Keeping the heat on

By George Darany
Now that the weather is turning cooler, many families are turning up the heat in their homes to stay warm. Michigan winters can be harsh and paying our heating bills can be a challenge. Below are some tips that can help you stay warm this winter while saving money on your heating bill:

• Clean or replace your furnace air filter regularly and, if able, have a professional check your furnace each year.

• Lower the thermostat at night and when no one is home, and close your curtains to keep the heat in and the cold out.

• Wash clothes in cold water.

• Check heat ducts for leaks.

• Set the hot water heater to 120 degrees and insulate the heater and pipes.

• Use caulk, weather stripping and plastic sheets to fix any drafty windows or doors.

If you need assistance with your utility bill, DTE Energy and The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) may be able to help.

DTE Energy has a Winter Protection Plan that helps low income senior citizens keep the heat on. This plan runs from Nov. 1 through March 31. During this time, customers must pay a portion of their estimated annual bill, plus regular payments on any past-due bills.

After March 31, the required payment will increase to cover winter bills. To enroll in this program, call 800-477-4747 between Nov. 15 and March 31. To qualify for this program you must meet at least one of the following requirements: age 62 or older, receive Department of Human Services assistance or have a household income at or below the level stated in the Household Income Eligibility Guidelines.

Information is available at
www.dteenergy.com/residentialCustomers/saveEnergy/

THAW also may be able to help with assistance if you meet certain eligibility requirements. You can receive assistance from THAW once per year for each utility, as long as funding lasts. Please call 800-866-THAW (8429) to apply for help or go to www.thawfund.org/how_help/program_eligible for more details.

Additional Contact Information for Assistance Agencies:

• St. Vincent De Paul: 877-788-4623
• Michigan Association of United Ways: 211

• Salvation Army of Eastern Michigan: 248-443-5500

Contact Information for State Departments:

• Michigan Department of Human Services: 855-275-6424

• Michigan Public Service Commission: 800-292-9555

• Area Agency on Aging 1C: 800-815-1112

It is important to note that a recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision has jeopardized heating assistance for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Legislation is needed to correct this problem and I have been working with the legislative leaders in Lansing to find a solution. I am optimistic that a solution will be available and remain committed to finding it, especially when so many are still facing difficult economic times.

The Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund (LIEFF) was created in 2000 and provides protection for low-income consumers against utility shut-off and helps promote energy efficiency among consumers. While this fund is frozen in escrow, money has been appropriated for the Low-Income Energy Assistance grants and the Low-Income Energy Efficiency grants.

Please go to the Michigan Public Service Commission website (www.michigan.gov/bewinterwise) for information about energy conservation and other assistance programs.

(State Rep. George Darany represents the 15th House District. To contact him, call 855-775-1515 or email him at georgetdarany@house.mi.gov. To sign up for his e-newsletter, go to his website, house.mi.gov/gdarany.)

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