Now that COVID-19 has us all keeping our distance from the outside world, it might be productive (and healthy for your outlook) to take a brief break from the dreary headlines and check a few things off your utility to-do list.
1. Haven’t had the chance to get your bills analyzed by CUB at a utility bill clinic? Now is the time—just virtually! Send us your electric, natural gas, and telecom bills, and we will look them over to see if you’re signed up with an alternative supplier and if you’re paying for unnecessary products and services.
We’ll also let you know how your usage compares to other consumers, tell you if you’re eligible for money-saving programs, including financial assistance, and guide you to free energy-efficiency products and services.
Email CUB at UBC@citizensutilityboard.org with a copy of your bills (Put “Attn: Virtual Utility Bill Clinic” in the subject line). Feel free to redact your personal information, but be sure to include the account holder’s name and where we should send the analysis.
2. Set up an account with your utilities’ online services. Registering for online access has its benefits—many utilities allow you to easily make payments, update your contact information, access account information, view your current and previous bills, and review your usage history. Some allow you to sign up for digital or E-bills, which can streamline the billing process.
To sign up with your utility, you’ll most likely need:
- Your utility account number;
- An email address you check regularly;
- Your primary phone number (the number you provided when starting your service); and
- The last 4 digits of the primary account holder’s social security number.
To sign up with:
- Ameren, visit this webpage.
- ComEd, visit this webpage. (FYI, here’s a nice tour of ComEd’s website.)
- Nicor, visit this webpage.
- Peoples Gas, visit this webpage.
- North Shore Gas, visit this webpage.
3. Make the switch to LEDs, and finish up your energy efficiency to-do list. LEDs are the most sustainable light bulb on the market right now. Traditional bulbs expel 90 percent of the energy they use as heat, according to the Department of Energy. That can be a fire hazard and a big money waster. Most LED bulbs have a lifespan of 20,000 to 50,000 hours and are 80 percent more efficient than other bulbs. The Washington Post reported that a typical home switching from incandescent to LED bulbs could save $600 a year. Buying longer-lasting, more efficient LED bulbs can really pay off.
Instead of making an unnecessary trip to the store, try ordering your bulbs from the comfort (and quarantine) of your home by shopping online on Amazon or a hardware supplier website, such as Home Depot, Menards, or Lowe’s. No matter what brand of bulb you buy, make sure it is Energy Star-approved for maximum efficiency savings. If you aren’t sure about a purchase, consult CUB’s guide to buying LEDs.
BONUS: Take a trip to your basement, and lower the temperature on your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees). For every 10 degree reduction in temperature, you can save up to 5% on your water heating costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. When water heating accounts for around 12% of a family’s utility bill, that can make a big difference.