As temperatures rise and Texans rely heavily on air conditioning in their homes, AARP Texas seeks to educate consumers, including older Texans, on how to protect themselves against the rising costs of electricity and other utility expenses.
“With humidity and temperatures escalating, no one should have to worry about how to stay cool this summer,” AARP Texas Director Tina Tran said.
Tran said AARP Texas is raising awareness among consumers on how they can best prepare their homes for extremely warm weather and potentially higher utility bills, and the association is encouraging participation in assistance programs available to many Texans.
“Utility rates are an essential pocketbook issue for Texans, especially those 50-plus,” Tran said. “Too often, older Texans must choose between paying their utility bill and paying for their prescriptions. The summer weather – not unlike the winter heating season – is going to be a challenge. Knowing where to go for assistance is more important than ever.”
AARP Texas offers the following tips and information to help with utility expenses in Texas.
Apply for home energy assistance
The Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is a utility assistance program designed to assist low-income households in meeting their immediate energy needs and to control energy costs through energy education.
Utilities include electricity, gas and propane. In crisis-related circumstances, the program may assist in repairing or replacing cooling and heating systems. All participating households receive energy education to include energy-saving tips for the home.
Households with elderly, disabled, and young children (ages 5 and under) receive priority for financial assistance through CEAP. Non-eligible households are referred to other resources within their community.
Get utility assistance from CEAP by visiting the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ page at: https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/community-affairs/ceap/index.htm or by calling 877-399-8939 or 877-541-7905.
Attain Critical Care or Chronic Condition Status
Those who need power to their home because of a medical condition can apply for Critical Care or Chronic Condition status.
Texas residents with a medical condition that could become life-threatening if a home were to lose power, may qualify for a designation that provides support services. These designations can provide additional flexibility to avoid disconnection for non-payment. They do not guarantee uninterrupted service during outages. For information, reach your transmission distribution utility through your electric provider.
Seek a deferred payment plan if facing disconnection for non-payment
A deferred payment plan is a formal arrangement between a customer and an electric provider.
It allows customers to pay an outstanding bill in installments. Certain criteria must be met; and once entering into a deferred payment plan with a retail electric provider, you can be prevented from switching to another retail electric provider until an outstanding balance is paid.
Contact your utility company to check eligibility for assistance programs
Call your electric and natural gas distribution company to learn more about company-specific assistance that may be available.
Some utilities have customer assistance programs, usage reduction programs and hardship programs, sometimes run by community organizations.
Enroll in budget billing
To avoid seasonal increases and other price spikes, some utility companies allow customers to spread costs throughout the year by basing monthly payments on a household’s annual usage.
Contact your electric and natural gas companies for information.
Weatherize with low-cost conservation measures
There are some simple but effective ways to keep temperatures controlled in your home.
► Install door sweeps;
► Weatherproof doors and windows;
► Caulk cracks around doors and windows;
► Have your air conditioning and heating systems regularly serviced and repaired.
► Replace old appliances with new energy efficient models. Look for the Energy Star label.
► Find additional weatherization tips here: tdhca.state.tx.us/community-affairs/ceap/tips.htm
The AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for people age 50 and older, with 2.3 million members in Texas.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Texans should prepare for high electricity bills this summer