General Health Article:

Keep warm this winter while saving money on heating bills

by Susan Hempstead
Puget Sound Energy

Winter is here, and as the temperature drops it is important for older adults living on a fixed income to know where to turn for help.

The Salvation Army Warm Home Fund - supported by donations from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) customers, employees and shareholders - helps low-income people in the Puget Sound area pay for their winter heating bills. Support is provided to eligible recipients from January through June 2002, or until funds have been exhausted.

The Salvation Army screens for eligible recipients and administers the Warm Home Fund program through more than 27 assistance centers in 11 counties throughout the PSE service area.

Major Ron Strickland from The Salvation Army says that with predictions of a colder winter this season and a rapidly slowing local economy, the Warm Home Fund is needed now more than ever. PSE customers can make tax-deductible donations to the fund by checking a box on their monthly statement.

If you or someone you know needs special help this winter, the Healthy Aging Partnership (HAP) encourages you to make a confidential, toll-free call to 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464). HAP is a coalition of 28 not-for-profit and public health and senior service organizations in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Whether or not you need help paying your heating bill, it is still important to conserve energy.

Puget Sound Energy suggests these tips for staying warm and saving money this winter:

  • Shift energy use from peak to off-peak times. For example, do small things like running your dishwasher after 9
  • Maintain your heating system regularly to ensure safety and efficiency.
  • Check your windows and doors for gaps and holes that allow heat to escape and make your home drafty and less comfortable. Use inexpensive weather stripping and door sweeps to reduce air leaks around entry doors. For a no-cost fix, roll up a bath towel and prop it up against the door with a weighted object. (But always be sure you can exit your home easily in case of an emergency.)
  • Experiment to find the lowest comfortable temperature setting for your home. Try to keep the heat set at no more than 70 degrees.
  • Turn down the thermostat when you go to sleep at night and turn it down even more when you are away. Be careful not to set the temperature too low. During severely cold weather, it can take a long time for a very cold house to warm up again.
  • If your home is large, you may be able to lower utility bills by creating a "warm room" where you spend most of your time. If you have an electric furnace, shut the doors of one or two unused rooms and close no more than one-quarter of your home's heat registers. If you have an electric heat pump or gas furnace, do not close heat registers and leave doors slightly open in unused rooms. If you have baseboard, wall or radiant ceiling heat systems, set room thermostats to off or lowest setting and close the doors to these unheated rooms.
  • When using a portable heater, plug the heater directly into an outlet, not to an extension cord. Make sure the outlet and wiring are in good condition. Keep the area around the heater clear of furniture or combustibles and take special care to avoid tripping over cords.

You can also call 1-844-348-KING for answers to any of your questions about living a healthier life as an older adult. HAP and 1-844-348-KING are generously supported by HAP partner agencies, Puget Sound Energy and the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation.