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LANSING, Mich. – The start of the heating season in Michigan makes it a good time for Michigan energy customers to Be WinterWise.
     “November is the traditional start of the heating season in Michigan, but the early arrival of colder temperatures means furnaces have already been heating homes,” said Anne Armstrong Cusack, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy. “Being WinterWise means being able to stay comfortable in your home while lowering bills. The Be WinterWise website is a great place to go for information on energy-saving tips, how to avoid shut-offs and ways to get assistance with bills.”
     The updated website has low-cost ways to reduce energy usage and energy assistance programs designed to prevent shut-offs, including:
• Winter Protection Plans for senior citizens and low-income customers
• State Emergency Relief
• Medical emergency shut-off protection
• Shut-off protection for active duty military personnel or their spouse
• Information on grants from the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)
• Information on agencies that provide MEAP assistance by calling 2-1-1
 • Home Heating Credit
  • Weatherization Assistance Program
     Unmet needs for energy assistance are historically high in the State of Michigan. Winter heating bills can certainly impact the household budget if the members of the home aren't conscious of their energy usage. On this page you will find suggestions for saving energy, links to informational Consumer Tips, and a wide range of other helpful consumer resources. We all need to "Be WinterWise" of natural gas, propane, and heating oil prices.
Important Notice: 
  All energy-related Department of Health and Human Services State Emergency Relief (SER) requests, except in special cases involving health and safety concerns, must fall within the crisis season, which now runs from November 1 through May 31 each year. Some other community organizations and agencies are trained to help you complete the online application for State Emergency Relief. Find help near you at www.mibenefitsaccess.org
  Low income customers may be eligible for other assistance through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program. Seventy percent of MEAP funds must be expended during the crisis season but additional funding may be available after May 31st. Customers should contact 2-1-1 or their utility to see what programs are available in their are.
  Investigate the following tips to ensure a warm and cozy winter.
• Shut-Off Protection - Senior citizens, low-income customers, and military personnel may qualify for shut-off protection through various programs. Contact your utility company.
• Plan Ahead - Many utility companies have Budget Billing Plans that can spread out your peak winter heating bills, allowing for a more affordable monthly bill during the heating season. Contact your utility company to find out if they offer Budget Billing.
• Use Energy Wisely - Reduce your energy use. More information on ways to conserve can be found by following the "Energy Savers" link below. Many utility providers also have programs to help make your home more energy efficient, so your energy bills will be lower. Contact your utility provider to ask about these programs.
• Request Assistance - Qualifying seniors and low-income customers may be eligible for financial assistance.
  The goal of the new assistance programs is to move customers to self-sufficiency. Therefore, customers no longer need a shut-off notice or MDHHS denial to qualify for assistance.
     If you're behind on your energy bill, you can apply for help in paying off your past-due balance starting Nov.1st if your income is below 150% of the poverty level.
     Call 2-1-1 or click on www.mi211.org/ to learn about agencies in your county that may assist with your energy bill.
     Be Helpful - Share this information with family and friends! If you are able, help your neighbors and donate to organizations that provide energy assistance.
     Be Proactive - Contact your utility company as soon as you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time. Do not wait for a shut-off notice.
*  Budget Billing Plan
Take the seasonal ups and downs out of your energy bills and pay the same amount each month. Contact your gas or electric company to enroll.
*  State Emergency Relief
Income-eligible households may receive assistance with heat or electric bills during extreme hardship or for emergencies that threaten health and safety. Contact the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to learn more. Call 2-1-1 to learn about other energy assistance programs.
*  Michigan Energy Assistance Program
The Michigan Public Service Commission administers the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). The purpose of the MEAP is to establish and administer programs statewide that provide energy assistance and self-sufficiency services to eligible low-income households. 
*  Military/Veteran Assistance
Families of Veterans and Active Duty Military Personnel can receive emergency financial assistance to pay electric, oil, gas, and other heating fuels. Contact the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
* Medical Emergency Protection
Protections are available for those in a medical emergency, whose health would be aggravated by lack of utility service; and critical care customers, whose medical equipment or life support system would be immediately life-threatening without utility service. Contact your gas or electric company for more information.
* Utility Energy Efficiency Programs
Income-eligible households can receive free caulking, weather stripping, insulation, and more to help conserve energy. Visit our Energy Waste Reduction page for additional information.

(StatePoint) Weatherizing your home for each season can make it more comfortable – but how to do it can be confusing. Here are four common weatherizing myths – busted! – to help get your home ready for cooler weather to come.
  Myth 1: It doesn’t matter where your thermostat is placed.
  Truth: Location, location, location! You may be spending more on heating and cooling than you need to be if your thermostat is in the wrong place. Placed in direct sunlight, you run the risk of getting false readings, as it can “think” the room is warmer than it actually feels, causing your air conditioner to turn on when it isn’t needed. Similarly, a thermostat placed near the kitchen often reads that the home is far warmer than it truly is due to the stove and oven. The best location is on an interior wall, centrally located and near areas where you spend the most time, ensuring these rooms are the most comfortable.
  Myth 2: Closed curtains and blinds in cold weather prevent heat escape.
  Truth: According to the Department of Energy, shades and drapes can reduce heat loss from a warm room by up to 10 percent. However, opening curtains and blinds during the day when direct sunlight hits can also allow for a warming effect. In winter, draperies should be closed at dusk but opened at dawn.
  In addition, heat escape through windows can be prevented with window insulation products such as Duck brand Roll-On Window Kits, which create a barrier between outdoor air and a home’s interior, helping block drafts and air leaks. And, it’s also a myth that these are hard to install: A pre-taped edge makes for easy roll-on application, requiring no measuring, while fitting snuggly to indoor window frames to provide an airtight, crystal-clear seal.
  Myth 3: It’s expensive to draft-proof your home.
  Truth: Homeowners can actually save hundreds of dollars annually on heating and cooling costs with proper weatherization early in the season. How do you do it? There are many inexpensive, do-it-yourself weatherization products that are easy on the wallet and easy to install, requiring minimal -- if any -- tools.
  Windows and doors are the two largest draft sources in any home and should be top priorities for homeowners. Duck brand MAX Strength Silicone Weatherstrip Seals are quick to install and seal various size gaps around windows and doors that may be allowing air to escape.
  Myth 4: It’s cheaper to keep your home at a constant temperature.
  Truth: A common misconception is that it’s better to keep your home at a constant temperature, even when you’re not home. However, if the system runs less during the day, it uses less energy. According to Energy.gov, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours a day.
  Still need more help? For additional tips and information, text “Weather” to 84444 to access Duck brand’s Project Selector, an online resource for project guides, instructional videos and more, or visit DuckBrand.com.
  Don’t let common myths scare you. Weatherizing can be an affordable, easy do-it-yourself project -- especially if you plan ahead.

Be winter wise
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