For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is providing tips for New Yorkers to save on energy costs this winter. Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.
“As we continue to adjust to the colder temperatures, New Yorkers will be spending more time indoors, which brings an increase in energy usage,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “The Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection Utility Intervention Unit (UIU) is providing helpful tips for homeowners and renters to save money on energy bills this winter without sacrificing comfort.”
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “New York is committed to helping New Yorkers make their homes as energy efficient as possible while helping reduce heating bills. There are a number of measures that can be taken – from using a smart thermostat or adding more insulation to your home to replacing old, outdated appliances with more efficient ones – every little bit helps, and I encourage homeowners to assess what makes the most sense for them and act now as winter is fast approaching.”
The Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) works to educate and empower consumers in the utility market year-round through the Utility Intervention Unit (UIU). DCP is also sharing money-saving energy usage tips for all New Yorkers and DCP offers a Guide to Home Heating with Oil and Propane to provide shopping guidance and help heating oil and propane fuel consumers reduce their heating bills.
- Check your thermostat:Each degree you lower your thermostat can cut your fuel consumption by approximately 3%. Installing a programmable thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature based on your home, work and sleep schedule and provide an estimated cost savings of 10-20% on your monthly heating and cooling bills.
- Weatherize and insulate your home:Help your home to retain heat during cold weather by insulating your attic and outside walls, sealing and insulating heating ducts, removing window air conditioners, wrapping or covering wall air conditioners and sealing any cracks around walls and windows.
- Get your heating system tested and tuned:Conduct annual checkups to help ensure the efficiency of your system. Replace your furnace filters at least every three months to keep your equipment running efficiently and consider replacing the filters once a month during heavy use months such as the summer and winter. A dirty filter slows down airflow and makes your system work harder to keep you comfortable.
- Use ceiling or floor fans: Avoid heating or cooling an entire house when only using one or two rooms by shutting off heat in any unused areas and closing vents in unused bedrooms. Use ceiling or portable floor fans in the rooms you are using to assist with heating and cooling.
- Use radiators efficiently:Move rugs and furniture away from heating vents and radiators. Blocked vents can disrupt air circulation and cause an imbalance in a home’s heating system. Placing heat resistant reflector panels between radiators and walls can help heat the room instead of the wall.
- Contact your heating provider:Ask your home heating provider if they have any available bill assistance programs, pricing plans or other opportunities to better manage your bill. If considering switching to a different pricing plan, take care to consider the full terms, benefits and risks of each pricing plan. Your heating provider may also be able to provide information on external heating bill assistance programs and resources. Check out DCP’s Guide to Home Heating with Oil and Propane for more guidance.
- Improve your water heater’s efficiency:Water heating accounts for about 14% of consumer energy bills. Wrapping your water heater in insulation, lowering water temperatures, insulating hot water pipes and limiting hot water use can all decrease your energy bill.
- Buy energy efficient appliances: Appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label are designed to use at least 20% less energy than their standard counterparts and can save you money on your energy bills. Find options at energystar.gov.
- Use appliances wisely:Conserve energy with larger appliances by setting your refrigerator no lower than 38-40 degrees. Load your washing machine to full capacity to minimize energy use and save water and detergent. Using your dishwasher is more energy efficient than washing your dishes by hand (even if your dishwasher is not quite full) and it saves more than 8,000 gallons of water each year!
- Dry clothes efficiently: Avoid the cost of running your dryer by drying your clothes on a clothesline when weather permits or by using an indoor drying rack. If using a clothes dryer, avoid overfilling it which can cause longer drying cycles. Clean the lint trap in your dryer before every load – it is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure proper air circulation and increase the efficiency of your dryer.
- Switch to modern light bulbs: Replace conventional light bulbs (such as incandescent or halogen) with energy-efficient light bulb options (such as led bulbs, led fixtures and smart light bulbs). Energy-efficient lighting uses less energy and lasts longer.
- Shut down your computer:When you shut down your computer, don’t forget to turn off the monitor—it can use twice as much energy as the computer. Use an advanced power strip for convenience so that all computer accessories can be turned off with one switch. Even in sleep mode, your computer may cost you $105 a year!
- Use rechargeable batteries and charging units:Rechargeable batteries are more cost-effective in the long term. Plug your battery charging system or power adapter into a power strip to enable you to shut off power with the flick of a switch. For even more savings, use a power strip with a timer or a programmable power strip.
- Disconnect digital media players:Turn off DVD and Blu-ray players, audio players and video game consoles when not in use to avoid wasting energy. Even when powered off, most electronics continue to draw power, often referred to as ghost electricity, vampire power or phantom power. To save energy and time, plug entertainment products into an advanced power strip to centrally turn off all components at once.
- Stream your content smartly: Streaming through a game console uses up to 10 times as much energy as streaming on a laptop or tablet. Consider using another kind of device to stream—like a Blu-ray player, set-top box or Smart TV that has earned an ENERGY STAR® label.
How does the Utility Intervention Unit work for consumers?
DCP’s UIU is committed to protecting consumers from economic harm. UIU advocates for energy affordability in electric, natural gas, water, and telecommunications matters by seeking to secure the lowest possible utility cost while maintaining reliable service with adequate customer service for consumers.
UIU meets these goals by:
- Representing consumers when utilities seek to change customer rates by assessing:
- Whether new investments are necessary;
- How costs are allocated among the various customer classes; and
- Whether customer service performances metrics and corresponding penalties are aligned such that customers collectively receive reliable service at reasonable costs with necessary consumer protections.
- Advocating for consumers at the local, state, and federal level at administrative and regulatory proceedings by emphasizing the potential costs of policy and market rule changes.
- Responding to consumer inquiries and collaborating with DCP’s Consumer Assistance Program to mediate complaints for unregulated utilities, like home heating oil and propane, wireless telephone services, and cable.
In addition to the Home Heating with Oil and Propane Guide, DCP offers the following tips to help consumers reduce energy costs and heating bills:
- Get a home energy audit. Conduct an energy audit of your home or apartment to learn about recommended efficiency improvements to save money on your energy bill. An audit can provide information on low-cost improvements as well as large-scale investments and available financial resources. You can get an audit yourself or contact the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for assistance atnyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Residential-Energy-Assessment-Programs.
- See if you qualify for State heating assistance programs: New Yorkers have access to numerous heating cost assistance programs for qualifying applicants. Programs include direct assistance to pay bills, low-interest loans for home energy efficiency projects, and assessments for energy efficiency upgrades for both homeowners and renters.
For more information on New York State home heating assistance and energy efficiency programs, visit NYSERDA at www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Home-Energy-Efficiency-Upgrades, or NYS Homes and Community Renewal at www.hcr.ny.gov/weatherization. For the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) visit the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance at www.otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/.
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.