How To Save Money on Your Gas, Oil, And Electric Bills
Act now to save on your heating costs
With the fall and winter quickly approaching, now is a good time to start thinking of ways to save money on your heating bill as well as electric savings. During these hard economic times these programs are more important than ever. This article offers advice and a few ideas and resources to help people reduce the utility cost burden on their households. Let me start by saying I work for a community action agency and have gathered this information from my time working in the Fuel Assistance department as well as the Energy Efficiency Department.
Many people do not realize the resources that may be available to them. Most of the programs I am going to talk about are based on income and family size. These rules and guidelines may be different from state to state but most CAP (community action programs) agencies and utility companies offer the same programs. The first thing I will talk about is fuel assistance, also known as LIHEAP or low income home energy assistance program.
Fuel assistance (LIHEAP) helps low income households pay a portion of there home heating bills during the winter months,usually from November thru April. To find out if you may qualify you should go to the CAP agency web site in your area and look up the income guidelines. You can also check with your local CAP agency by phone or walk in. If you fall under the income guidelines you then must apply for fuel assistance, usually with a CAP agency.
Be prepared to prove your income with consecutive pay stubs, or tax returns if you are self employed. These programs are meant to help pay the bills, not pay all of your bill. They can help pay for your heat only. Whether its oil, gas, or electric heat does not matter as long as its your heating source you may qualify for assistance. As well as helping pay your heating bills if you qualify for fuel assistance you will also qualify for the discount rates on both gas and electric bills. Unless you have municipal services, such as town owned electric companies which do not offer those discounts. The discounts usually save you from 20%- 25% off of your bills. Unfortunately there is no discount rate for oil heat. But Fuel assistance can help pay your oil bills.
Weatherization and conservation
Next is energy conservation programs also known as WAP (weatherization assistance program) and HWAP( heating weatherization assistance program). These programs are also administered by CAP agencies. Many large utility companies offer discounts on energy conservation programs, most depend on your qualifying for fuel assistance. Again check with your local CAP agency or your utility company. These programs include heating system repairs for oil heating clients, as well as heating system replacement. They also offer wall and attic insulation to help reduce energy loss. Most programs can come to your home and perform an energy audit.
The auditors come to your home and check for insulation as well as check the energy usage of appliances etc. and then make recommendations as to what can be done. They may also perform energy saving measures such as door and window caulking and replace light-bulbs with more energy efficient models. The program is a no cost program for the audit as well as any work to be done. NO COST TO YOU!
In addition, some utility companies offer many ways to help pay outstanding bills. Most require your service to be on, and in your name or someone in the households name, as long as they are 18 years old or older and you must qualify for the discount rate. These programs are called Arrearage Management Programs. If you owe a big bill (usually 200 - 300 dollars) you can get a budget repayment plan as well as possible forgiveness for outstanding amounts. You must agree to make regular payments.
But if you do not qualify for these programs there is still a lot of things you can do to conserve energy. Start by keeping your thermostat at a reasonable temperature. usually keeping it set at around 68-70 is a good spot, not too cold. A programmable thermostat can also help reduce energy costs by lowering the temperature when you are not home. Don't forget to wear a sweater if you get too chilly.
Also putting weather stripping and caulking around the doors and windows can save a lot of your heating AND cooling from escaping. Most of these things are inexpensive and if you follow the directions can be relatively easy to do. I also put plastic over my windows every year, though its not the most attractive thing, it helps reduce my energy costs. Getting an annual Cleaning of your heating system can help keep it more efficient. Make sure to change or clean heating system filters on a regular basis.
More Ideas for energy savings
Other things you can do are to lower the temperature of your hot water heater to about 120 degrees can also help save energy. Moving beds and furniture away from outside walls can help keep you warmer. Be sure furniture and carpeting is not blocking warm air registers or vents. If you have radiators, taping a sheet of aluminum foil with the shiny side out, to the wall behind them will make them more efficient.
You should also remember to unplug appliances when not in use. Computers, toasters, DVD players and items that just are not used that often can still draw electricity and drive up your bills. Closing doors between rooms can also help lower your heating costs. Keep the shades and curtains open during the day to allow the sunlight in to your home.
You may also want to check with your city or town government as they are also good resources for referrals to other programs and funding sources that may be available to you. Last I would also like to say never be afraid to ask for help, if you have elderly family members help them get assistance as they are sometimes too stubborn or proud to ask for things that they may need and qualify for!
You can check the following web sites for more information about the LIHEAP program at; www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/liheap/