SAINT PAUL – The past month’s extreme cold has once again reminded Minnesotans how important it is to keep our homes heated in winter for both safety and comfort.
With plenty of winter still to come, the Minnesota Commerce Department encourages Minnesotans who depend on delivered fuels, such as propane and heating oil, to keep their fuel tanks well supplied, conserve energy and apply for energy assistance if they need help paying their heating bills.
“To ensure a warm and safe home, we urge the many Minnesotans who depend on propane or heating oil to make sure their fuel tanks are always at least one quarter full,” said Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman. “We still have weeks of winter remaining, so it is best to plan ahead and work with your supplier to schedule deliveries to keep your supply at a safe level.”
The Commerce Department offers some basic tips for propane and fuel oil consumers:
Don’t let your tank reach empty. Call for a refill when your tank is 25-30 percent full. If your tank is empty, the supplier must do a full inspection to check pressure and leaks, which can result in an extra charge.
Consider asking your propane supplier for a budget plan to spread out your payments. A law signed by Gov. Mark Dayton after a shortage in 2014 requires most propane distributors to offer customers a budget payment plan. Distributors must also notify budget-plan customers of price or fee changes that may affect their monthly payment amount by more than 20 percent.
Know your rights. The 2014 law also established consumer protections, including transparent pricing. Distributors are required to inform customers of current per-gallon price and additional charges, fees and discounts. There is also a prohibition on extra fees, such as adding any service, distribution, transportation or other fees to the bills of customers who enter into a contract with the distributor.
Conserve energy so you can save both fuel and money. Programmable thermostats, energy-efficient appliances and other energy-saving measures help reduce energy use. The Commerce Department website features a Home Energy Guide with tips to save on energy.
Apply for energy assistance. If you are struggling with your heating bills, the state’s Energy Assistance Program is available to help low-income Minnesotans pay for their energy costs. An average grant per household was about $520 last year. Information about the Energy AssistanceProgram is available on the Commerce Department website or by calling (toll-free) 800-657-3710.