By Senator Patty Ritchie
From skiing and skating to ice fishing and snowmobiling, there’s a lot to love about winter in Upstate New York. However, there’s one big downside. When the temperature drops, your home heating costs inevitably go up.
For many New Yorkers, footing the home heating bill can be a major challenge. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New York residents’ electricity rates are among the highest in the country and are over 60 percent higher than the national average.
Thankfully, there are ways you can manage your energy costs and stay warm and safe throughout the winter months. According to the New York State Public Service Commission, by making just a few simple changes you can reduce your home heating costs by 10-50 percent.
Here are some of the Commission’s top tips for keeping more money in your wallet this winter:
Use a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature in your home while you’re out or at night. This alone can save you about $100 annually.
Reduce your heating bill by 20 percent by blocking drafts around windows and doors.
Lower your thermostat, even just a little. You can reduce your heating bill by 3 percent for every degree your thermostat is lowered.
Open shades or drapes during the day to let sunlight and warmth in and close them at night to keep the cold out.
Close your fireplace flu when it’s not in use.
Be sure to have your furnace or boiler inspected and insulate your hot water pipes.
Don’t set your hot water heater any higher than 120 degrees.
Save anywhere from $10-$30 per year by cleaning or replacing your furnace filter once a month.
Switch to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, or CFLs. They last 10 times longer and use 75 percent less electricity that incandescent bulbs.
Make sure your heating ducts are properly insulated and sealed.
There are also a number of ways you can get assistance with paying your energy bill.
Information on government-sponsored programs like the Home Energy Assistance Program, can be found by contacting your local Department of Social Services or Office for the Aging.
Financial assistance programs are also available through major natural gas and electric utilities and service organizations, like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, often provide financial aid, counseling services and help with utility emergencies.
For more information on how you can cut down on energy use and manage your energy bills this winter, call the New York State Public Service Commission at 1-888-ASK-PSC1 or visit their website at www.askpsc.com
You can also pick up the organization’s “Take the Chill Out of Your Winter Energy Bills” brochure at my offices in Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties.
There’s nothing we can do about the weather, but there are things we can do to control what it does to us and our wallets.
As you hunker down for a long winter in Upstate New York, I urge you to take steps to save energy and save money at the same time.