Winter Bills FAQ
- I may not be able to afford to pay my bill. What do I do?
If you receive a bill that you may have difficulty paying on time and in full, contact your utility immediately. Utilities will generally work with customers who face financial hardships, but the customer must:
- Contact the utility as quickly as possible,
- Follow through on any agreed payment arrangement, and
- Immediately contact the utility regarding any changes that could affect the arrangement.
Investigate all billing options including payment arrangements and budget billing. If you need a payment arrangement, it is critical to request it as early as possible.
Apply for financial assistance programs if you qualify or believe you do.
The federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offers payment assistance during the winter months.
- Qualified consumers can be protected under the state’s disconnection moratorium from Dec. 1 through Mar. 15.
- You can apply online or at your county's intake office.
- Households at or below 60 percent of the state's median income may qualify.
- To learn more about the moratorium see the OUCC's fact sheet.
- Consumers who qualify for LIHEAP may also qualify for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).
Township trustees throughout the state offer financial assistance. Many utilities also have assistance programs.
Additional federal, state, and local assistance may be available depending on your situation and location. Indiana's 211 helpline is available 24/7 and can provide information about additional local-level assistance programs and resources. Simply call 2-1-1 or visit www.in211.communityos.org.
- I got a disconnection notice. What do I do?
If you have received a disconnection notice, contact the utility immediately to discuss the notice and any payment plan options. Do not wait until the last few days before the scheduled disconnection date. In addition, contact Indiana 2-1-1 to learn about local resources for financial assistance.
The OUCC offers an online summary of disconnection rules for IURC regulated utilities.
- I don't understand my bill. What do these charges mean?
- My bill is more expensive than last year. Why?
There are several national and global factors that have contributed to higher utility bills.
Natural gas utilities purchase gas for their customers through a competitive wholesale market. Electric utilities contract or purchase coal and natural gas to burn at their power plants. In addition, electric utilities purchase power from the competitive wholesale market to supply power to its customers.
Wholesale natural gas costs have risen globally due to extreme winter weather in 2021, supply and demand issues, the war in Ukraine, and inflation. These same factors, along with fuel transportation issues, have contributed to higher costs for coal and purchased power.
Gas and electric utilities are allowed to recover wholesale costs on a dollar-for-dollar basis, subject to OUCC review and IURC approval every three, six, or twelve months. These proceedings can raise or reduce utility rates. Utilities must show they are not profiting off the pass-throughs, and that they have shopped prudently in the market as required by law.
Utility base rates have also risen throughout the nation due to replacements of aging infrastructure, increased system reliability, security and cybersecurity needs, and additional factors. In Indiana, a utility must receive IURC approval before raising base rates. The OUCC represents all consumer interests in these cases. A rate case is a legal proceeding similar to a civil court case, in which the utility has the burden of proof.
- How can I lower my usage?
One of the best ways to manage your bill is to improve your home’s energy efficiency. You can make a number of changes at little or no cost:
- Make sure your HVAC system has a clean filter. Change or clean it regularly.
- Look at your attic’s insulation if you haven’t done so in a few years.
- Keep vents clean and make sure they are not blocked by rugs or furniture.
- Lower the thermostat a few degrees when going to bed or leaving home for more than 5 hours. A “smart” thermostat can do this automatically. Contact your utility and ask if it offers rebates on new thermostats.
- Close the damper if you have a fireplace you are not using.
- Unplug phone chargers and other electronic devices when you are not using them.
- Check the temperature on your water heater. Usually, it does not need to be higher than 115 or 120 degrees.
- Caulk, weather strip, and seal drafty windows and doorways.
- If you’re buying new appliances, look for the Energy Star and WaterSense labels. Be aware that your utility may offer rebates.
The OUCC offers more energy efficiency tips in our fact sheet. In addition, consumers should check with their electric and gas utilities to see what energy efficiency programs they offer. These may include an energy audit, either in person or online.
Additional online resources include:
- Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick
- Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments (US Department of Energy)
- Home Energy Savings Calculator (Berkeley Lab)