HELENA – Recent and current cold temperatures across the state have resulted in higher-than-expected energy bills for many Montana residents. Increased utility company operating expenses for some utilities, including local property tax increases which went into effect January 1, may have also contributed to a recent surge in the prices customers are seeing on their bills.
To reduce energy costs, the Montana Public Service Commission encourages consumers to take steps to conserve energy and protect their homes against the cold. The following energy-saving tips could be especially helpful:
- Set thermostats no higher than 68 degrees;
- Add caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around doors and windows;
- Turn water heaters down (to 120 degrees) and install a water-heater insulation blanket;
- Install water saving devices such as flow-restricting showerheads;
- Inspect furnace filters and clean or replace, if dirty;
- Install LED lights in appropriate areas of frequent use;
- Close rooms not in use and seal vents in non-occupied rooms;
- Close the fireplace flue damper when not in use;
- Turn off lights and energy-using appliances when not in use; and
- If possible, consider upgrading to more energy efficient windows, doors and insulation to minimize impacts from outside temperature fluctuations year-round.
The Commission also urges anyone concerned about their ability to afford their heating bills to contact their utility company. The company can discuss payment options, rebates for certain energy efficiency upgrades, and the availability of home energy audits to recommend energy saving measures.
Concerned customers may also contact local Human Resource Development Counsel offices to learn about LIHEAP and Energy Share or call 2-1-1 to learn about other resources that may be available in your community.
It is a common misconception that utility companies are not allowed to disconnect natural gas or electricity during the winter months. Another misconception is that having children in the home of any age prevents disconnection. However, regulated utilities must follow Commission rules prior to proceeding with a non-pay disconnect during the winter moratorium period of November 1 to April 1.
Companies not regulated by the Commission, such as cooperatives and propane distributors, are not required to obtain Commission approval prior to disconnecting utility service. Those companies may have their own procedures to follow for winter terminations.
For more energy savings tips view the Montana Energy Savers Guidebook published by the Department of Environmental Quality: https://deq.mt.gov/files/Energy/Documents/mt_savers_guidebook/web/MTESG_010118_web.pdf
The Montana Public Service Commission regulates private, investor-owned natural gas, electric, landline telephone, water and sewer companies, certain motor carriers, and manages safety programs for natural gas pipelines and railroads in Montana. State and federal law requires the Commission to allow regulated utilities to recover their actual costs of providing public utility services. For more information, visit: https://psc.mt.gov or call 1-800-646-6150. Follow the Commission at Twitter.com/@MT_PSC or check for updates at Facebook.com/MontanaPSC.
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