LIHEAP Resource Guide Winter Preparedness Information

Publication Date: October 27, 2015

Winter Preparedness for Low Income Energy Assistance Households


picture of a thermometer next to a window indicating it is cold

It’s October, and cooler temperatures are already here for many American families across the nation.  As we transition from a relatively mild summer, there are some actions we can take now to ensure a safer winter.

We have learned from studies of home energy that a constant temperature of at least 68 degrees can prevent individuals from facing health and safety-related crises, such as asthma, that may result in hospital visits. It is also more efficient to keep the thermostat at the same temperature overnight to avoid having to “re-warm” your home the next morning.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Board estimates at least 25,000 household fires are started each year by space heaters. Some families use space heaters as a primary heating source or to address cold spots in rooms due to uneven heat distribution.  If your household uses space heaters, remember to ensure there is enough space around the heater for venting, do not place the heater near furniture or curtains, and ensure that the heater is away from the main path of travel in the room. When purchasing a space heater, look for one that has an automatic shut-off if knocked over and that is adequate for the size of the room.

For central heating units, the change of seasons is a perfect time to change and clean filters. Dirty filters and air ducts not only impact air quality in your home, they also may reduce your unit’s efficiency.  Also, significant dust and detritus may become a fire hazard.

To avoid service interruptions, OCS offers some precautionary steps:

  • Pay energy bills on time, even if it is a portion of the amount due. If heating costs begin to exceed your income allotment, ask your utility company for a payment or budget plan. They may be more likely to approve that request if they see some payment regularly each month.
  • Fill up your oil or propane tanks before winter sets in. This proactive measure often results in reduced pre-season prices.
  • Apply for utility shut off protections. Many utility companies offer winter shut-off protections for low income, elderly, disabled, and households with young children and critically-ill members through utility commissions. A listing of charitable energy assistance for households in need and utility commissions can be found at the link here: Visit disclaimer page .
  • Identify and contact the local LIHEAP provider for assistance. For links to contacts in your state, visit our website: Visit disclaimer page
  • Households who heat with deliverable fuel such as heating oil, propane, kerosene, or wood may consider contacting their vendor or suppliers to work out budget plans or to access assistance programs to avoid large bills or running out of fuel.

The Office of Community Services supports millions of low income families by distributing approximately $3 billion each year in heating, cooling, crisis and weatherization assistance so that low income families can avert residential energy-related crises.  Being prepared for the winter is a critical element in ensuring that families are safe and warm throughout the fall and winter season. These are just a few resources to help households in the coming months. We also encourage you to visit our main website, as well as the website of our partner agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, to ensure a healthy winter season.

Akm Rahman, Operations Branch Chief, Division of Energy Assistance, Office of Community Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Current as of: