in full
Financial Assistance Programs are 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.
- Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP): a federally funded program that provides heating grants to help income-eligible 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. The Consumer Assistance factsheet provides income eligibility information, as well as a more detailed description of each program benefit.
HEAP Benefits and Important Dates:
- Regular Benefit component opened October 01, 2021 and is scheduled to operate through March 15, 2022.
- Regular Arrears Supplement component opened September 22, 2021.
- Emergency component opened January 3, 2022 and will operate through March 15, 2022.
- Heating Equipment Repair and Replacement component opened October 1, 2021 and is scheduled to operate through September 30, 2022.
- Clean and Tune benefit opens October 1, 2021 and will operate through September 30, 2022.
- Cooling Assistance component opens May 2, 2022 and is scheduled to operate through August 31, 2022.
Community-based Service Programs:
Note: benefit dates may be shortened or extended depending on demand and available funding.
- Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP): is a drinking water and wastewater emergency assistance program funded through new federal resources. Benefits are based on the amount of unpaid water and wastewater bills owed by applicants. This assistance is targeted at low-income households and income guidelines will mirror that of HEAP. Information regarding LIHWAP can be found by visiting otda.ny.gov/LIHWAP.
Service organizations like the American Red Cross (800-733-2767), Salvation Army (800-728-7825), United Way (2-1-1 or 888-774-7633), and local Community agencies provide financial aid, counseling services and assistance with utility emergencies.
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.
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Utility Companies Energy Assistance/ Energy Efficiency Programs
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:
Reduce your home heating costs by:
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:
Tips for efficiency.pdf
- 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.
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.
- 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 Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR) oversees the New York’s Weatherization Assistance Program. Call 1-866-275-3427 or visit www.nyshcr.org/programs/weatherizationassistance
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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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:
Staying Warm Indoors
- 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
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).
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:
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
- 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.
Kerosene Heaters – If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:
- 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.
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- 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.
Page updated 11.10.2021
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