CUB Help Center
Winter Weather Alert: Stay safe and warm
CUB has updated this page with helpful resources during winter weather.
- Stay up-to-date with National Weather Service forecasts (click on the part of Illinois where you live). Also, Illinois-specific winter alerts are here.
- Check out CUB’s winter preparedness tips. There are a lot of links to helpful resources during rough winter weather and cold temperatures.
- See power outage maps for Ameren Illinois, ComEd and MidAmerican.
- Ameren Payment Assistance: Ameren Illinois offers several forms of financial assistance, including short-term, one-time payment extensions and fixed monthly payment agreements to settle past balances. (For example, Warm Neighbors Cool Friends provides year-round energy bill payment assistance and home weatherization. Eligible households can receive up to $350 during the heating season and $200 during the cooling season.)
- ComEd Smart Assistance Manager (SAM) and ComEd Payment Assistance: ComEd’s programs provide financial assistance on electric bills for qualified customers.
- Illinois Solar for All is a state-run program that makes solar more accessible for income-eligible residents. See CUB’s Guide to Illinois Solar for All.
- Share the Warmth (Peoples Gas): Share the Warmth provides heating grants to limited and fixed-income households. Eligible customers can receive grants of up to $200 on their bills.
- Share the Warmth (North Shore Gas): Share the Warmth provides heating grants to limited and fixed-income households. Eligible customers can receive grants of up to $200 on their bills.
- Nicor Gas Sharing Program: One-time annual grants are given, with no requirement to be paid back, to qualified residential customers who meet the required income guidelines. The Nicor Gas Sharing Program is administered by the Salvation Army and funded through direct contributions from Nicor Gas’ customers and employees.
- Ameren Payment Assistance: Ameren Illinois offers several forms of financial assistance, including short-term, one-time payment extensions and fixed monthly payment agreements to settle past balances. (For example, under Warm Neighbors Cool Friends eligible households can receive up to $350 during the heating season and $200 during the cooling season.)
- FindHelp.org can help you locate a wide range of assistance programs based on your Zip Code.
- Contact charities, such as the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and the Heartland Alliance, to see if they offer assistance for utility bills.
- Contact your municipality to see if they have assistance programs for residents. Visit Keep Warm Illinois and Keep Cool Illinois for state-level utility bill resources.
- Check with religious institutions and ask family and friends if they know of organizations providing assistance.
- Warming and cooling centers are available in state facilities across Illinois. These facilities are safe places to go to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The centers’ hours vary by location and are limited to each facility’s regular business hours. Find a warming center or a cooling center.
Note: CUB does not offer financial assistance and does not have an affiliation with or oversight of any of the above-mentioned programs. Please contact those programs directly.
If you receive a disconnection notice, call the company immediately to discuss your options. If you cannot afford your bills, you could be eligible for financial assistance. 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. Do everything you can to prevent disconnection. If you are shut off, you lose all of the rights and protections that exist for active customers.
It’s a myth that the utility can never disconnect your heat in the winter or your electricity in the summer. State regulations do limit disconnections for nonpayment, but the details are complex. Residential accounts deemed to be in compliance with state regulations are safe from disconnection:
- When the temperature is below 32 degrees or expected to fall below 32 degrees within the next 24-hour period, and disconnection would affect your heat.
- When the temperature 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.
- If it’s between December 1 and March 31 AND if the utility accepted LIHEAP funds on the account after September 1 of that heating season.
- If it’s between December 1 and March 31 and you have an electric heat account (meaning your primary source of heat is electricity).
- If it’s between December 1 and March 31 and you are a service member who has just been assigned to duty.
Beware of alternative gas and electricity supplier rip-offs.
- The utility is likely your best bet.
- Going with an alternative supplier will NOT protect you from utility rate hikes. Those hikes impact delivery rates, what we pay the utilities to deliver gas and electricity to our homes. Everyone pays those rates, even if they’re with an alternative supplier.
- If you shop, be wary of:
- A low introductory rate that will skyrocket after a short period. (Ask how long a rate lasts, and what the new rate will be.)
- Add-on fees that raise the cost of the plan. (Scan the fine print.)
