Deal Finder: Get help with heating bills, weatherizing your home

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By LaTina Emerson, The Shopper Deal Finder

Temperatures are slowly dropping outside, and soon it will be time to warm up our homes.

While turning on the heat might seem like a simple action, it can cause stress and anxiety for people with a limited income. Many people are forced to choose between paying for food, rent, life-saving medications and energy bills, and the problem has only escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A federal program is helping families with the costs of home energy bills and weatherizing their homes against the cold weather, and other organizations are assisting those in need with utility bills. Learn more about these services:

LIHEAP

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an annual, federally-funded program that helps offset the costs of home energy, gas or propane bills for households that meet certain income requirements. Designed to reduce the risk of health and safety problems such as illness, fire or disconnection, LIHEAP offers financial assistance with energy bill payments and energy crises, as well as support for weatherization or minor energy-related home repairs.

Home Energy Bills

Seniors who are 65 and older can start applying for home energy bill assistance on Nov. 2. All other eligible residents can begin applying on Dec. 2.

For the Coweta County area, applicants must schedule an appointment online via Community Action for Improvement Inc.’s website at https://cafi.timetap.com.

To qualify, applicants must meet basic requirements: 1) U.S. citizen or legally admitted immigrant, 2) total gross annual household income needs to be at or below 60 percent of the State Median Income guidelines for Georgia and 3) applicant needs to have full responsibility for paying the cost of energy bills for the home’s primary heating source.

Applicants must provide documents that verify household income, Social Security cards for all household members, valid photo ID for all adult household members and a recent copy of their household energy bill.

Eligible households will receive $350 or $400 toward their energy costs. Applicants are served on a first-come, first serve basis until funding runs out.

Home Weatherization

LIHEAP’s Home Weatherization Program helps to reduce the home energy bills of low-income households by making these homes more energy efficient. The program offers direct household repairs and energy efficient upgrades that increase the energy efficiency of homes.

Applications for the program are accepted on a rolling basis. For more information, contact Community Action for Improvement at 706-884-2651.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army Newnan provides emergency financial assistance to individuals and families, along with other important services. Project SHARE assists people facing temporary crises and targets urgent needs, such as a utility bill, part of a rent payment or an emergency prescription.

Applicants must provide proof of identity, residence and eligibility. For more information about how to book an appointment and what to bring, contact The Salvation Army Newnan at 770-251-8181.

Reduce Energy Costs

Weatherizing your home can save energy and money on utility bills. Want to tackle these home improvement projects yourself? For do-it-yourself project guides on topics such as “How to Weatherize Your Home” and “How to Save Energy,” visit The Home Depot’s website at https://www.homedepot.com. At the top of the page, under the DIY Projects & Ideas tab, go to the Home Improvement column and click on Home Heating & Cooling Guides.

The projects have varying difficulty levels, and some can be completed in only a few hours. For example, projects listed under “How to Weatherize Your Home” include checking for cracks, caulking leaks, weather stripping doors and windows, insulating pipes and finding other areas to weatherize.

Follow these tips from the U.S. Department of Energy to lower fall and winter energy bills:

Use Natural Light and Heat: During the day, open your curtains to allow sunlight and natural heat into your home. At night, close curtains to reduce the chill from cold windows.

Cover Drafty Windows: During chilly months, use clear, heavy-duty plastic to cover drafty windows or tape clear plastic film to the inside of windows. The plastic should be sealed tightly to the frame to keep out cold air. Install insulating drapes or shades on drafty windows.

Adjust the Thermostat: To lower your heating bill, set your thermostat as low as possible to still remain comfortable. When you’re asleep or away from home, turn your thermostat back by 10 to 15 degrees. This can save 10 percent on heating and cooling bills. Use a smart or programmable thermostat to make setting back your thermostat easier.

Seal Air Leaks: Use caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows. Also, seal air leaks around cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around chimneys and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.

Schedule Maintenance for Heating Systems: Schedule maintenance services for your water heater and other heating systems to make sure they’re working properly, ideally before cold weather arrives.

Change Filters: Replace the filters in your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems once a month or as needed. Dirty and clogged filters raise utility bills and damage the HVAC system.

Turn Down Your Water Heater: Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees Fahrenheit) to save money and avoid scalding water.

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