Lansing, MI - The Michigan Public Service Commission is urging Michiganders to plan ahead to make sure your utility bills are manageable when the weather turns cold.
Space heating in Michigan homes takes up about 55 percent of a household’s energy use annually, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Here are six things to do to prepare your home and household budget for winter bills:
- Contact a certified professional and schedule a furnace tune-up so it runs more efficiently. Replace filters regularly; clogged filters make a furnace work harder. If replacing the furnace, look for the ENERGY STAR logo, which indicates a high-efficiency product.
- Discuss with your utility provider programs that can help to manage costs. Ask about or sign up for demand response or time-of-use programs, a budget plan, low-income assistance, active duty military shutoff protection or a winter protection plan.
- Research options before signing up with a propane provider. Locking in a contract now can mean lower prices. More than 8 percent of Michigan households use propane as their primary heating fuel, and the state leads the nation in total residential consumption.
- Now’s the ideal time to tackle home improvements that reduce energy waste. Seal cracks around windows and doors to keep heat from escaping. Check air ducts and seal openings against leaks. Insulate attics and crawl spaces. Install a programmable thermostat, which can save an estimated 10 percent a year on heating and cooling. Familiarize yourself with how to safely operate supplemental heating sources for your home, and portable generators should you lose power.
- Apply by Sept. 30 for the Home Heating Credit using Michigan tax form MI-1040CR-7. Contact the Michigan Department of Treasury or the federal Internal Revenue Service about the Earned Income Tax Credit, which could offset some living expenses by helping pay utility bills. Familiarize yourself with protections from shutoffs for those with medical emergencies or needing critical care. Call 211, a free phone service that links people with information or agencies that can help with utility assistance.
- If you’re considering purchasing your natural gas through an alternative gas supplier, be sure to shop around. Browse the MPSC’s CompareMIGas website to compare the rates of suppliers serving in your utility service area, but be sure you understand the terms and conditions before signing a contract.
For information about the MPSC, visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc.