EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It has been a winter for the books, including record snow and cold temperatures.
It is something that has helped lead to significantly higher heating bills.
"When there is much colder temperatures outside, the heating system has to work that much harder to keep homes at comfortable levels," said Brian Elwood with Xcel Energy.
Xcel Energy expects heating bills for this winter season, November through March, will be about 30% higher than last year.
"It's like $100-$200 every time and I just try to pay it when I can but even now I have outstanding fees that I have to pay," said Carlton Fowler.
"We just decided to go with the normal temperature our house is at which is 68 degrees and just ended up paying the price for it," said Laurie Hittman. She says her heating bill has been about $250 per month this winter.
If you are having trouble getting your bills paid on time, Xcel Energy says there are options for you. They recommend calling their office at 1-800-895-4999 to help make payment arrangements. They say there are a number of federal, state and private programs available, too.
"There's federal heating assistance dollars and that's administered through county organizations here in Western Wisconsin," Elwood said.
He says a number of private organizations across the state can also help if you meet the income qualifications. The Salvation Army and the Wisconsin Warm Fund offer assistance to people who need help with paying to heat a home.
"We've got customer service agents right here in the Chippewa Valley who will work with our customers and help them make bill payment arrangements and also work with them on federal, state and private organizations that do offer heating assistance for customers that are eligible," he said.
Help is available for customers facing high heating bills as a result of significantly higher natural gas prices and the coldest winter in three decades, Xcel Energy said today.
“We know many customers are struggling to pay their heating bills, and we’re here to help them find financial assistance and set up payment arrangements,” said Mark Stoering, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy company.
Stoering noted that federal energy assistance funds for low-income customers are still available through the states of Wisconsin and Michigan and there is also money available from heating assistance organizations such as the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund and Salvation Army’s HeatShare program. “Xcel Energy customers who need help paying their bills should call 1-800-895-4999, and our customer representatives will help them set up payment arrangements and also refer them to the appropriate agencies to determine if they’re eligible for assistance,” Stoering said.
Xcel Energy projects residential customers’ heating bills in Wisconsin and Michigan for the five winter months (November through March), will be approximately 30 percent higher than last winter. For example:
• In Wisconsin, a typical customer whose heating bill totaled about $450 for the winter of 2012-13 will pay an estimated $590 this winter.
• In Michigan, a typical customer whose heating bill totaled about $370 for the winter of 2012-13 will pay an estimated $490 this winter.
The bulk of the increase is due to natural gas prices that are about 25 percent higher than last winter. The commodity cost passes directly to customers; Xcel Energy does not benefit from higher natural gas prices. Bills also increased because residential customers used more natural gas than last winter due to cold weather.
Stoering also reminded customers that Xcel Energy has a variety of programs and home services to help them learn how to use natural gas more efficiently. “We also provide programs in partnership with Focus on Energy in Wisconsin and Efficiency United in Michigan,” he said.
Customers can learn more about Xcel Energy’s energy conservation programs by clicking on the attached link or by calling 1-800-895-4999.