Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 27, 2013

Prepare now for cold days


Kokomo Tribune

---- — The 2014 Farmers’ Almanac now is available in stores. And the longtime weather prognosticator forecasts a cold and snowy winter for the Kokomo area, a marked departure from the last couple of years.

Caleb Weatherbee — not a real person; just a named used by the publication’s weather forecaster for decades — says Indiana will be “biting cold and snowy” this winter.

It sounds bad, but no worse than Weatherbee’s forecast for the Northeast (“bitterly cold and snow-filled”) or the Great Plains (“piercing cold with normal snowfall”).

Indiana utility companies haven’t forecast home-heating costs for the coming winter just yet. It’s still rather early for such predictions. But if the Farmers’ Almanac is right, Hoosier households will use more energy for heat this winter because temperatures will be lower compared to last year.

Families with incomes up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level are encouraged to apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP. All assistance is paid in a lump sum to the applicant’s utility.

If you and your family don’t meet the income requirements, there are ways to manage your home-heating costs this winter. Take advantage of “budget” programs many utilities offer.

Such plans allow customers to spread the gas costs over an entire year. Program participants pay an equal amount each month and know how much to budget for their bill.

Utilities also advise other cost-saving measures:

• Schedule a furnace inspection. Filter cleaning and upgrades could be completed now before evenings turn colder.

• Take a look at your registers and ducts. They trap dust, lint and other debris that reduces the efficiency of your furnace.

• Inspect caulking and weather strips on your outdoor windows.

• Install storm windows if your home has them.

Do what you can now to make your home more energy-efficient and natural gas bills less volatile.