INDIANAPOLIS (October 6, 2009) - Natural gas bills in Indiana and throughout the nation are expected to be significantly lower this year than a year ago. However, it is still important for all Hoosiers to take steps to prepare for the winter. Indiana utilities are allowed to pass dollar-for-dollar wholesale natural gas costs through to customers following state review and approval.
"There are measures, both large and small, that each of us can take to reduce our energy use and curb utility expenses," said Lt. Governor Becky Skillman. "Whether you are replacing your furnace with a new energy efficient one, or simply caulking your windows and turning your thermostat down, every little bit helps to reduce your bills."
Lt. Governor Skillman joined state agency and utility leaders this afternoon at the home of Ernest and Rozenia Williams, who expect their heating bill to be reduced by about 35 percent this winter because of improvements that are now underway.
The Williams' home is being weatherized through a program sponsored by Community Action of Greater Indianapolis, Citizens Gas and Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL). The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) is distributing state and federal funds to multiple groups throughout Indiana for weatherization activities.
"While not every home will need all of these improvements, all residential customers and businesses can improve their energy efficiency and reduce their bills," said Skillman. "In addition, I strongly recommend the budget billing programs offered by natural gas and electric utilities throughout the state. These programs will give you predictability on your bills by spreading the costs out over time."
Assistance is also available for Hoosiers who take these steps, but still have difficulty paying higher winter bills.
Community Action Agencies began accepting applications and appointments for Indiana's Energy Assistance Program (EAP) on October 5, 2009. This federally funded program was designed to offer low-income Hoosiers assistance with winter heating bills. Households that are not in an energy emergency are encouraged to call and schedule an appointment with their local agency. Agencies then meet individually with applicants to determine eligibility. For the 2008-2009 winter heating season, the IHCDA allocated nearly $86 million in federal heating assistance to Community Action Agencies throughout the state.
For questions about weatherization or energy assistance, Hoosiers can contact the IHCDA at 1-800-872-0371. The income qualifications for the EAP programs are 150% of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four making less than $33,075 would qualify, as well as an individual with an income of $16,245 or less. The average benefit is around $360 per year, and is paid in a lump sum directly to the applicant's utility company. Last year, IHCDA's Energy Assistance Program served more than 197,000 households. For a complete list of Community Action Agencies and the areas they serve, please visit www.in.gov/ihcda/2523.htm.
Skillman was joined today by Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) Chairman David Lott Hardy, Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler, IHCDA representatives, and executives from the state's three largest natural gas utilities.
Other events to promote weatherization will be held throughout the state during the heating season. Additional information on weatherization, budget billing and energy safety is available from state agency and utility Web sites as noted below.
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Make sure your home or business has proper insulation.
Properly maintain your heating system (including changing the filter regularly).
Use a programmable thermostat (or turn the temperature down a few degrees during bedtime and when the home or business is unoccupied).
Check weather stripping, caulk and seals and make needed repairs.
Make sure furnace ducts are properly sealed.
Insulate your water heater (if the manufacturer's instructions allow).
Purchase and use appliances with the Energy Star label.
Wear appropriate winter clothing and adjust your thermostat accordingly.
Take additional small steps to improve efficiency (such as opening draperies during the day but closing them at night and setting ceiling fans to run clockwise during winter).
Energy safety tips:
Keep space heaters away from furniture, draperies and rugs. Do not let children or pets go near them, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Do not use a space heater when sleeping, and never leave one unattended.
Only use a kerosene heater in a well-ventilated area.
Never use an oven or stove to heat the home.
If you smell natural gas or otherwise suspect a leak, leave the premises immediately. Once you are off the property and can no longer smell the leak, call 911.
Don't overload extension cords or electric outlets. Do not use outlets with loose-fitting plugs.
Check pilot lights on gas appliances regularly. The pilot light should be a steady, blue flame.
Never touch a downed power line; always assume that every power line is live.
For more information on energy efficiency, budget billing and safety:
For low-income billing and weatherization assistance:
Insulation deduction on state income taxes:
Indiana Department of Revenue: IT-40 booklet, page 20, www.in.gov/dor.
Federal income tax credits for energy efficiency:
News Media Contacts:
Anthony Swinger, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), 317/233-2747
Danielle Dravet, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), 317/232-2297
Amber Seidler, Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA), 317/232-7781
Dan Considine, Citizens Gas, 317/407-9254
Chase Kelley, Vectren, 812/491-4205
Nick Meyer, NIPSCO, 219/647-6556
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