It will be more expensive to heat your home this winter.
Yes, but: There are ways you can save on your bill and assistance with paying your bill to alleviate the financial burden.
Why it matters: Americans are already grappling with historic inflation that’s made everything from holiday presents and decorations to groceries more expensive.
- What’s more, there is a racial disparity in who bears the burden of high energy bills, with Black households paying more than white households, per The Hill’s reporting.
Driving the news: Applications for Mecklenburg County’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps households pay for heat, open today.
By the numbers: The average cost of heating a home is estimated to be $1,208, a rise of almost 18% from last winter, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association and reported recently by the New York Times.
State of play: The winter heating season runs October through March. Higher fuel prices and a higher heating demand stem from a forecast colder weather compared to last winter, per the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- “All signs point to a much more expensive winter,” Mark Wolfe, the group’s executive director, told the Times.
Here are a few of the notable ways Duke Energy shared with us to save on your energy bill:
1. Weather strip: You can caulk and seal openings to the outside (like windows) to save 10-20% on your bill.
2. Change your air filters: This should be done every 1-3 months. A dirty air filter can increase energy costs by as much as 20%.
3. Don’t block air vents: Make sure they aren’t covered by furniture, for instance.
4. Unplug standing appliances: If you aren’t using your coffee maker or toaster, unplug it. They can continue to use energy while plugged in.
5. Set your ceiling fans to clockwise: This rotation pulls warm air up and helps circulate it around.
6. Lower the thermostat before holiday gatherings: More people means more body heat and with people coming in and out of your home means heat will slip out the door when it opens. Think of it like a fridge door — the longer you leave it open, the more it has to work to maintain its proper temperature.
7. Put holiday lights on a timer: They’re pretty, but they don’t need to be on 24/7.
8. Open up blinds on the sunny side of your home: This lets natural light in and helps heat things up.
9. Take showers, not baths: You’ll likely use less water.
10. Lower your thermostat when you leave the house: Decrease the amount of energy you use when you’re not home.
Bill assistance: The county’s bill assistance program is available through March or until funds run out. County residents who are disabled, at least age 60 or using Division of Aging and Adult Services will be prioritized in December.
- All county residents can apply starting in January.
- It’s a one-time direct vendor payment of $300, $400 or $500. The county had a little over $3.3 million in allocated funds for the program in fiscal year 2022 Ginny Harper, Community Program Coordinator with Mecklenburg County DSS, tells Axios. They also had pandemic funding of more than $5 million, which put the total available funds over $8 million.
- You must meet income requirements and provide proof of income, be responsible for the bill and provide your account number.
Between the lines: Asking for help is humbling, and Harper tells Axios the county tries to help people maintain their dignity during the process. They added the option of applying online because of COVID-19. They saw a lot more foot traffic before the pandemic.
- People can also call, drop off their application at a dropbox or apply in-person.
Of note: The county also has a year-round energy assistance program called the Crisis Intervention Program. Just under $3.2 million was allocated for the program during this fiscal year and around 64% of those funds have been used.
- You must have received a past due or final notice to be eligible for CIP funds.