With natural gas prices expected to rise by 50% over last year's prices, AARP is collaborating with Montana Dakota Utilities to share information about how North Dakotans 50+ can mitigate natural gas price increases on their energy bills this winter. Watch the recordings of our Facebook Live series here (each of the four videos lasts about five minutes).
Balanced Billing Options
Balanced Billing provides consumers a way to take the guesswork out of budgeting for utility bills. With Balanced Billing, a household’s monthly bill is calculated by taking their average natural gas and/or electric use over the last year and applying current energy rates. Averaging your usage over the year can reduce large fluctuations in usage brought on by extreme weather.
To enroll in Balanced Billing, log in to your Montana-Dakota Utilities account online. Eligible accounts have a promotion box ‘Sign up for Balanced Billing’ on the right-hand side of the Payment Center page.
If you are facing this challenge this winter and are not a Montana Dakota Utilities customer check with your utility provider about options available to you.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The North Dakota Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible individuals and families with heating and insulation related costs in the winter, and cooling costs in the summer. Last year, about 13,800 low-income households in North Dakota participated in the state program, and individual tribal LIHEAP programs served tribal members living on reservations in the state.
To be eligible for this benefit program, you must be a resident of North Dakota and you must need financial assistance with home energy costs. A person who participates or has family members who participate in certain other benefit programs, such as SNAP, SSI, TANF, automatically meets the eligibility requirement. Visit the North Dakota Department of Human Services website to find out if you and your family are eligible.
Energy Saving Tips
To save energy at home, and to make your energy dollars go further, try these tips:
- Ensure proper airflow: Insulate ducts, change furnace filters, and make sure vents and ducts flow freely.
Adjust thermostats: Set your thermostat to your personal comfort zone and when you are away from home, reduce the temperature by 5-8 degrees Fahrenheit. For homes with elderly people or children, warmer temperatures are recommended.
- Install a programmable setback thermostat: This can be a good investment in homes heated and cooled with central forced-air systems. Taking the time to program to match your personal habits will save money.
- Conserve water, while saving money and energy: Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees F to reduce your heating bills, install low-flow showerheads and replace faucet washers, and take quick showers instead of baths.
- When doing laundry: Use cold water in your wash and rinse cycles. And, always run full loads of laundry instead of washing a few pieces of clothing at a time.
- Check your dishwasher’s setting: Some dishwashers offer a water-saving setting or an energy-saving drying option. Check to see if your dishwasher has these options and start using yours today!
- Use your drapes: Close drapes on hot summer days to keep the heat outside. On winter days leave them open to absorb sunlight. Always close drapes at night to keep your home’s heat inside.
- Use caulk and weather stripping: Both caulk and weather stripping offer inexpensive and efficient ways to lower your heating bill by keeping out wind, moisture, dust, and noise.
- Insulate your home: Ceiling insulation can save up to 30 percent on fuel bills, depending on the R-value. Contact a qualified insulation contractor for costs on insulating ceilings, walls, and floor spaces.
- Have your furnace serviced once a year: A tune-up inspection for your natural gas furnace is the best way to ensure your furnace is at peak operating efficiency.
- Water heaters: Replace old water heaters with models that have a Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) rating of 0.65 or higher. For additional information on high-efficiency water heaters, check out the products on the ENERGY STAR® website at www.energystar.gov.