Mother, father, child and dog outside with snow on the ground

Winter Preparedness

Winter Preparedness Overview

Below you will find information on the 2023-24 winter pricing forecast and the resources available to help consumers manage their energy usage and related bills, consumer protections, and tips for staying safe this winter season. You can find winter preparedness materials at the bottom of the Consumer Publications Page.

 

Winter Forecast

For the 2023-24 winter season, in general, electric and natural gas bills are expected to be lower on average than last year. An average residential electric customer using 600 kWh of electricity per month is expected to pay about $63 per month for supply. Natural gas bills are projected to be about 4% lower than last year. The average residential natural gas customer, using 703 therms of natural gas from November through March, is expected to pay about $983 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.

 

Energy Pricing

 An electricity or natural gas bill consists of two main parts: delivery and supply.

  • The delivery charge is the cost to transport the electricity or natural gas to you throughout the utility’s system. This fee is regulated by the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC).
  • The supply charge is the cost of the electricity or natural gas itself. The supply price is determined in a competitive marketplace and is not controlled by the PSC or the utilities.

On average, supply costs make up about 35-45% of your bill, depending on your local utility. Your energy bill depends on how much electricity or natural gas you used and the rate you are paying. In general, the more energy you use, the higher your bill will be.

 

Factors that Impact Energy Bills

Price

The price of electricity or natural gas rises, and falls based on many factors, including the weather, the balance between supply and demand, as well as the amount and cost of natural gas in storage. When one of these factors changes, such as a widespread and prolonged cold spell, overall demand for energy increases, which puts upward pressure on commodity prices. Any change in the cost of supply can have a significant impact on your overall energy bill.

Usage

The weather—especially the temperature—plays a significant role in how much electricity and natural gas we use. For heating consumers, the colder the weather, the more energy is used by the average household, potentially increasing winter energy bills.

Consumer Protections and Outreach

Special Cold Weather Rules/Holiday Moratoria

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 initiation of service (application), termination and reconnection of service; deferred payment agreements; customer billing; and complaint procedures.

HEFPA also 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, for example, your provider must make a special effort to communicate with customers 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.

HEFPA also requires utilities to suspend termination of service to residential consumers for non-payment of bills during a two-week period encompassing Christmas and New Year’s Day. These holiday period Moratorium Rules can be found in §11.4(4)(ii) of the HEFPA regulations. In compliance with this rule, the major gas, and electric utilities annually provide their moratorium dates. See below for Moratorium dates for winter 2023-24.
 

2023-2024 Holiday Moratorium Schedule 

Central Hudson Gas & ElectricDecember 18, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Consolidated EdisonDecember 19, 2023, to January 1, 2024
National Grid – UpstateDecember 18, 2023, to January 2, 2024
National Grid – MetroDecember 18, 2023, to January 2, 2024
National Grid – Long IslandDecember 18, 2023, to January 2, 2024
National Fuel GasDecember 17, 2023, to January 1, 2024
NYSEGDecember 18, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Orange and RocklandDecember 15, 2023, to January 2, 2024
PSEGDecember 18, 2023, to January 2, 2024
Rochester Gas & ElectricDecember 18, 2023, to January 1, 2024
Liberty Utilities (St. Lawrence Gas)December 19, 2023, to January 1, 2024

 

Community Outreach

Virtual Workshops

Community leaders and elected officials are invited to "one-stop shopping" virtual workshops to hear from NYS agency experts in energy, housing, aging, and more about programs to help their constituents this winter. The workshops, scheduled for November 16, 2023 and January 11, 2024 at 1:30 pm, will include presentations from the following state agencies: Department of Public Service, Energy Research and Development Authority, Housing and Community Renewal, Office for the Aging, Power Authority and Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Topics include:

  • Energy Affordability Programs
  • Financial Assistance Programs
  • Weatherization Programs
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Services for Older Adults
  • Consumer Rights and Protections

 

November 16, 2023, 1:30 p.m. Workshop

Watch Workshop Recording

View the Workshop Presentation

 

January 11, 2024, 1:30 p.m. Workshop

Watch Workshop Recording

View the Workshop Presentation

 

In-Person Winter Energy Assistance Fairs

In addition to the virtual workshops, the NYS agencies will be hosting free Winter Energy Assistance Fairs open to the public to learn about winter preparedness. Experts in energy, housing, aging, and more will be on-hand to assist community members in learning about the different resources available this winter. For more information, view the Fair flyer.

