Ed note: This post originally appeared in the ACF Family Room Blog. View the original post here.
As the days and nights start to get colder, there are steps you and your family can take to ensure a safer winter.
Keep Temperatures Consistent
Home energy studies show that keeping homes a constant temperature of at least 68 degrees can prevent health and safety-related crises, such as asthma or hypothermia, that may result in hospital visits. It’s also more efficient to keep the thermostat at the same temperature overnight to avoid having to “re-warm” your home the next morning.
Keep Space Heaters Safe
Some families use space heaters as a primary heating source or to address cold spots in rooms due to uneven heat distribution. But the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Board estimates at least 25,000 household fires are started each year by space heaters.
If your household uses space heaters, remember:
- Make sure there is enough space around the heater for venting
- Don’t place the heater near furniture or curtains
- Make sure the heater is away from the main path of travel in the room.
If you are buying a space heater, look for one that has an automatic shut-off if knocked over and that is adequate for the size of the room. Check for any additional built-in health and safety mechanisms.
Keep your Heating Units Clean
For central heating units, the change of seasons is a perfect time to change and clean filters. Dirty filters and air ducts not only impact air quality in your home, they can also reduce your unit’s efficiency. A lot of dust and detritus in the filter may also become a fire hazard.
Keep Your Heat On
Service interruptions can be inconvenient or even dangerous. Being prepared and knowing where to get help can keep your heating bills paid.
- If you have deliverable fuel (heating oil, propane, kerosene, wood) consider contacting your vendor or supplier. They may be able to help work out budget plans or connect you to assistance programs. Also, fill up your oil or propane tanks before winter sets in. The fuel can be cheaper before it gets really cold.
- Pay energy bills on time, even if it’s only a portion of the amount due. If heating costs become more than you can pay, try asking your utility company for a payment or budget plan — they may be more likely to approve a budget if they see some payment regularly each month.
- Apply for utility shut off protections. Many utility companies offer winter shut-off protections for low income, elderly, disabled, and households with young children and critically-ill members. A listing of charitable energy assistance for households in need and utility commissions can be found at the link here.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may also be able to help pay bills, assist in a crisis, or weatherize your home. Find the contacts in your state, territory, or tribe.
Being prepared for the winter is crucial to making sure your family stays safe and warm throughout the fall and winter season.
The Office of Community Services supports millions of low income families by distributing approximately $3 billion each year in heating, cooling, crisis and weatherization assistance so that low income families can avert residential energy-related crises