Greetings to you all!
As nighttime temperatures dip into the 20’s, Iowans have begun firing up their furnaces to ward off the chill. Even more chilling than the night air is the thought of those higher utility bills that come with winter weather. Although MidAmerican Energy told the Des Moines Register in October that they did not think utility bills would go up this winter, Alliant Energy anticipates a 9.6% increase. Either way, after a few months without air conditioning or heating, bills will grow for many Iowans. Although not pleasant, most families budget for these increases and manage to get by. For some Iowans, however, winter heating bills are not just a nuisance or a cut in discretionary spending; they can mean less food on the table or cutting back on prescription drugs.
The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP) is available to help low-income seniors and families with the cost of heating their home. Applications are granted on a first come, first serve basis. Unfortunately, money often runs out before the winter ends. The federally-funded program does not pay all energy costs, but does provide some assistance for eligible households. For example, a single individual with total gross yearly income of $15,315 or less is eligible. A family of 6, with yearly gross income of $41,415 or less is also eligible. Individuals need to apply at their local community action agency. Applications are accepted from Monday through Friday, starting now through April 15, 2008. You must bring proof of your income for the past 13 weeks and a copy of your heating and electric bills. For more information call 515-281-0859.
The Iowa Utility Commission suggests that, to help save money and energy, Iowans can turn down their thermostats, especially at night or when no one is at home. Other energy saving tips include changing your furnace filters often; having heating systems serviced by qualified professionals on an annual basis; upgrading the insulation in your attic, walls, floors, basement and crawl space; and replacing inefficient windows and furnaces.
Another suggestion from the Utility Commission is to see if your local utility company will provide a free professional energy assessment of your home. Some companies also offer cash rebates to customers for some energy efficiency investments. The Utility Commission also warns Iowans to be careful if they are using small electric space heaters to warm rooms. Although these may be efficient, they can be dangerous. Always place a space heater away from any combustible objects or materials and shut them off when you leave the room or when you may fall asleep. Avoid extension cords for the heaters if possible.
With the 2008 legislative session just around the corner, I want to invite you to share your ideas for legislation at a listening post on Wednesday, November 28th from 9-11 a.m. at the Cedar Falls Community Center, 528 Main Street. A representative from Congressman Bruce Braley office will also be on hand to answer your questions.
On Thursday, November 29th from 7-9 p.m at the University of Northern Iowa’s Seerley Hall Great Reading Room, another listening post will take place. This listening post will focus on discussions relating to the Regent schools in Iowa (Iowa, ISU and UNI). If you are unable to attend either listening post, please send me an email or give me a call with your ideas. My contact information is listed below.