July 24, 2024

Manage winter energy costs and utility bills

Faced with inflation and rising energy costs, many households may struggle to pay their utility bills.

By Carol Ehlers

Iowa State University

Faced with inflation and rising energy costs, many households may struggle to pay their utility bills. Whether you are a homeowner or renter, it is important to get a good handle on how much to budget each month to cover your various utility bills, says Carol Ehlers, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Regardless of what you pay for utilities, there are ways to pay less. Consider these resources that can help,” Ehlers said.

Check eligibility and request energy assistance. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps households with a portion of their home heating bills, particularly those facing disconnection or who have trouble paying their utility bill. Early applications started Oct. 1, with Nov. 1 to April 30 as the annual application timeframe through a local community action agency. Learn more from the Iowa Health and Human Services website.

Ask for a winter moratorium. Your utilities may not be shut off during the “winter moratorium” if you apply for and qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. If you are certified eligible for the program, utilities cannot shut off your gas or electric services from Nov. 1 through April 1, but you should still try to pay as much as you can on your utility bills, even during the winter moratorium, Ehlers noted.

“It is always best to keep making payments to the maximum extent possible. Making payments during the moratorium creates ‘good will’ with the utility company and keeps the problem from getting worse,” Ehlers said.

Ehlers offered additional tips for managing utility bills.

Know how much to expect. Ask your utility provider how much the utility bill was last year for your home or apartment.

Weatherize your home. Leaky or old windows can account for 10% to 25% of heating costs due to warm air escaping. Replace windows with double-pane windows or install storm windows. Get help from the Iowa Weatherization Assistance Program.

Lower the thermostat. Dial down the thermostat to save energy in the winter. Industry figures for every degree you turn down your thermostat (and leave it for eight hours) you save between 1 percent and 3 percent of your heating bill.