Winter Energy Savings Tips That Can Save You Money on Your Energy Bill

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As the winter season is upon us, I would like to offer tips on how to save money on your winter heating bill. With energy prices going up, it pays to be smart about your energy use.

First, did you know your furnace needs a periodic tune up? Replace or clean your furnace filters every year. Keep your furnace lubricated and working properly. I have an old gas gravity heater in my San Francisco home, and PG&E will come out every few years and check it (including cleaning it) for free.

Second, my Chinese American mother always told us to wear a warm sweater in the winter so she would not have to heat our Stockton home so much. Try putting on your sweater and then adjust your winter thermostat to 68 degrees. Lower the thermostat more when you leave the house. Why pay to heat the house when you aren’t there? Lowering your thermostat 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit can save you 20 percent on your heating bill

Third, check that your home has proper weather stripping around window and doors so you aren’t losing heat. There is nothing worse than a cold, drafty house! How do you know if you need weather stripping? On a windy day, go to each door and window and see if you can feel cold air. Sometimes, three edges of a window are fine but one edge is not. Sealing your home with tight weather stripping will keep you warmer inside and help lower your energy bill at the same time.

Third, for low-income customers, your energy utility has programs to give you a 20 percent discount on your gas and electric bill if you qualify under the total household incomes below:

Household Size Care Income Limit
1 to 2 $30,500
3 $35,800
4 $43,200
5 $50,600
6 $58,000
Each additional $7,400

If you think you qualify for the 20 percent discount, call your local energy utility. Here are the CARE numbers for the three largest energy utilities in California:

PG&E: 1-866-743-2273 (toll free)
Southern California Edison: 1-866-743-2273 (toll free)
San Diego Gas and Electric: 1-800-411-7343 (toll free)

If you are of low income and in a crisis situation, such as having received a 24-hour or 48-hour disconnect notice or service termination from your utility company, the state’s Energy Crisis Intervention Program may be able to help you by making one payment a year for you. Contact them at 1-800-433-4327.

By making simple changes in your home and taking advantage of consumer programs offered by California and its utilities, you can save energy and money and have a warm and happy winter.

- Rachelle Chong is a member of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

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