Fuel Assistance: Fuel Assistance, also known as the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), provides eligible households with help paying a portion of winter heating bills through grants from the federal government. To find out if you’re eligible and apply, contact your local Fuel Assistance Agency, which you can find on the MASSCAP website. If you have any questions about the HEAP program, please call the Massachusetts Heat Line toll-free at 1-800-632-8175.
Utility Discount Rates: Discounted rates that lower your actual charges for your energy usage may be available. If you qualify for Fuel Assistance/HEAP or another income verified program from the list below, you will be referred to your local natural gas or electric utility for a discount on your utility bills.
- Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC)
- Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program
- Head Start
- Mass Health
- National School Lunch Program
- Public Housing
- School Breakfast Program
- Supplemental Security Program
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
- Veterans Programs (Chapter 115 Benefits)
- Veterans Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
- Surviving Parent
- Veterans Affairs Non-Service Connected Pension (VANSCP)
Payment Plans or Arrearage Management Programs: Massachusetts natural gas and electric utility providers will work with customers on overdue portions of their bill. Payment plans are available. Some past due balances over a certain amount are forgiven if the customer adheres to a structured payment plan. If you have questions, please contact your gas or electric utility provider directly.
Energy Saving Tips (Source: MassSave)
Easy Ways to Save – A Quick Guide to Wiser Energy Use
Everyone loves to find new ways to save money and keep their homes in the best possible condition. These energy saving tips will help you conserve at every corner throughout your home. From heating and cooling, to doing your laundry, we’ve got you covered. And, if you’re ready to replace old, inefficient equipment or appliances, be sure to check out our rebates and incentives to help you save even more.
Heating and Cooling With Optimal Efficiency
Properly installed and inspected insulation in floors, walls, and attics ensures even temperatures throughout the home, as well as reduced energy use and increased comfort.
- Check your furnace air filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. Dirty filters slow down airflow and make the system work harder, thereby wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system, leading to expensive maintenance or early system failure.
- Tuning up your heating and cooling system improves efficiency and comfort, as well as overall performance. Have your heating system serviced once every two years, and never try to repair it yourself.
- Adjusting your thermostat a few degrees leads to big savings. When home, set it at 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for cooling and 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for heating. Change the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit each time you leave the house for two or more hours, and then again when you go to sleep at night. If you have a condensing boiler or an air source heat pump, leave your thermostat at a constant indoor temperature. Its technology adjusts your system’s temperature in response to the outdoor temperature.
- A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time.
- Simply program the temperature to adjust for when the house is empty or when people are sleeping.
- A wireless-enabled thermostat allows you to control your temperature remotely from your computer, tablet, or smartphone, and some even have sensors to know when you’re home, so it adjusts your temperature automatically. Receive alerts by text or email if your heating or cooling system isn’t functioning.
- Use the fan setting on your window AC at night when the air outside is cool, or open a window and leave the air conditioner off. Make sure to keep windows closed whenever the air conditioner is on.
- Change your central air conditioner’s thermostat fan setting from “continuous fan operation” to “auto” so the fan runs only when cooling.
- Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner. A plugged drain causes water damage in the house and affects indoor humidity levels.
- Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer – increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Ducts that move air to and from a forced-air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — sometimes much more. Have a professional examine your ductwork for leaks. If it’s very leaky, focus first on sealing ducts that run through unconditioned space, such as the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Your contractor should use duct sealant (mastic), metal-backed (foil) tape, or an Aeroseal sealant to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After the ducts are sealed, your contractor should wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.
- If your furnace or central AC equipment is more than 12 years old, or your boiler is more than 30 years old, consider replacing it with a more efficient unit.
- Installing the right size equipment for the home is essential to getting the best performance and comfort. Many homeowners believe that bigger is better when buying new heating and cooling equipment. However, a system that is too large will not keep your home comfortable because of frequent ‘on/off’ cycling. Incorrect sizing can also put stress on system components and shorten the equipment’s life. To ensure proper sizing, your contractor should provide a copy of the home’s heat gain/loss calculations for your records.
- A system with the correct amount of refrigerant will operate more efficiently and help prolong the life of the heating and cooling system. To ensure the system is properly charged, a contractor must test it and make the appropriate adjustments by adding or removing refrigerant.
- If the airflow in your heating and cooling system is too high or too low, you may have problems and higher utility bills. A contractor can test airflow and make any needed adjustments for optimal performance. Make sure that all air registers are clear of furniture, window treatments, or carpeting so air can circulate freely.
