NEW YORK (CBS 2) — For most of us these colder temperatures could mean higher heating bills, especially this year.
But there are millions of dollars in financial help available to reduce that bill, reports CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson.
“We were spending a lot of money on heat just to stay comfy,” Stephanie Vonzerneck said.
It cost Vonzerneck $700 for just one month of heat last winter.
“It was just impossible to keep up with,” Vonzerneck said.
This winter it will be even worse.
“An increase of roughly 8 to 10 percent,” said Kelli Grant of Smart Money Magazine.
But now anyone can get help paying their heating bills no matter what their income level.
“There are government assistance programs for people,” Grant said.
In fact, individual states set aside millions of dollars to help people reduce heating costs. Consumer experts say you can also negotiate with your utility company over your heating bill.
“They might be willing to work out a different payment plan for you,” Grant said.
From payment plans to renegotiating your bill, there’s a lot out there.
Many states also offer low-interest loans to help consumers cover heating costs. New York, for example, earmarks $20 million a year to help with everything from paying your bills to weatherizing your home and even replacing old heating units.
“With any of these the key is just to reach out and ask,” Grant said.
Many states offer cash rebates to replace old heating units with more efficient models.
“You can get anywhere from $100 to the full cost of that covered by those rebates,” Grant said.
In addition — depending on where you live — you can sometimes combine these rebates with tax credits.
“Consumers who put into place certain energy efficient improvements could get up to a $500 tax credit,” Grant said.
If you heat your home with fuel, joining a “fuel buying cooperative” can save as much as 20 percent.
“You can get a couple of neighbors together and call up the oil company and you say ‘we’ll give you our business if you can give us a break,’” Grant said.
Thanks to one of these programs, Vonzerneck is expected to save big this year.
“Stephanie last year spent $3,500 to heat this home throughout the winter and this year she’ll probably spend $1,700 to $1,800,” said Mike Brown of BrightHome Energy Solutions.
These heating assistance programs vary by state and utility service, and have different eligibility guidelines and deadlines. You can find links to all of them here.
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