Dangerously low temperatures and up to a foot of snow prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to issue a disaster proclamation for all 102 counties and warn Illinois consumers about the possibility of “soaring utility bills.” .
“The sub-zero temperatures are resulting in increased demand and decreased supply, causing natural gas prices to spike,” the governor’s news release said Tuesday. “Utility companies across the nation are reporting soaring wholesale costs, and without federal intervention, those increased prices could result in higher utility bills for Illinois residents in the coming weeks.”
Responding to the governor’s proclamation CUB issued a consumer alert with tips on how to stay safe and warm.
- Don’t take risks. Don’t use your oven to heat your home. If you use a space heater, place it on a hard, level surface; don’t use an extension cord; keep it at least three feet away from flammable objects such as the couch or curtains; and don’t leave it on overnight. Keep your home at a safe temperature (about 68-70 degrees). Blasting the heat can be bad for your heating bills, but going too low is dangerous to your health and can freeze pipes.
- Don’t overwork your heating system. Close blinds or cover your windows with blankets as an extra layer of protection against icy night winds. But open them during the day so sunlight can help heat your home. Clear radiators, registers, air returns and baseboards of obstructions. Dust, carpet and furniture can block the heat and leave a room chilly. You can’t heat your home if the air isn’t circulating.
- Reduce the drafts. This bitter cold is an opportunity to pinpoint drafts in your home. Your hardware store can provide the materials to seal those leaks, but CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen told Rockford TV station WTVO that consumers can improvise if necessary during extreme weather situations like this. For example, if you don’t have a door guard or sweep to block cold air under your front and back doors, use a rolled up towel or rug to block the drafts.
- Clean or replace filters for a forced-air heating system. A dirty or non-functioning filter does nothing but drain money from your wallet. Check it every month—and now is a great time to clean or replace it if it’s dirty.
- Beware of bad deals. If your gas or electric bill is skyrocketing, check to see if you’re paying for a bad deal with an alternative supplier. Look if there’s another company listed on the supply section of your utility bill.
- Inquire about assistance. Extreme cold has led to frozen natural gas wells in other states, and the limits on supply along with increased demand may cause elevated gas prices in weeks to come. Homes that can’t afford their heating bills should contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to see if they qualify for assistance: 1-877-411-9276.
- Check on your neighbors. Make sure your neighbors are OK. KeepWarm.Illinois.gov has information on where Illinoisans can find warming centers.
For more tips on staying safe and practicing energy efficiency in cold weather, read our recent blog, “Worst cold snap in two years—tips on staying safe, warm and energy-efficient in Illinois winters.”