HARRISBURGAs temperatures continue to drop and consumers turn on the heat in their homes, the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate seeks to educate consumers, including our seniors, on how to protect themselves against the rising costs of heating and electricity expected this winter.

“With temperatures already dropping below freezing in many parts of the state, no one should have to worry about how to stay warm this winter. Our Office of Consumer Advocate is raising awareness to consumers on how they can best prepare their homes for these increased heating costs, and making sure they are aware of the assistance programs available to them,” said AG Shapiro.

Though the U.S. has been less affected by the natural gas surge in pricing compared to that of other countries, Pennsylvania consumers can expect to see an increase in their heating and energy costs. Natural gas supply costs are rising from 11 to 77 percent and electric supply costs from 4 to 42 percent. The increase will vary by natural gas and electric company.

“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 also in the price of electricity as natural gas is a major source of fuel for Pennsylvania’s electricity supply. While these prices are expected to return to lower levels after the winter, 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 OCA Interim Acting Consumer Advocate Christine Maloni Hoover.

“Utility rates are an essential pocketbook issue for Pennsylvania residents, especially those 50-plus. Too often, older Pennsylvanians must choose between paying for their heating bill and paying for their prescriptions. With these projected price increases, the winter heating season is going to be a challenge and knowing where to go for assistance is more critical than ever.” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, State Director for AARP Pennsylvania.

In order 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.

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 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: https://bit.ly/3EZSFIN.

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. Grants can range anywhere from $500-$1,500 based on household size, income and heating type. 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.

For more information, consumers can contact OCA toll-free at 800-684-6560 or consumer@paoca.org, or visit the OCA website at www.oca.pa.gov.

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