(WXYZ) — As the colder months draw closer, get ready for higher heating bills.
This winter season, the cost to heat your home is expected to increase by 17%. That’s according to a recent report from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association.
But, there are ways to lower those costs and get assistance on bills if needed, according to experts.
“Most definitely,“ David Lee, owner of JLH heating and air conditioning said.
According to Lee, one of the first steps to saving on heat is a good furnace.
"You need a furnace that's reliable. That's efficient," he said. "And, you know, you want to have it operating correctly. If not, your heating bills are going to shoot through the roof.”
So he suggests scheduling annual furnace maintenance and changing the furnace filters at least once every three months or so.
“If your filters are dirty your coils freeze up and then you have water,” Lee said.
Another tip: program your thermostat.
“You set it really two times in a day,” Lee said.
He suggests setting the thermostat to 68 degrees or as low as possible while physically there. While sleeping or away for eight hours, bring that temperature down even lower by 7 to 10 degrees.
According to DTE, you can save as much as $180 a year doing this.
Another tip: use a whole-house humidifier.
“When you bring some moisture into your home, it actually helps it feel a lot more comfortable,” Lee said.
You can get a whole-house humidifier integrated into your furnace and they are more cost-effective than portable ones. They also only need a new filter once a year.
Next tip: seal up leaky doors and windows because Lee says major heat loss happens in those places.
“Also, opening up your blinds or curtains on a sunny day and letting the warmth come in is another easy way to save money on your bill,” he adds.
DTE offers free walk-through consultations for residents living in single-family homes, duplexes, or condos.
An easier tip: dress warmly inside your home.
Now if you’re worried about paying your bill on time this season, here are some helpful steps to remember:
- The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) suggests contacting your utility company or propane supplier as soon as you realize you won’t be able to pay your bill. Don’t wait for your fuel or electricity to be shut off.
- Call 211 for help. You can also go online to www.Mi211.Org. Both will have information about agencies where you live that can assist you with your energy bill.
- Apply for relief. The State Emergency Relief (SER) program helps low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills or have service restored. You can apply on MI Bridges or call your local Department of Health and Human Services office.
- Work with community partners. MDHHS has resources to help you work through the process of applying for assistance.
Bottom line–electric, natural gas, and even propane bills can take a big bite out of your household budget so, it’s important to know there is help available if you need it.