By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District
The signs are easy to see.
Leaves have fallen from the trees. The days are shorter. Temperatures have dropped.
It’s a sign that winter is right around the corner.
If you are looking for a way to reduce your heating bills this winter, there are things you can try. The U.S. Department of Energy, for instance, suggests:
· Opening your curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
· Covering drafty windows by using material such as heavy-duty, clear plastic sheets. Make sure the plastic is tightly sealed to reduce the chances of cold or drafts coming into you home. You also can install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
Trying to set your thermostat as low as comfortable when you are at home. When you are sleeping or out of the house, turn the thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours. This could lead to savings of around 10 percent a year on your heating bills.
· Sealing any air leaks you find. Leaks can be found in places such as gaps around chimneys, recessed lights in insulated ceilings and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
· Making sure your heating system is maintained properly.
But winter can be difficult for some due to the higher than normal heating bills they might be faced with while trying to make sure they and their loved ones stay warm during the colder, snowy months ahead.
The good news is that there are several programs available to assist you if you are having difficulties paying your heating bills.
One of those is HEAP, or the Home Energy Assistance Program. HEAP is a federally-funded program overseen by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance that helps low to middle-income people pay the cost of heating their homes.
The application period for the 2017-18 Regular HEAP benefit opened Monday, Nov. 13. There will be $327 million in federal funding available to those eligible to take part in the program.
Depending on things such as income, household size and how the home is heated, eligible participants can receive up to $726 in assistance. Broken down further, a family of four can qualify for help if they earn up to $53,482 per year.
Those eligible for assistance receive one regular HEAP benefit per program year, according to the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. You also could be eligible for emergency HEAP benefits if you are in danger of having your utility service shut off or are close to running out of fuel.
The Weather Assistance Program also is available for income-eligible families and individuals looking to reduce their heating and cooling cost. Through the program, an assessment or “energy audit” of a residence is completed. This can help find ways to increase energy efficiency.
The program, which is administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, can help with certain measures such as air sealing, attic and wall insulation, heating system improvements or replacement and hot water tank and pipe insulation.
If you are interested, you should contact a local provider to apply for assistance by visitingwww.nyshcr.org/Programs/weatherizationassistance/Providers.htm.
No one should be faced with the dilemma of choosing between doing something such as providing food for their loved ones or freezing this winter. If you find yourself having difficulty paying to heat your home, you should know that there is help out there. I strongly urge anyone who might need help staying warm this winter to take advantage of these programs