- Force majeure. Companies charging a fixed rate, which would presumably protect a customer from a spike in prices, could claim “force majeure.” That’s a legal term to describe a company claiming it can no longer honor a contract because of unforeseeable circumstances beyond its control. Read the fine print.
- With electricity supply, check if your community has negotiated a “municipal aggregation” deal. Municipal aggregation is when community leaders negotiate with an alternative supplier to secure a reasonable electricity price. Savings aren’t guaranteed, but your community may have secured a lower supply rate than your utility. Just make sure to find out when the offer expires.
- Read our fact sheets on energy choice for Nicor Gas customers, Nor
th Shore/Peoples Gas customers, ComEd customers and Ameren customers.
General Efficiency and Safety Tips
Practice these year-round energy efficiency tips, including:
- Don’t keep your home too cold or too hot to save money– efficiency is about safety and comfort. Read our cold weather and hot weather safety tips.
- The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat at about 76-78 degrees in summer (a bit higher when you’re asleep or away) and about 68 degrees in winter (a bit lower when you’re asleep or away). Never set the thermostat at a temperature that threatens your health.
- In the winter, 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.
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat. Some utility companies (Nicor, Peoples Gas and ComEd, for example) offer a free home energy assessment that can install a new programmable thermostat at no cost.
- Weatherize doors and windows to prevent any heating and cooling loss to drafty areas. Energy Star has a great guide for getting started and many Illinois utilities offer rebates for sealing and insulation. Check attics and crawlspaces to see if you need to make insulation improvements.
- Maintain your HVAC system. Clean or change filters regularly (every 1-2 months during the cooling season) and get a system performance checkup from an HVAC technician to see where your system may be costing you more money than necessary.
- An energy-efficient model can save 20-40% of your energy costs.
- If you have central air, schedule your yearly check-up with the HVAC technician. (Here’s an AC maintenance guide from the Department of Energy.)
- Get power outage tips and how to prepare your home for a winter storm.
- Special centers are available in state facilities across Illinois to help consumers stay safe in the winter or summer. Find warming and cooling centers near you. Many of those are open during business hours. Tollway Oasis locations are open 24 hours a day.
Quick CUB Resources
See the CUB Services section for more information.
Solar and Efficiency Programs
- Community Solar is a new program that allows consumers to enjoy savings and other solar power benefits without having to install panels at their homes. Visit our online resource, SolarInTheCommunity.com, for more information.
- Solar Switch is a group-purchasing program for installing residential solar panels at a discount. We are partnering with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and local counties for this helpful solar program. Read CUB’s Guide to Solar to learn more about your solar energy options in the state of Illinois.
- Illinois Solar for All is a state-run program that makes solar more accessible for income-eligible residents. Thanks to funding through Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), consumers can take advantage of the benefits of solar at little or no cost. See CUB’s Guide to Illinois Solar for All.
Utility Efficiency Programs
- ComEd Energy Efficiency Programs
- Ameren Illinois Efficiency Programs
- Nicor Gas Efficiency Programs
- North Shore Gas Efficiency Programs
- Peoples Gas Efficiency Programs
- Grow Geo is our geothermal heat pump group-buy program in partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois. Learn how a heat pump can heat and cool your home more efficiently.
- Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program
- Chicago Bungalow Association Energy Savers Program
- Federal/State Energy Efficiency Incentives
- CUB’s Guide to the Inflation Reduction Act
- Use CUB’s toll-free Consumer Hotline and online complaint system: If you have a complaint or question about your utility service, please do not hesitate to call CUB, 1-800-669-5556, to talk to an expert 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or to file a complaint online.
- Free utility-bill analysis: Email photos or copies of your bills to [email protected]. A staffer will review your bills and follow up with you via email or phone. (This service also is available in Spanish.)
- Attend one of CUB’s in-person or virtual events across the state of Illinois.
- Become a CUB Member to receive a copy of the CUB Voice, our quarterly printed newsletter.
- Have CUB hold a presentation for your community groups. These presentations can cover a number of utility-related topics, such as reducing your utility costs, Illinois’ solar options and how to sign up for energy efficiency programs. If your community group is interested in such a program, please email Kate Shonk, CUB’s Sustainable Communities Liaison.
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