Winter Energy Fair Flyer
 

  • January 20, 2024 – 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Restorative Justice & Community Empowerment Center
    733 Broadway
    Kingston, NY 12401
     
  • January 27, 2024 – 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    CW Mixon Center
    112-20 Springfield Blvd.
    Queens Village, NY 11429
     
  • February 6, 2024 – 4 - 8 p.m.
    (Snow date is February 8, 2024, 4 - 8 p.m.)
    Sun River Health Jeannette J. Phillips
    1037 Main Street
    Peekskill, NY 10566


Past Events

  • December 2, 2023 – 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Potsdam Neighborhood Center
    Two Park Street
    Potsdam, NY 13676
     
  • December 9, 2023 – 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Amherst Public Library
    350 John James Audubon Parkway
    Amherst, NY 14228
     
  • December 16, 2023 – 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Westcott Community Center
    826 Euclid Avenue
    Syracuse, NY 13210

Manage Your Heating Costs

Whether you own your own home or rent an apartment, there are steps you can take to manage your energy bills and control your energy use. Read below for information on bill payment options and financial assistance programs. This information is also available on the Consumer Assistance Fact Sheet under Resources below.

 

Financial Assistance Programs

Programs to help consumers with their heating costs.

Government Sponsored Programs

  • Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) 
    A federally funded program that provides heating grants to help income-eligible consumers pay for their energy costs. You can find information on the HEAP program by visiting the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) website at otda.ny.gov/ programs/heap/ and mybenefits.ny.gov, or by calling the NYS HEAP Hotline at 1-800-342-3009. NYC residents can call 311, visit access.nyc.gov, or contact a local Department of Social Services Office. 
     
  • Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) 
    The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a Federal Communication Commission program that helps families and households struggling to afford internet service needed for work, school, healthcare and more. This page provides information on program benefits such as monthly discounts on broadband services, eligibility criteria and enrollment procedures.

 

Utility Sponsored Programs

NYS major electric and natural gas utilities offer bill management programs and financial assistance programs. Contact your utility to learn more.

  • Deferred Payment of Unpaid Bills
    Deferred payment agreement assists consumers who have fallen behind on their bills and cannot pay in full. Your utility can work with you to develop a plan to pay outstanding charges over a specified period based on your ability to pay.
  • Energy Affordability Programs
    All large electric and natural gas utilities provide discounts to income-eligible consumers on their monthly electric and/or gas bills. Contact your utility for information on eligibility, monthly benefit amounts, and any application procedures. For more information on the program and utility links, visit the DPS Energy Affordability Program page, or call 1-800-342-3377.

  • Billing Management Programs
    Balanced (or levelized) billing plans provide equal monthly payments to help even out bills that are high in one season and low in another so that your charges remain the same throughout the year. The payment plan does not reduce your overall energy bill for the year; however, it does help you manage your monthly budget.
  • New York Energy Advisor
    Sponsored by NYS energy utilities and NYSERDA, the Energy Advisor helps connect income-eligible utility consumers with a customized list of energy-related assistance programs. Visit www.energyadvisor.ny.gov.

 

Community-based Service Programs

Service organizations and local community agencies provide financial aid, counseling services and assistance with utility emergencies. Contact organizations like the American Red Cross (800-733-2767), Salvation Army (800-728-7825), and United Way (2-1-1 or 888-774-7633) to learn more.

Conserve Energy

Energy Savings Programs

In general, the more energy you use, the higher your bill will be. New York State agencies and utilities offer energy efficiency measures to help homeowners and renters save energy and money toward energy improvements.

  • NYS EmPower+ provides a no cost home energy assessment to pinpoint where energy and dollars are being wasted. Participants may receive no-cost direct install improvements and financial discounts for energy efficiency improvements not covered by program incentives. For more information, contact NYS Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) at www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/EmPower-New-York-Program or call 1-877-NYSMART.
  • NYS Weatherization Assistance Program assists income-eligible homeowners and some renters to reduce heating and cooling costs through energy-conservation measures, while also addressing health and safety issues in their homes. Contact the NYS Homes and Community Renewal at www.hcr.ny.gov/weatherization or call (518) 474-5700.
  • 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 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 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.

 

Energy Efficiency Tips

In addition to the programs listed above, there are simple, affordable measures consumers can take to reduce energy use and become more energy efficient. These improvements will help lower your energy use and make energy bills more affordable

Reduce your home heating costs by:

  • Get your furnace or boiler serviced regularly. The HEAP program provides grants for furnace/boiler cleaning and tuning for income-eligible households.
  • Use ceiling fans -- counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter.
  • Draw your curtains during sunny warm summer days but open them during winter days to get free heating from the sunlight.
  • Replace your furnace’s air filters regularly.
  • Don't block inside vents or outside units.
  • Dust and vacuum to prevent vent and filter clogs.
  • Dress warmly in winter.
  • Use blankets and scarves for extra wintertime warmth.
  • Insulate your home.
  • Take shorter showers and turn down your water heater.
  • Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and foundations. Adjust  your thermostat settings to 68 degrees, while you are home and less while you are out or in bed.

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.

For more information on carbon monoxide, view the Consumer Product Safety Commission Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet.

 

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.

Resources