- Set your ceiling fans to turn counter-clockwise in the summer to cool a room, but reverse them so that they turn clockwise in winter to push warm air back down into a room. Turn them off when you’re not home. Ceiling fans don’t actually cool your home—they only circulate air to make you feel cooler. Therefore, they are most effective when you’re home to enjoy the benefits.
- In the winter, open window dressings during the day to capture warmth and close them at night to prevent heat loss. Close them in the summer to block the solar gain during the hottest part of the day and on south- and west-facing windows.
- Planting a deciduous tree on the west or south side of your house provides shade that will help keep it cool in the summer.
Do Away With Drafts – Sealing, Weather-Stripping, Insulation and More
- If your home has storm windows, check to make sure that they are closed properly for the heating season.
- Install weather-stripping on doors and caulking around windows and doorframes.
- Affix a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet or film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame. Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty.
- If you have a sliding glass door, make sure to keep its track clean. A dirty track can ruin the door’s seal and create gaps where heat or cold air escapes.
- Seal around the attic hatch or door with self-sticking weather-stripping. Put a piece of rigid foam board insulation on the back of the door. Pre-made insulated attic stair covers are also available from home improvement centers.
- Check for air leakage and seal around:
- plumbing, electrical, and ductwork in exterior walls
- chases open to spaces like an attic
- gaps between interior and exterior walls and ceiling sheetrock
- around sheetrock, including between interior and exterior walls, and where sheetrock is sealed to the subfloor
- floors, including cantilevered floors and band joist areas in floor systems
- knee walls in Cape-style homes
- joints between existing buildings and additions or modular buildings
- If you have an unfinished basement or crawlspace, check for air leaks around the foundation walls by looking for spider webs. If there’s a web, there’s a draft.
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter – it allows warm air to escape right up the chimney. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
- Remove window air conditioning units during the cold months to reduce drafts. If this isn’t possible, cover the inside and outside of the unit with plastic.
Make the Most of Your Lighting
- Switch to ENERGY STAR® certified light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer.
- Identify the lumens (brightness) you need, and then choose the bulb with the lowest wattage (energy use). An old 60-watt incandescent bulb produces about 800 lumens, while a 100-watt incandescent generates about 1,600 lumens of light. Use brighter bulbs in areas where you do close-up work, such as reading, cooking, and home projects. Use less-bright light in other areas.
- Light color is measured on a temperature scale referred to as Kelvin (K). A 2,700 K to 3,000 K bulb produces the same warm, soft white of a traditional incandescent. A 3,500 K to 4,100 K bulb is great for kitchens or work spaces. A bulb between 5,000 K and 6,500 K produces “natural” or “daylight,” and is good for reading.
- Turn off lights in any room that you’re not using.
- Use natural light whenever you can. Make the most of natural light by moving desks, reading chairs, and workbenches closer to windows. Keep in mind that lighter colors for walls, ceilings, and floors reflect more sunlight.
- Keep light bulbs and fixtures clear of dust and other particles. Clean bulbs give off more light than dirty ones.
- Using dimming switches or three-way lamps can reduce energy consumption to the lowest possible wattage and change the mood in a room.
- For the holidays, choose ENERGY STAR certified LED decorative light strings.
- Many people like to leave a light on to make it seem like someone is home while they are away. Use a light timer instead for just a little while each evening. This saves energy and gives a more realistic impression of someone being at home.
- Install a motion detector for your porch light to save from keeping it on indefinitely. Use it when you’re at home or away.
Save With More Efficient Electronics
- Use the power management settings on your computer and monitor so they sleep when not in use. Shut down your computer when you’re done using it.
- Unplug any battery chargers or power adapters when they are not in use Even if they’re not actively charging the devices, adapters plugged into outlets use energy.
- Use an advanced power strip (APS) to automatically turn off home electronics when you’re not using them. For instance, when your TV is not being used, an advanced power strip can automatically cut power to accessories like DVD players, game consoles, and sound systems, or your computer can cut power to your printer, scanner, and sound systems.
- Turn off your game console when not in use, and avoid pausing for long periods of time.
- Lower the brightness on your TV or computer to a comfortable level.
- Use your DVD player rather than a game console to watch movies.
- Purchase ENERGY STAR qualified electronics.
- Recycle your old electronics to keep them out of landfills and reduce the energy needed to produce new products.
Refrigerator and Freezer – Cool Ways to Save
- Think about what you’re going to get from the refrigerator before you open the door.
- Set your refrigerator to 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above that is a waste of energy. Keep your refrigerator and freezer full so they don’t have to work as hard to stay cold.
