Soaring energy costs as a result of the Ukraine war, skyrocketing natural gas prices, and higher delivery charges are helping to boost utility bills for many Americans this winter. For example, in the Midwest consumers are paying up to 30% more to heat their homes this winter, according to the Citizens Utility Board in Chicago.
Prices are also up significantly in other areas of the country.Read More »
You need to keep your home warm and safe while at the same time taking steps toward making your bills more affordable.
People should look after each other, Kolata adds. Make sure that your family, neighbors, and friends are warm and safe, too.
Tips to save on utility bills
Follow these insider tips to help you cope as you battle with rising energy costs.
• Find out whether you qualify for energy assistance.
The process to apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is open until May 31, 2023. Households that are below or at 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible for funding. To reach the program call 1-866-674-6327 or contact your state’s local office.
• Keep in touch with your utility.
If you are struggling to pay your bill, get in touch with your utility to find out whether you quality for other forms of assistance. You can also inquire about energy efficient programs and plans to spread out your payments over time.
• Be aware of rip-offs by alternative suppliers.
Be careful about getting caught up in bad deals. Watch out for low introductory rates that skyrocket after a short time and read the fine print to see whether there are add-on fees that will increase the plan’s cost.
Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, the chances are that it is.
• Use a thermostat that is programmable or smart.
Some utility companies offer a free assessment of your home energy system that can include the installation of a new programmable thermostat at no cost.
• Set your thermostat at a safe temperature.
When the weather is cold, set your thermostat at a level that is warm and also safe. A level of 68F is acceptable when you are awake and at home. Set the thermostat from 7 to 10 degrees lower when you are asleep or out of the house.
Warning: Never set your thermostat at a temperature that can threaten your health. Also, do not allow your thermostat to drop below 55F. Doing so could cause your water pipes to freeze.
• Never use your oven in order to heat your home.
• Be careful when using a space heater.
Place the heater on a level, hard surface. Avoid using an extension cord. Keep the heater at least three feet from any flammable object, such as curtains or a couch.
Avoid leaving a space heater on during the night.
• Maintain your heating system.
Change or clean the filters in your heating system regularly.
Most heating systems last from 10 to 15 years, but they will run more efficiently and last a lot longer if they are maintained on a regular basis.
Schedule an inspection with a contractor that you know is reputable. An inspector will check your system to make sure that it is working properly.
The expense of the inspection will almost certainly be worth the savings that you will reap when your system is running well. A heating system that is energy efficient can cut 20% to 40% off your energy costs.
• Seal areas in your house that let in cold air.
Weatherize your house. Caulk your windows, weather-strip your doors, and install storm windows if you have them available.
Check for other drafty places through which cold air can enter. Gaps at the bottom of your back and front doors can be filled with a sweep or door guard which you can buy at your local hardware store.
Check crawlspaces and attics to determine whether you need to make improvements to your insulation in those places.
• Be prepared for winter storms.
If the storm is severe and the power is out, you might need to find a state facility in which you can stay warm and safe. Find out in advance what is available so you can move quickly once a storm hits.