Keeping winter heating costs low as energy prices rise

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This winter is predicted to be slightly colder than last year, which means people will likely be burning more fuel to keep warm — and paying more for each bit of it. (Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR/WWLP) — With energy prices on the rise and the dead of winter kicking off, you might be paying more than usual on your next energy bill. But there are many ways you can save this winter, keeping the house warm as temperatures drop.

In Western Massachusetts, Angela Morin said, “All the prices—gas, heat, lights—everything is going up.” According to recent numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, residents should expect to pay more this year.

Residents across the region are concerned that prices keep going up for everything from gas to produce. That leaves people to find alternatives to conserve heat in their homes. Another Massachusetts resident torn between her wallet and her thermostat, Donna Wedemeyer of Chicopee, reiterated: “Prices are starting to jump way way up.”

The Department says that on average it is currently about $3 and 41 cents per gallon of oil to heat your home. That’s 93 cents more than last year, making residents revaluate which method to use to heat their homes.

“We think gas would be the cheapest way to go,” added Jurgen Wedemeyer. “If you own a single home, it would be a lot worse then what we got. It is still expensive for a condo. It’s cheaper than electric and cheaper than oil.”

“We try to not go out that often keep the doors closed and keep the heat inside and we have a little fireplace,” Donna said.

“We put plastic on our windows. We put door stoppers,” Morin added. “We just go around our house if we feel air, we just try to make sure to seal them up as good as we can.”

Mass.gov said heating homes with oil requires 100 to 150 gallons, which is about $500 per fill. That’s why National Grid’s Home Energy Assistance Program, known as HEAP, has some customers shedding tears of joy.

“She said, ‘I didn’t read your email; it’s now Christmas morning. I read your email, and they took care of my entire bill!’ She goes, ‘I can’t,’ and she started crying,” says Mary Beth Basha, Senior Consumer Advocate for National Grid.

HEAP can help ease some worries. “In order to qualify,” says Basha, “It’s based on the household’s gross monthly income.”

If approved, you can get up to $426 per season. The program opens up every heating season, but with the ongoing pandemic, changes have been made, including additional grants, like the Regular Arrears Supplement grant, known as RAS. This grant helps with back balance.

“It’s been huge,” says Basha. “I’ve referred so many people, and they start crying because they’re finally able to get their bill manageable, and then we can go forward with that.”

If you don’t qualify for federal assistance, there are other ways to save money on your energy bill this winter. “If they have a real drafty room, take a beach towel and put it at the base to prevent the cold air from coming into the house,” says Basha. “They can always use those window insulation kits.”

Another way to save money is by turning down your thermostat. If you plan on being out for more than two to three hours, turn it down, and when the sun is out, open your drapes.

According to New York’s Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), “For individuals with a chronic illness or living in an unsafe environment, the consequences can be catastrophic during cold weather.” Concerned about an older person’s living situation in the cold? Call Adult Protective Services at (844) 697-3505.

NYSOFA’s Director, Greg Olsen, also warned that costly space heaters can pose a hazard. “Unattended, improperly vented or malfunctioning space heaters pose a major fire risk,” he said. Below are some pointers from NYSOFA to ensure safe use of a heater:

  • Those with a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater should ventilate to prevent carbon monoxide build up
  • Never use a natural gas or propane stove/oven to heat a home
  • Follow all safety precautions when using heaters and stoves
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly, replace batteries yearly, and replace alarms every decade

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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