10/08/10 Lt. Governor Becky Skillman today urged Hoosiers to prepare for the winter heating season by taking advantage of assistance offered through the state or taking steps around your house to reduce energy bills.

 “Whether you turn your thermostat down, replace your home’s insulation, or add caulking to windows, there are many options for reducing home energy usage.” Skillman said. “All Hoosiers can take steps, both large and small, to curb utility expenses. Every little bit helps to reduce your bills.”

 To raise awareness on Home Energy Conservation Day, Skillman joined state agency and utility leaders this afternoon at the home of a weatherization client assisted through the Home Energy Conservation Program. Overall, the homeowner’s heating bill is expected to be reduced between 15-20 percent this winter because of the improvements that are now underway. Energy conservation efforts taking place at this home include: a new furnace, new wall insulation, and sealing around windows and doors.

 The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) has led the state’s weatherization activities. According to the most recent rankings, Indiana ranks 7th among states in homes weatherized per day and 9th overall in total number of homes.  The program has been carried out in an efficient manner with the reports of serious fraud and abuse seen in other states.

 In addition to weatherization, Skillman also touted the start of Indiana’s Energy Assistance Program, which began this week.

 Community Action Agencies began accepting applications and appointments for Indiana’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP) on October 5, 2010. This federally-funded program was designed to offer low-income Hoosiers assistance with winter heating bills. Households that are not in an energy emergency are encouraged to call and schedule an appointment with their local agency. Agencies then meet individually with applicants to determine eligibility. For the 2009-2010 winter season, IHCDA allocated over $89 million in federal heating assistance to Community Action Agencies throughout the state.

 For questions about weatherization or energy assistance, Hoosiers can contact IHCDA’s at 1-800-872-0371.  The income qualifications for the EAP programs are 150% of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four making less than $33,075 would qualify, as well as an individual with an income of $16,245 or less. The average benefit is around $360 per year, and is paid in a lump sum directly to the applicant’s utility company.  Last year, IHCDA’s Energy Assistance Program served more than 185,000 households.  For a complete list of Community Action Agencies and the areas they serve, please visit www.incap.org.

 Skillman was joined today by Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler, representatives from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), and executives from the state’s three largest natural gas utilities.

 Other events to promote weatherization will be held throughout the state during the heating season. Additional information on weatherization, budget billing and energy safety is available from state agency and utility Web sites as noted below. For information on how natural gas bills are calculated, please visit: http://www.in.gov/oucc/2387.htm.

 Weatherization tips:

  • Make sure your home or business has proper insulation.
  • Properly maintain your heating system (including changing the filter regularly).
  • Use a programmable thermostat (or turn the temperature down a few degrees during bedtime and when the home or business is unoccupied).
  • Check weather stripping, caulk and seals and make needed repairs.
  • Make sure furnace ducts are properly sealed.
  • Insulate your water heater (if the manufacturer’s instructions allow).
  • Purchase and use appliances with the Energy Star label.
  • Wear appropriate winter clothing and adjust your thermostat accordingly.
  • Take additional small steps to improve efficiency (such as opening draperies during the day but closing them at night and setting ceiling fans to run clockwise during winter).

 Energy safety tips:

  • Keep space heaters away from furniture, draperies and rugs. Do not let children or pets go near them, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not use a space heater when sleeping, and never leave one unattended.
  • Only use a kerosene heater in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never use an oven or stove to heat the home.
  • If you smell natural gas or otherwise suspect a leak, leave the premises immediately. Once you are off the property and can no longer smell the leak, call 911.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or electric outlets. Do not use outlets with loose-fitting plugs.
  • Check pilot lights on gas appliances regularly. The pilot light should be a steady, blue flame.
  • Never touch a downed power line; always assume that every power line is live.

 For more information on energy efficiency, budget billing and safety:

 For low-income billing and weatherization assistance:

  • Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA): www.in.gov/ihcda or 1-800-872-0371
  • Your local Community Action Agency

 Insulation deduction on state income taxes:

  • Indiana Department of Revenue: IT-40 booklet, page 20, www.in.gov/dor.

 Federal income tax credits for energy efficiency: