Fight high heating bills with energy aid

Julie Frank

Julie Frank

With summer gone and fall slipping away, winter waits around the corner. Gearing up for winter’s freezing temperatures is the high cost of heat. Although winter is not officially due until December, many students living off-campus are starting to dread their heating bills.

Splitting the bill with her roommates, freshman Ciji Shemon said, “It is not too bad, so far.”

However, others, like junior sociology major Allie Aman, anticipate otherwise. “It is going to suck,” she said.

In agreement with Aman, Nick Haltvick, a civil engineer major, and other students said their heating bills are “ridiculous.”

Mike Cameron, area manager of NorthWestern Energy, supplier of natural gas in Brookings, said there are multiple reasons for the increase in price.

Contributing to the record high heat cost in 2005 was the fall hurricane season. Katrina and other hurricanes that rolled across the Gulf of Mexico made it difficult to retrieve gas brought in by pipelines in the gulf.

Adding to the cost was the cold winter on the east coast, which demands more gas and energy than South Dakota.

The early arrival of winter in South Dakota last November and December did not help Brookings residents heating bills either.

However, with 2006’s warm beginning, the cost of heating went down. According to Cameron, heating cost is expected to decrease by 20 percent this season in South Dakota and was already evident in October.

Regardless of the decline, heating bills can still prove difficult to pay for some students living off-campus. According to Cyndy Boesch, a community service worker in Brookings County from the Inter-Lakes Community Action, Inc. agency, students may receive help from Low Income Energy Assistance, which provides assistance paying heating bills from October 1 through April 30.

To qualify for the program, applicants must live off-campus or in subsidized housing and provide proof of the household’s gross income for the previous three months, and show the most recent heating bill. The program does not cover the complete cost of heating but only assists in paying heating bills. Recipients still need to track their usage and conserve heat and energy.

To apply for Low Income Energy Assistance, log onto or call 1-800-233-8503 for an application. In order for the application to be processed, it needs to be filled out completely by all adults living in the house. Applications are accepted through March 15, 2007, but the later an application is turned in, the less assistance granted.

Whether students qualify or not for the Low Income Energy Assistance, there are other ways to conserve energy.

Students like Shemon use fireplaces or keep the thermostat set low to help reduce their heat bill. Other students like Haltivick take more extreme measures by covering windows with interior or exterior window plastic.

Cameron students should make sure the building is well insulated and to have the heating system inspected by a professional. Caulking cracks, insulating outlets with foam and turning down the thermostat when out for the day or during the night will also contribute to a lower heating bill.

Cameron strongly advises when conserving heat to be smart and safe and not use electric heaters in the home.

For more heating tips, contact NorthWestern Energy at 692-6265 or for more information or questions about the Low Income Energy Assistance program, contact Boesch at Inter-Lakes Community Action, Inc. at (605)-692-6391.

Tips to keep heating bills low? Keep the thermostat set low. ? Cover windows with plastic.? Have the heating system inspected by a professional. ? Do not use electric heaters.? Turn down the heat when out for the day or away for the weekend.