As homeowners brace themselves for hefty heating bills this winter, some options may lower one's costs, or at least make them more manageable. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
As winter approaches, a particular statistic on heating is very chilling.
"Oil prices in general are about 7 percent higher than they were last year," says Michael O'Connor of NYPERG Field Buyers Group.
Last week's statewide average was about $4.06 a gallon, up from $3.79 the same time last year.
"There is more room to move, unfortunately," says O'Connor.
However, there are some ways to try to control heating costs. The most common strategy is locking in a price. The buyer enters a contract to purchase a certain amount of gallons at that day's price, say $4.05. That is good news of the price of oil goes up.
"Then you are a happy camper," says New York Oil Heating Association CEO John Maniscalco. "If it goes the other way, you must still pay the price you agreed upon. It depends on how much of a gambler you are, I guess.
For those looking to hedge their bets, consider a capped price rather than a fixed one.
"There is a 'ceiling,' so to speak, so prices can only go so high, but there is no 'floor,'" says Maniscalco. "Fixed price is fixed, but with a cap you can go up to a certain amount that you've agreed to, but it can also drop."
Homeowners can't control the market, so they should try balancing their own budgets. O'Connor recommends opting for a payment plan, which spreads the cost over the course of a year.
"That way you're not paying for a huge oil delivery all at one time in the middle of the winter. Instead, you're paying a little bit in June, a little bit in July," says O'Connor. "It is a huge benefit for anyone, most particularly people on a fixed income."
Homeowners who overpay should not worry. They can get the extra money back or apply it to next year's bill. But the biggest savings, experts say, are likely to come from altering one's habits or one's home.
"Lower the thermostat and instead put on a sweater. That is an important one," says Maniscalco. "You also have to invest in a programmable thermostat. That is probably the biggest saver."
"Windows, good insulation, those things can make a huge difference," says O'Connor. "People who make a lot of changes at one time can decrease their costs by 20 to 30 percent."
While home improvements cost money, depending on where one lives, those energy upgrades could lead to tax breaks or rebates.