Frequently Asked Questions
Can CUB help me pay my utility bills? How do I qualify for financial assistance?
CUB does not provide financial assistance, but we do provide information on resources available to people having difficulty affording their utility bills. Visit our page dedicated to resources for lower income electric, gas and telecom customers.
What is budget billing?
Illinois gas and electric utilities offer “budget billing” plans that allow customers to even out their monthly bills. Budget-billing plans don’t reduce the amount customers pay. Instead, these plans spread payments out over a certain period, usually a year. Natural gas customers on a budget billing plan pay more than they would in the summer and less in the winter, while the opposite is true for electric customers. Read our fact sheet on budget billing plans.
How do I cut my electric and gas bills?
The most reliable way to cut your energy bills is through energy efficiency. Visit our webpage devoted to efficiency programs offered by Illinois utilities.
How do I cut my phone, cable and Internet bills?
CUB offers free guides with tips on how to cut your telecom, cable and Internet bills and how to reduce automated telemarketing calls. Visit our online catalogue to request a copy of any guide.
Can utilities disconnect my gas and electric service in the winter?
Contrary to popular belief, your utility can disconnect your heat in the winter or your electricity in the summer. State regulations limit disconnections for nonpayment, but the details are complex.
Residential accounts are safe from disconnection:
- When it is below 32 degrees or expected to fall below 32 degrees within the next 24-hour period, and disconnection would affect your heat.
- When it is above 95 degrees or expected to rise above 95 degrees within the next 24-hour period (electricity only).
- On any day preceding a weekend or holiday when temperatures are expected to meet the above criteria.
There are other protections available, but also instances where the utility can cut you off immediately. Read the details on pages 14-20 in CUB’s free Gas and Electric Guide. Also, you can call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, at 1-800-669-5556, to talk to a trained consumer rights counselor about your rights.
I received a disconnection notice. What are my options?
If you receive a disconnection notice, call the utility immediately to discuss your options. You may need to enter into a deferred payment arrangement, and in certain circumstances, you may be able to use a medical certificate to postpone disconnection. If you cannot afford your bills, you could be eligible for financial assistance. Do everything you can to keep from getting shut off. If you are shut off, you lose all of the rights and protections that exist for active customers.
For more info, please call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, at 1-800-669-5556, to talk to a trained consumer counselor about your rights. Also consult CUB’s free Gas and Electric Guide (pages 14-20).
What is an alternative supplier? Do I have to choose one?
Traditionally, a utility charges you for the gas or electric you use and the cost of delivering it to your home. However, many customers in Illinois have the option to choose an alternative supplier to supply the gas or electric instead of your utility. No, you do not have to choose an alternative supplier. Read CUB’s fact sheets to learn more about electric and gas alternative suppliers.
Which alternative supplier do you recommend?
CUB does not recommend specific alternative suppliers. In fact, the regular utility is likely your best bet in the market. Historically, utility companies have offered the lowest prices. CUB has seen alternative suppliers charging double the utility rate or more. It’s important to compare prices before signing up with a supplier. For more information about alternative suppliers, read our fact sheets on electric and gas.
What is an alternative supplier green plan? Is it a good idea?
If you sign up for a green plan, you pay an alternative supplier to invest in clean energy on your behalf.
Signing up for such a plan can be a legitimate choice in Illinois’ electricity market, but it is not your only environmentally-friendly choice and does not mean your home will be directly powered by renewable energy. CUB’s Guide to Renewable Energy Plans goes into greater detail about these plans and how they work.
Can CUB help me with a water bill issue?
CUB typically does not work on water or wastewater issues. Most communities in Illinois have municipal water service, meaning the local government runs the water system. CUB does not have jurisdiction over municipal utilities, so if you are a customer of a municipal water department, we recommend contacting the department, your alderman’s office; and/or the office of your state legislator if you have a question, concern or complaint about your service.
If you have a question or complaint about a private water corporation, please call our consumer hotline, at 1-800-669-5556. Also, we have an ongoing campaign educating consumers about water privatization and its impact on customers: Please visit Big Profits, Big Bills.
What is Community Solar?
Community solar is an opportunity to go solar without installing solar panels on your home or property. Community solar gardens are built in your community and then shared by multiple subscribers — people like you! — who receive credit on their electricity bill for the power produced by their portion of the solar garden. Visit Solar in the Community to learn more.
Does CUB recommend solar installers?
CUB does not recommend specific solar installers. We suggest comparing as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices for your system. Talk to at least three installers before signing any contracts. Find residential solar installers near you by visiting the Illinois Solar Energy Association website. For more information on going solar, read our rooftop solar fact sheet.
Are there low-income internet options?
Yes, CUB has a fact sheet on internet options for lower-income consumers.