Each winter, many Massachusetts senior citizens and low income families are forced to choose between heating their homes and buying food, medication or other necessities. Many more struggle to get by, unaware of or unable to seek help in paying their heating bills. More than one million households in the Commonwealth are eligible for some level of energy assistance - but less than half participate.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance this winter, there are resources available to help. For a list of programs and resources, see the . There may also be additional resources available. To find out if you qualify, or for more information, contact your local Community Action Program or fuel assistance office. A consumer does not have to be unemployed to get help.

In addition, home heating companies are often flexible in working out discount and budget payment plans. Contact your dealer to discuss your situation and ask if an alternative payment schedule is available.

Propane

Propane gas for heating and home and business use presents issues different than those encountered with other energy sources. It is difficult to comparison shop for propane, and consumers must consider a variety of factors to determine whether they are getting the best value. In some cases, the propane dealer, not the customer, owns the tank. This factor is especially important if a customer wants to switch dealers.

Propane is also priced differently than oil or gas, and consumers may be charged a higher rate even if only a small amount of fuel is used each year. Many propane dealers offer a balanced billing payment plan that allows customers to spread out annual costs over many months, lowering the cost of higher seasonal bills. Remember to read all contract terms carefully and inquire about all fees and charges before signing an agreement.

Resources

For more home heating information, see The Attorney General's Guide to Heating Assistance (PDF) pdf format of home_heating_guide.pdf and the . To report unfair and deceptive conduct by a home heating company or to apply for free mediation services, please contact the Attorney General's Public Inquiry & Assistance Center Hotline at (617) 727-8400.