- Position your refrigerator away from a heat source, such as an oven, dishwasher, or direct sunlight from a window.
- Leave a few inches between the wall and the back of the refrigerator for air circulation.
- Make sure the seals around the door are airtight. If not, replace them.
- Make sure condenser coils are cleaned and air can circulate freely. Read the user manual to learn how to safely clean coils. Coil cleaning brushes can be purchased at most hardware stores.
- Consider replacing and recycling older-model working refrigerators, especially those made before 2000. Older model refrigerators often use more than four times the energy of newer models.
- If you’re purchasing a new refrigerator, one with a top-mounted freezer is generally the most efficient. And choose the smallest one that fits your needs. In general, the larger the refrigerator, the greater the energy consumption.
Use Your Dishwasher With Utmost Efficiency
- Scrape dishes instead of rinsing them before loading them in the dishwasher.
- Many dishwashers offer different wash cycles to accommodate dishes with heavy soil levels, such as pots and pans. Use less water for regular dishes to save.
- Run your dishwasher with a full load, and use the air-dry or “no heat” option to save on electricity.
- If you wash dishes by hand, fill wash and rinse basins instead of letting the water run.
Cooking Without Wasting Heat
- Keep the burners clean on your gas range to ensure maximum efficiency. Blue flames mean good combustion, while yellow flames mean service may be needed to ensure the gas is burning efficiently.
- Check the seal on your oven door for wear. A clean seal provides better heat retention.
- Keep stovetop reflectors clean to concentrate the heat better.
- Use covers that fit tightly on pots and pans to shorten cooking time.
- Use the smallest pan and burner needed for the job, and match them. A 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner wastes over 40 percent of the burner’s heat.
- Using your microwave or toaster oven to reheat or cook small portions saves energy. It especially saves on cooling costs in summer, as less heat is generated when compared to your stove or oven.
- If possible, cook many dishes together when using the oven.
- Avoid peeking into the oven while cooking. Heat escapes when the door is opened.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator, rather than going directly from freezer to oven or defrosting in the microwave.
- If you have a self-cleaning oven, turn it on just after use, while the oven is still hot.
Smart Water Heating Saves Energy
- Set the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for normal use. (Note: Some dishwashers may require a higher minimum temperature setting. Check your owner’s manual.)
- If you’re heading out of town for an extended period of time, turn your electric water heater off entirely. Once turned back on, most models will reheat the water to the set temperature in about an hour. If you have a gas water heater, turn it down to “low” or “vacation mode.”
- Upgrade your water heater to a high-efficiency model. If your current water heater is 8-12 years old, it’s nearing the end of its life. Replace it now rather than doing an emergency replacement when you have no hot water.
- Most newer water heaters are well insulated. However, if the side of your water heater feels warm near the top, you can cut heat loss by installing a water heater insulation blanket. (First, check your owner’s manual to make sure that this step won’t void the manufacturer’s warranty. If the warranty period has expired, this is not a problem.) Make sure to use the appropriate type blanket for your water heater, whether it’s electric, gas, or oil. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.
- Wrap the hot water pipes coming out of your water heater with insulation. Wrap those pipes nearest the heater first for greatest savings.
Save water in your bathroom
- Use low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads to waste less hot water. A low-flow showerhead uses two gallons of water per minute or less.
- Shower instead of bathe. A ten-minute shower can use less water than a full bath.
- To avoid moisture problems, control humidity in your bathroom by running your ventilating fan during and 15 minutes after showers and baths.
- Repair any leaky faucets, as even small leaks add up fast and waste water and money.
- Avoid running water continuously while doing dishes, washing up, brushing teeth, or shaving.
Do Your Laundry More Efficiently
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. Washing clothes with cold water usually does not affect cleaning results and may reduce shrinkage.
- Follow detergent instructions carefully. Using too much soap makes the washing machine motor work harder.
- Wash full loads only. If you must wash a partial load, reduce the level of water appropriately and reduce drying time as needed. Many newer models do this automatically.
- Load washers and dryers to capacity, but don’t overload. Overloading can cut down on efficiency.
- Don’t overdry your clothes. If your dryer has a moisture sensor that will automatically turn the machine off when clothes are done, use it to avoid overdrying. If you don’t have this feature, try to match the cycle length to the size and weight of the load.
- Try to dry loads made up of similar fabrics, so the entire load dries just as the cycle ends.
- Clean the lint trap before every load to help keep the machine running efficiently.
Read our Energy Assistance Programs for Income Eligible Residents Brochure in the language of your choice