Utility Bills – What Can You Do?

Utility Bill Assistance and Help Comes In Many Forms

Grants and financial aid programs to help pay utility bills to support the poor, housing audits to identify where heat and AC are leaking, even utility company sponsored programs that “even out” or average out monthly bills so that winter heating bills are not sky high  but averaged in with smaller months. However, what if someone owes several months of overdue utility bills and the power company is getting ready to terminate gas and electric utilities? And, what if grants and financial aid is not available? Well, remember that a utility bill is an unsecured debt. This means that there is no collateral securitizing the debt. The only thing that the utility can do is terminate service after the bill goes unpaid for an unacceptable length of time. This makes old unpaid utility bills from a previous address (not your current address) a good candidate for a debt management program offered by many debt consolidators. After all, negotiating the payment schedule of unpaid debt so that their clients can get creditors off of their back is their job. Check it out!

Many are or soon will be reeling from skyrocketing utility bills. So, what can you do to reduce these horrendous home energy bills? Clearly, one of the best ways to slash utility bills is switch as much as possible to a nonutility company source of getting a big chunk of energy. Solar power can be good for warming your house and geothermal can be used to both cool and heat your home. These are great choices, but may not be available or can cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars to install.

There are however a few simple and low or no cost things you can do yourself right away to cut your too big to pay utility bills.

Close Off Open Vent Covers

Perhaps in your home, as in almost all homes, there are some rooms that rarely if ever get used. Obviously, a basic and especially inexpensive way to chop your heating and cooling costs down to size is to separate these rooms from the rest of your home. Simply close the duct vents in these rooms. You probably will find this somewhat difficult to do because vents rarely close off entirely. When closed they are not usually sealed tight. So to make this strategy work well, you may have to buy vent covers to place over the vents. These covers are generally made from some sort of plastic material and will keep heat in the winter and cooling in the summer from coming through the vents. Then close the door to these rooms and leave them closed. This strategy effectively reduces the size of your home by eliminating the square footage that must be heated and cooled. The smaller the smaller the square footage area heated and cooled, the smaller the amount of your budget will be needed to buy energy to do so.

Seal Off Your Windows

You are going to find your windows to be the single biggest wasters of expensive energy in your home. It is essential that your windows seal tightly. If they don’t, heat in the winter and cool in the summer will escape from them causing your heating and air conditioning systems to start and run over and over again. By making sure your windows fit tightly into their frame when in the closed position, you can significantly cut your utility bills. This may sound insignificant, but window leakage can really add quickly to wasted energy cost.

Get a Programmable Thermostat Right Away

Heating and cooling your home accounts most of your utility bill. While a warm home in the winter and a cool one in the summer months is absolutely required for healthy living, your home does not need to be heated or cooled 100% of the time. There can be long periods during the day or even the evening when no one is at home perhaps because of work or school schedules. Therefore a programmable thermostat can be used to drastically slash your heating and air conditioning costs. Always program the thermostat to turn off your systems during appropriate “empty house” times and turn them back on before anyone in the family arrives back home. Cutting out from four to eight hours of your heating and cooling needs each and every day will add up very quickly to significant savings on your utility bills.

Weatherization Audit

After doing all of the above suggestions If your utility bills are still completely out of control, there might be something fundamentally wrong with your home. One suggestion is to go ahead and get an energy and weatherization audit. This is a process whereby an auditor will come out and complete an energy efficiency inspection of your home. The inspector should be able to identify the major energy efficiency problems your home has and what you should do about them along with providing other tips to cut your monthly utility bill. An energy audit like this can cut your utility bill up to 50 percent or more depending how bad you house is leaking.

The auditor may also have sources for local assistance programs and low income help that can include weatherization assistance, low income weatherization or even referrals to a low income home energy assistance program and/or a heating assistance program if needed.

Energy costs are extremely high in most parts of the country and they are expected to continue to increase into the foreseeable future. Take these steps outlined in this report to reduce your utility bill now and you’ll enjoy the benefits of doing so for years to come.