Utility programs offer $37 million in savings on energy bills this winter

News-DemocratOctober 14, 2013 

Heating costs for the coming winter are expected to cost Illinois homeowners 13 percent more than last year, but a consumer advocacy group says utility companies offer $37 million in savings.

On Monday, the Citizens Utility Board announced that these programs are provided by utility companies like Ameren, which provides electricity and natural gas services throughout the metro-east area, and will be important in the face of higher energy costs. CUB spokesman Patrick Deignan said according to the federal Energy Information Administration, Illinois families spend more than $2,000 a year on energy, 2 percent above the national average.

"Nobody can control the weather, but we can get a handle on our utility bills, and energy efficiency is the best tool to do that," Deignan said. "Actually last year, bills were a bit lower than normal. So a 13 percent increase over last year is actually close to on par with some of our winters over the last five years. We did have a pretty mild winter last year."

He said that these money-saving programs do not require consumers make extreme changes. These changes range from buying inexpensive energy-efficient light bulbs to taking advantage of $1,000 rebates for heating and cooling equipment.

Deignan also said that almost a third of Illinoisans own a second refrigerator, which can consume a large amounts of energy. Ameren has a program that will help homeowners dispose of their second refrigerator for $50. The utility company also provides home energy audits for $49.

"CUB wants to smash myths about energy efficiency," he said. "Using these programs proves that efficiency doesn't involve sacrifice and doesn't have to be difficult. Efficiency has always been about keeping your home comfortable by using less energy. It's not about forcing people to make drastic lifestyle changes, like wearing your winter coat to bed. The program involves simple steps that homeowners can take to cut their bills."

For more information, go online to www.citizensutilityboard.org.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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