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Help with energy bills: Keeping the farmhouse bright and comfortable

Originally published June 16, 2020 on Minnesota Farmers Union’s website

White house by grass field
Photo by Brandon Randolph

With many farms struggling to make a profit and possibly having less income from off the farm work due to COVID-19, farmers are facing unprecedented struggles to pay routine bills.

Did you know there is a program to help pay energy bills and avoid shutoffs? Energy assistance is a federal grant-based program that helps with home energy expenses.  The grants, based on income and household size, can be used to pay electric, gas, and delivered fuel bills. The Minnesota Department of Commerce website has information including an application and how to find your local provider, or call 1-800-657-3710.

Due to COVID-19, there is additional program funding. Just one month’s proof of income is required, and the application deadline is July 1. Additionally, some utilities including Xcel, CenterPoint, and Minnesota Power have other energy cost reduction programs for those who qualify for energy assistance.

Reducing your energy expenses  

How much money you spend to keep your house comfortable depends a lot on the building’s construction and condition. Many of the farmhouses in our state were built in the early 1900s or even earlier. Many older homes have little to no insulation unless improvements have been made over the years.

Lack of sufficient insulation increases the amount of energy needed to heat and cool a home, which means higher costs. The type, age, and efficiency of a home’s heating and cooling systems, its water heater, and appliances also affect energy consumption and expenses.

An investment in energy efficiency will save money in the long run. An energy audit will identify where there is potential for energy savings. Check with your utility about audit options. When considering improvements or replacing appliances in your home, evaluate a variety of ways to pay, and determine if utility rebates are available to help reduce the costs. If you qualify for energy assistance, you can also inquire about weatherization programs that improve your home’s energy efficiency at no cost.

Free Consultations

The Citizens Utility Board provides customized suggestions to reduce your household energy expenses. Free consultations take place via phone or video conference. The average consultation results in identifying $150 in annual energy savings. Please find more information here or call toll- free at 844-646-6282 ext. 2 to reach me directly. We also encourage you to reach out to the Clean Energy Resource Teams for energy saving ideas for your farm buildings and operations.

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Author: Carmen Carruthers

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