Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Commerce Department reminds Minnesotans to keep propane tanks above one quarter full this winter

SAINT PAUL, MN – In Minnesota, being prepared for winter is always a necessity. The Minnesota Department of Commerce reminds Minnesotans who depend on propane and fuel oil for heat, to watch fuel tank levels and call your supplier before your tank goes below one quarter full.

“Planning ahead and making sure your propane and fuel oil tanks stay above a quarter full can help ensure your family stays safe and warm this winter,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “I encourage consumers who use these fuels to talk to their suppliers about scheduled delivery programs that will make sure you have the supply of fuel you need.”

The Department of Commerce also urges Minnesotans who need financial assistance to pay heating bills to see if they are eligible for help through the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Commerce Department administers LIHEAP in partnership with 31 local service providers throughout the state. LIHEAP is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program helps renters and homeowners earning at or below 50 percent of the state’s median income ($44,912 for a family of four) obtain grant money to help pay their heating bills.

The average annual grant per household last year was $500. Households with seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and children are especially encouraged to apply.

To apply, contact the local service provider in your county by calling 1-800-657-3710 or visit the Energy Assistance Program section on the Division of Energy Resources website.

Use Alternative Heat Sources Safely
The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources such as space heaters.

·         Keep anything flammable -- including pets and people -- at least three feet away from heating equipment.

·         Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.

·         Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

·         Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

·         Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.

·         Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.

·         Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.

·         Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning

·         Make sure CO detectors are working throughout your home; Minnesota law requires CO alarms in every single family and multifamily dwelling.

·         Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances each year to ensure they are adequately vented and properly maintained. CO testing should be part of the inspection.

·         Make sure furnace exhaust vents, air intake hoods, and chimneys are clear of snow and ice in order to keep the heat on and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

·         Do not idle cars in garages, either attached or unattached, for any length of time. In both cases, start your car and exit the garage immediately. Dangerously high levels of CO will accumulate even if the garage door is open.

·         Provide adequate ventilation when using a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.

·         Portable propane camping equipment and gas barbecues are approved for outdoor use only. Never use them inside cabins, tents, fish houses, or other enclosed shelters.

·         If your car is stuck in snow, make sure that the tail pipe is cleared before starting the engine.

·         During power outages, do not use gasoline engines or burn charcoal in enclosed spaces, including garages, even if the door is open.

·         Never use kitchen stoves, gasoline heaters, or other alternative methods to heat your home if running into financial hardship.  Please contact the Department of CommerceEnergy Assistance Program to learn how you can apply for assistance to pay home heating costs.