Of the four, the easiest, least expensive and perhaps most immediate action a resident can take is to weatherize a home for comfort and efficiency.
For customers who want to ease the impact of typically higher winter bills, Ameren companies offer the budget plans that "average out" a customer's monthly bills to minimize the effect of higher prices or higher seasonal usage. For information, customers can call AmerenCILCO at 888-672-5252; AmerenCIPS at 888-789-2477; AmerenIP at 800-755-5000 and AmerenUE at 800-552-7583, or customers can visit the Ameren Web site (www.ameren.com).
Ameren companies also work with customers to set up a payment plan or provide referrals for energy assistance. The Dollar More program offered through AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO and AmerenUE and the AmerenIP Warm Neighbors program allows customers and employees to help the needy stay warm. Visit the Ameren Web site for full information.
Ameren encourages conservation through its Web site, where consumers can obtain a copy of the "Cut Your Home Utilities Bill" poster. This poster provides room by room tips for reducing energy costs.
Ameren energy experts also offer these suggestions for home weatherization:
• Have your furnace checked before the start of the heating season to make sure it is operating safely and economically. Changing your furnace filters regularly also helps. In addition, operating a humidifier with a furnace can help residents feel comfortable at lower thermostat settings.
• For windows, installation of storm windows and caulking are the best ways to reduce the infiltration of cold air. Caulking is both economical and easy to use. Generally one tube of caulking is enough to weatherize at least one average size window. The most durable caulking contains silicone.
• For doors, try weather stripping to keep cool air from entering the home. Weatherstripping materials include metal, vinyl, rubber and foam. Metal with vinyl backing is recommended because of its durability and flexibility.
• Set the thermostat a little lower. For each degree you lower it, you can save about 2% to 3% on heating costs. For maximum efficiency, experts generally recommend a setting of 68 degrees during the day and 60 overnight (but don't set the thermostat too low, or pipes in exterior walls could freeze).
• On sunny days, open blinds or draperies on the sunny side of your house to let in solar heat. Be sure to close them again at night, to help keep heat from escaping.
• Use ceiling fans\-especially in homes with high ceilings\-to push warm air down and keep it from being wasted near the ceiling.
• Adding insulation to attics and walls can be a significant energy-saver if your home was built many years ago when efficiency standards were lower. Either blown or blanket insulation holds heat so a furnace doesn't have to operate as long.
• An insulating blanket on water heaters reduces energy waste from the unit. Wraparound hot water pipe insulation retards heat loss as water travels through less warm or unheated areas of the house.
• Close off any areas of your home that are not used often. Be sure to close registers in those areas.
• Glass doors for fireplaces save energy and heat by keeping cold air from coming down the flue and preventing warm air from being sucked out of the house. Without glass doors, as much as 26 percent of the heated air can be drawn up the flue.
• The electric heat pump offers homeowners automatic climate control for comfort, winter and summer. In winter, a heat pump absorbs heat from outside air through a refrigerant and transfers the air indoors. The cycle is reversed in summer, when a heat pump cools as an air conditioner would. The refrigerant absorbs heat away from the indoor air and transfers it outdoors. An electric heat pump can also increase the efficiency of a gas furnace. An air source heat pump or a geothermal heating and cooling system should be considered when replacing an existing system.
With assets of more than $17 billion, Ameren, through its subsidiaries, serves 2.3 million electric and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000- square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.
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