HARRISBURG—As temperatures begin to drop and consumers turn on the heat in their homes, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General and the Office of Consumer Advocate are working together to educate consumers, including our seniors, on how to protect themselves against the rising costs of heating and electricity this year.
“Temperatures are already dropping in many parts of the state – beginning an increase in energy and heating usage. Our Office of Consumer Advocate is working hard to make sure Pennsylvanians know how to prepare their homes for winter. We want all consumers, but especially our seniors, to know that there are assistance programs available to help pay their heating and electric bills — because no one should have to worry about how to stay warm this winter,” said Attorney General Shapiro.
Based on projections of a colder than normal winter and increased costs for home heating fuels, Pennsylvania consumers can expect to see an increase in their heating and energy costs this winter. Generally, in the Northeast region, natural gas prices are expected to increase by 17% this winter as compared to last winter. Electricity prices are expected to increase by 8%. The actual increase felt by consumers may be more or less than this and will vary by natural gas and electric company and whether customers are served by a retail energy supplier or their utility.
“The cost of natural gas purchased by our utilities to serve customers has increased substantially. These prices will be reflected in heating bills this winter, and in the price of electricity as natural gas is a major source of fuel for Pennsylvania’s electricity supply. It is important that consumers understand their bills, actions they can take to reduce usage, and the programs available to those in need of assistance,” explained Consumer Advocate Patrick Cicero.
To help keeps costs down for consumers this winter, the Office of Attorney General and Office of Consumer Advocate have released the following tips and information to consumers:
Enroll in budget billing
This program can help even out seasonal increases by spreading costs throughout the year. Your monthly payment will be based on your annual usage. Contact your electric and natural gas companies for more information.
Review your electric and natural gas suppliers’ contracts
If you are currently enrolled with a competitive supplier other than your utility provider, you should review your contract’s pricing terms, and whether those prices will be fixed through the winter. Customers on variable rate contracts should consider fixed rate options, including your utility’s “Price to Compare.” If you are not sure what type of contract you have, contact your supplier directly. Consumers can also call the OCA toll free at 1-800-684-6560 so they can discuss what to consider when shopping for a competitive supplier, including how to switch suppliers and how to return to default service.
If you are reviewing offers, be sure to carefully review the disclosure statement. For more information on shopping, visit the Office of Consumer Advocate’s website at www.oca.pa.gov. There, you will find resources on making an informed decision regarding your electric and gas provider, including shopping guides for both electric and natural gas suppliers.
Weatherize your home now with low cost or no cost conservation measures
There are some simple but effective ways to keep cold air out of your home and warm air in, such as:
Install door sweeps;
Weatherproof doors and windows;
Caulk cracks around doors and windows;
Protect your electric hot water heater by using a heater cover;
For more tips visit the PA Public Utility Commission and check out to see if you are eligible for assistance through the Weatherization Assistance Program run through the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Apply for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The LIHEAP grant program is designed to assist low and fixed income customers pay their heating bills. LIHEAP opens for applications on November 1, 2022 and will remain open through April 28, 2023. Grants can range anywhere from $300-$1,000 based on household size, income, and heating type. You do not need to be facing loss of utility service to qualify for assistance. For qualification and application information, visit: https://bit.ly/3kcaVXc.
Contact your utility company to check or eligibility for assistance programs
Call your electric and natural gas distribution company to learn more about company-specific assistance that may be available. Some utilities have customer assistance programs, usage reduction programs and hardships programs run by community organizations.
Watch out for Utility Related Scams
Consumers should stay alert for unsolicited telemarketing calls that may sound too good to be true, use vague language, or for callers who claim to work for a public utility. The best way to avoid these scam calls is to ask the caller to identify themselves, why they are calling, and what company they are calling on behalf of. Ensure the correct provider is listed as your utility provider and keep your account numbers and bills private. A legitimate agent from your utility provider will not ask for a copy of your bill. Consumers may contact their utility providers directly if they are concerned about scams.
For more information, consumers can contact OCA toll-free at 800-684-6560 or email@example.com, or visit the OCA website at www.oca.pa.gov.
# # #