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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2022 > Smart tips to prepare for winter

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Smart tips to prepare for winter

With everything getting more expensive, Ohioans may be worried about their heating bills this winter. From energy efficiency improvements to utility choices, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has compiled some useful winter tips to help you stay safe and warm and to hopefully save a few dollars on your bill.
Utility scams
Scammers may call claiming that you are late with your payment and are about to lose service, but don’t panic. Take time to ask for information that an account representative should have, such as your address or account number. If they don’t have that information, it’s likely a scam. Or, if you receive a phone call like this, hang up and call your utility company back at a number you know to be correct. While some disconnection notices may be legitimate, if the representative wants payment by gift card, it’s very likely a scam. If you’re concerned about disconnection, be sure to learn about Ohio’s Special Reconnection Order that may make it more affordable to keep your utility services turned on.
Energy savings and assistance efforts
If you’re seeking to reduce your energy bills, consider getting a home energy audit offered by some local utility companies for free or at a low cost, or take an online audit to find areas where you can use energy more efficiently. Look to seal leaks around doors, windows and where pipes and wires enter your home. See if there are cracks or gaps in your existing caulking that need to be repaired. Make sure your home’s insulation is up to the U.S. Department of Energy’s standards. Also, consider lowering your thermostat overnight or when you’re not home. (A programmable thermostat may be a wise investment.)
Finally, learn about low-income assistance programs such as the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and the Winter Crisis Program (also known as E-HEAP). HEAP can offer eligible residential consumers a one-time per winter heating season benefit that is applied directly to your electric, natural gas and/or bulk fuel bill. Individual utilities may operate their own assistance programs for qualifying residential consumers, generally known as fuel funds.  Consumers should always do their research when assistance is offered – through these programs or through grants – to understand the terms of the assistance and whether the offer is legitimate.
Tips for propane consumers
With supply chain issues and driver shortages, it is especially important for propane users to prepare properly throughout this upcoming winter heating season.
Some winter tips from the Propane Education & Research Council and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office include:
  • Ensure you have enough propane for winter. Never let the volume go below 25 percent without having an order in to your propane supplier for a fill up (the earlier, the better).
  • If you run out of propane, call your supplier right away. They will likely inspect your system for potential leaks.
  • Always be sure there is a clear path to your propane tank so delivery can occur.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office can assist propane users that have propane level emergencies. These emergencies receive priority handling by the office. The office’s Help Center can be reached at 800-282-0515.
Home repair and improvement fraud
While many legitimate companies exist to help repair or improve your home, here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to avoid weather-related fraud this winter:
  • Be a skeptic if someone offers you a product or service promising dramatic cost-reduction results. Be a wise consumer and check the company’s reputation. For example, look to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau, and do an online search for the company’s name along with terms such as “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Watch for high-pressure sales tactics from door-to-door salespeople, especially concerning home improvement products or switching utility suppliers. Get all door-to-door promises in writing, and be sure you are provided at least three business days to cancel.
  • Try not to pay with cash, since doing so leaves a limited paper trail if something goes wrong.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.