Consumers Energy offers help with heating bills as winter seemingly arrives early

Consumers Energy offers help with heating bills as winter seemingly arrives early.

With November 2018 going down as one of the top 10 coldest on record in both Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, this month's electric bill could come as a bit of a surprise for the bank account.

Brian Wheeler, Senior Public Information Director with Consumers Energy, said natural gas use has been up quite a bit so far this month.

"In November this year, compared to November last year, our natural gas households have used about 23 percent more natural gas," Wheeler said.

Consumers Energy wants to help customers take charge of their heating bills. Consumers will reach out to hundreds of thousands of households in December via email with tips to reduce energy use safely during the cold season.

The energy provider partners with non-profit agencies to call households with past due payments, letting them know help is available. Last month, Consumers contributed $2 million to help 2,500 households that participate in its Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy (CARE) program. CARE is designed to put people on a path to self sufficiency, offering bill credits, past due forgiveness, and access to energy saving tools to lower bills.

The energy provider also encourages its customers to dial 2-1-1, a free statewide service that connects people to resources in the their communities, including bill assistance.

"There are dollars that are available. People don't realize that sometimes. Sometimes when people are falling behind they don't think there's help that can help them with their bills. If you call 2-1-1, you can get resources. It might be the CARE program, or it might be something else," Wheeler said.

Consumers lists several tips for saving money on your bill during the winter. The top six tips they recommend are:

  • Change Your Thermostat Settings: Every degree adds up when setting your heat to a lower temperature. Use your programmable thermostat to set your heat at 68 degrees when you are home and 65 degrees when you are away for less than five hours. If you’re going to be away for more than five hours set the thermostat to 58 degrees.
  • Maintain Your Furnace: A professional inspection goes a long way to ensure your furnace runs as efficiently as possible. Changing your filter regularly is important, because a dirty furnace filter restricts airflow and makes your fan motor work harder.
  • Prep Your Windows and Doors: Check for leaks in your windows and doors by feeling around for cool air. Caulk, fill, or weather strip if necessary. Broken windows or doors should be replaces, as they act as big energy sinks.
  • Reset Your Ceiling Fans: Set your ceiling fans to spin clockwise on the low setting. This will push warm air away from the ceiling and move it around the room.
  • Close Doors and Vents: Close attic, basement, garage and exterior doors.
  • Pay Attention To Your Water Heater: In most homes, the water heater is the second highest user of energy. Set your water heater to the lowest setting, or 120 degrees. For additional savings, put a manufacturer’s recommended insulation blanket around your water heater.

"The most important thing is making sure you house or home doesn't have to work harder than it needs to. Do make sure you have the heat on, do make sure you're staying warm, but you can really take simple steps to lower your bill," Wheeler said in summary.