(WWLP) – Many of us are still running our air conditioners, but the cooler weather will be here before you know it. 22News is working for you with some things to think about in order to save money on your heating bills this fall and winter.

National Grid recommends an energy-efficient audit that will provide tips on ways to save money on heating bills such as lowering the water heater, installing a programmable thermostat, unplugging devices that are not in use, and proper insulation.

“With winter energy rates expected to increase this winter, creating challenges for many families, now is the time to get an energy assessment done,” said John Isberg, Vice President of Customer Solutions for National Grid New England. “Customers who get an assessment can put in place measures that can save them on their energy bills as our New England weather turns cooler.”

Global liquified natural gas (LNG) prices have gone up by 300 percent and Northeast states rely on LNG for home heating, which is a cause of concern for some western Massachusetts homeowners.

“It’s going to take away from a lot of other things we could be doing, it’s going to take away from entertaining, from a lot of stuff,” said Jack Silva of Ludlow.

22News spoke with Tim Noonan of Noonan Energy who said it’s possible for oil prices to fluctuate but western Massachusetts homeowners should prepare for a big bill this winter, “Last year, at this time oil prices were about $269-279. Right Now they’re about $450-460, so that’s considerably higher.”

Because of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, experts believe high fuel prices will be here for awhile, but starting to prepare now can ease the pain on your wallet later this year.

22News has some tips for you that will help you lower your monthly bill during the cold weather months:

  • Open shades and drapes when the sun is out to help warm your house.
  • Stop heat loss by eliminating any gaps between the threshold of your door.
  • Seal gaps between the windows and walls of your home.
  • Install programmable thermostats, and set them to lower the heat when you’re away.

“If you haven’t had your system tuned up, it’s a good idea to do that. It’s recommended it be done at least every two years, and a lot of people do it every year. It’s just like with your car, if you tune it up it’s going to be more efficient, the same thing is true of your furnace or your boiler,” said Noonan.

Massachusetts Household Heating Costs

Space heating is the largest part of household energy costs.  As a leading state in energy efficiency, DOER helps run programs to reduce home heating energy use, lower heating bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide consumers with information on their home heating choices. Every year, DOER analyzes the winter weather forecast and the projected prices and consumption for major heating fuel sources (natural gas, heating oil, propane, electric heating) to provide heating season cost projections for Massachusetts homes.  

Help with your heating bills

Massachusetts offers a wide variety of financial incentives for all consumers to save on their energy bills, including no-cost programs for home upgrades and enhanced incentives forincome eligible customers.  The statewide Mass Save® program offers no-cost home energy assessmentsrebateson efficient heating equipment as well as 0% financing for major energy efficiency measures. 

As part of the Columbia Gas settlement, funds will provide debt relief for gas bills to thousands of low-income gas customers and enable clean energy and energy efficiency efforts in homes and buildings in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. Visit the Merrimack Valley Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency Programs page for more information. 

Customers of municipal light plant companies (MLPs) can also access similar benefits through the HELPS energy efficiency programs. Contact your municipal utility for more information on available programs.  

If you are a residential customer struggling to pay your utility bills, contact your utility to discuss available payment plans. For more information please see: Frequently Asked Questions about Electric, Gas, and Water Utilities during COVID-19.  Consumers can also take advantage of the Home Energy Assistance Programs, including fuel assistance and energy efficiency programs for income eligible households.    

For additional information on saving energy, visit the U.S. DOE’s Energy Saver’s website.  Get tips on weatherizing your home, maintaining your heating system and more.  Consumers can also download the free Energy Savers Guide (available in English and Spanish, Espanol).

Comparing heating technologies to save on your heating bills

Clean heating and cooling technologies have advanced in the Commonwealth with air source heat pumps leading the way.  Air-source heat pumps are a more efficient and cost effective way to heat your home using electricity at a fraction of the cost of oil or propane. These hyper-efficient and quiet heat pumps operate in below zero temperatures to heat living and working spaces comfortably and efficiently.  During the summer months, these units are used to efficiently cool spaces. Visit the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Air Source Heat Pump Guide for more information. 

Ductless, mini-split system heat pumps (mini splits) are a good option for homes with non-ducted heating systems, such as hot water heat, radiant panels and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). Mini-splits are also a good choice for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible and very efficient new homes that require only a small space conditioning system.  

For more information on mini-splits, central heating and ground source heat pump systems as well as available rebates and incentives, visit Mass Save’s Heat Pump Heating and Cooling website. If you are a municipal utility customer, visit their website or contact them for more information on available programs.  Some municipal utilities have information on their programs at Home Energy Loss Prevention Services (HELPs).       

DOER’s Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS) allows consumers to receive compensation for heat generated by renewable heating and cooling technologies such as heat pumps, solar hot water, woody biomass, liquid biofuels, and biogas. Eligible facilities receive certificates for the heat they produce, which can then be sold to retail electricity suppliers that are required to purchase a certain amount of certificates each year.