Consumers can't count on lower heating costs

Cold weather, energy rate hikes put focus on wise use, saving dollars

Recent rate increases by both Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA) and Greeley Gas Company (GGC), coupled with freezing temperatures and early snows, have Moffat County residents looking for ways to save money while staying warm inside their homes.

Greeley Gas raised its rates 10 cents, up to 69 cents per ccf (100 cubic feet of natural gas) on Nov. 1, according to Karen Wilkes, public affairs manager.

"We do have a level payment plan for customer billings, called Budget Billing," she said.

For Budget Billing, the company totals a customer's gas usage for the previous year, then divides that total by 12 to get a base monthly rate for this year.

Any difference, higher or lower, in the total bill for the year is charged out in the twelfth month.

"It is really up to the customer to keep an eye on their usage to help keep the costs down," Wilkes said.

YVEA raised its rates in October. According to YVEA Manager of Consumer Accounts Jim Chapel, the increases will show up on customer's January bill.

Several programs are available to help consumers with home weatherization and energy improvements.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance program works with the Colorado State Governor's Office to help offset energy costs for low-income families by installing cost-effective energy efficiency measures.

For information on how to qualify for free energy improvements in your home, call the Energy Saving Partners Heatline, 1-888-432-8546.

For information on emergency assistance with energy and heating costs, call the Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation (CEAF), (303) 825-8750.

To help others stay warm this winter, tax-deductible donations can be sent to CEAF, 518 17th St., Suite 1390, Denver, CO 80202.

STAY WARM THIS WINTER

Home heating costs are up 20 to 40 percent be prepared with these tips.

No matter how cold it gets outside, there are ways to keep your home, and energy bill, at a comfortable level during the winter. Wilkes and Chapel offer these money-saving tips and suggestions:

n Set your thermostat to a temperature where you are comfortable with a sweater on. Lower your thermostat five degrees while you sleep. Each degree you increase your thermostat above 70 will increase your bill by three percent. For each degree below 70 (up to a 60 degree setting), you will save three percent on your bill. Chapel said as much as 10 percent a year can be saved on heating bills by simply turning the thermostat back nine degrees at night while you are sleeping, or when the house is unoccupied. Using a programmable thermostat will do that automatically. Keep lamps away from the thermostat to reduce false readings.

n Set water heater temperatures at 120 degrees. Install water flow restrictors in showerheads and faucets.

n Check your furnace filter often. Replace or clean it as needed, but at least once every two months during the heating season.

"A dirty furnace filter can drive up your home heating costs," Wilke said.

n Use caulking or weather stripping to seal air leaks around doors, windows and other openings, such as pipes or ducts.

n Use draperies, blinds, curtains, or shutters on all windows to slow the loss of heat through the glass. Open window coverings on sunny days to let in the sun's warmth. Close them at night or on cloudy days to keep the cold air out.

n Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly in cold weather. In just one hour, these fans can blow away a houseful of warm air.

n Make sure your furniture is placed next to inside walls instead of outside walls, and away from drafty windows. Avoid blocking heat registers and returns with furniture, draperies or carpet.

n Check to see if your attic and basement (or crawl space) have enough insulation.

n Do not use any unvented appliance inside your home, such as gas or charcoal grills, kerosene or propane heaters. Do not use your oven to heat your home.

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