Opportunities to save money on energy bills at home
There are a number of opportunities to make energy efficiency improvements at your home that reduce energy use and help lower home energy bills. If you have the ability to make upgrades to your current (or future) home, consider investing in energy efficiency.
Do It Yourself – Energy Tips to Start Saving at Home
Making energy efficient upgrades at your home is a great way to reduce your utility bills, but it can take a significant amount of time. If you’re looking for ways to start making your home more energy efficient today, there are a number of “do-it-yourself” things you can start doing around the house to start saving energy.
Insulation and Air Sealing
Insulating and air sealing your home is the first and best way to use less energy when keeping you and your family warm. Insulation in your walls and attic prevents heat from escaping, and air sealing the cracks and gaps around your walls, doors, and windows also prevents heat loss by keeping cold air from coming into your house.
The Chicago Bungalow Association’s Home Energy Savings Program offers a free home energy assessment, insulation and air sealing services, and more to eligible homes.
The Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) provides free home energy assessments and funding for weatherization upgrades including insulation and air sealing.
Changing your light bulbs to LED versions at home can help you save on your electricity bills. Residential LEDS use at least 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.
Your utility might offer free LED light bulbs that you can install in your home. In northern Illinois, ComEd provides free LED light bulbs and other energy efficiency products for your home when you complete a free home energy assessment.
Space Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling your home are usually the biggest energy expenses in any home. Along with insulation and air sealing, mentioned above, you can lower your heating and cooling costs by investing in highly efficient heating and cooling systems like heat pumps that use the least amount of energy.
Elevate’s Building Electrification Program works with homeowners to install free energy efficiency upgrades including heat pumps at their homes.
Your hot water heater can be a source of wasted energy if it’s not fitted correctly to your home. A qualified contractor will be able to find the right water heater for your home’s size and fuel type that maximizes energy savings. A good place to get started in on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.
If your home appliances at home such as your washer, dryer, or stove need an upgrade, choose and energy efficient model to save energy and lower your energy bills. ENERGY STAR® is a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that provides information about the energy consumption of products and devices. An ENERGY STAR certification on a product means that it’s efficient and uses less energy. Many of these products have rebates or special offers included. Check out the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder tool to learn more.
ComEd and Ameren offer incentives and rebates on energy efficient appliances and products that can help improve your comfort and save you money. More information can be found on ComEd’s website or Ameren’s website.
Solar systems allow you to generate your own electricity from the sun to use or to sell, which can help lower your energy bills. There are many solar opportunities available to homeowners depending on your type of home and choice of solar.
Illinois Solar for All is a statewide program that helps homeowners save money by providing affordable solar installations that reduce their electricity bills. There are options for rooftop solar and community solar subscriptions.
In addition to energy-specific upgrades, a safe, comfortable, and efficient home depends on general upgrades to maintain the home. Many city or state governments and community-based organizations provide small home upgrades for free or low cost, especially to seniors.
Elevate delivers free health, safety, and accessibility repairs for homeowners throughout the Chicagoland area to help them stay safe and comfortable in their homes throughout old age. This includes Chicago’s Home Repair program that provides grants to repair homeowners roofs and porches.
Smart Electricity Options
Whether you rent or own your home, smart electricity options can help you save money on your electricity bill. In Illinois, ComEd and Ameren Illinois offer residential electricity options that allow you to save money by shifting your energy use to lower-priced times. Learn more about the available programs.
LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)
LIHEAP provides a one-time benefit to eligible Illinois households to be used for energy bills. The program is designed to assist eligible low income households pay for winter energy services.
Community Action Agencies administer LIHEAP and provide a variety of other services, including but not limited to, assistance with rent, mortgage, food, water and sewer payments, employment training and placement, financial management, and temporary shelter. To apply for LIHEAP, contact your local Community Action Agency. The LIHEAP application period is September 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023, or until funding is exhausted.
LIHWAP (Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program)
LIHWAP is a limited, one-time, assistance program designed to help households that are facing the threat of imminent water disconnection, have already been disconnected or have past due (arrearage) balances over $250 for their water and wastewater services combined. Customers may apply one time for water and one time for wastewater for the life of the program, which is December 1, 2021 – August 31, 2023.
Visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com for more information on how to apply for water and other assistance this season.
CEDA (Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County)
CEDA offers a variety of services to low-income families and individuals throughout the Chicagoland area including utility bill assistance, furnace repair and replacement, water assistance, and home weatherization. Find CEDA services.
Chicago Utility Billing Relief Program
Utility Billing Relief (UBR) provides Chicago residents with lower incomes a reduced rate on their water, sewer, and water-sewer tax, no late payment penalties or water shut-offs, and debt forgiveness after successfully completing one year of payments with no past due balance. Find out if you’re eligible and apply for UBR.
Utility Bill Assistance
If you are behind on paying your energy bill, most utilities have payment plans and energy assistance options to help you get back on track with your bills. Visit your utility’s site to learn more.
For additional community resources, please see Elevate’s page, and feel free to contact them for more help.
Everyone is affected by energy policy, but too often the voices of those who are most impacted by energy insecurity are not included or considered when crafting solutions. This project aims to lift up the stories of those people whose lives are affected by energy insecurity, so that their experiences are valued and amplified to shape future energy policy. Below are some guidelines to developing equitable energy policy that is Affordable, Accessible, People-Centered, Housing-Forward, and Data-Driven.
AFFORDABLE | Policy makers should…
- Address the needs of those most energy burdened through tiered bill discounts, income-qualified rates, Percentage of Income Payment Plans, and debt forgiveness.
- Protect affordable housing residents with policies that control rent or prevent cost pass-throughs.
- Eliminate charges that punish households with low incomes, such as late payment fees, reconnection fees, and onerous deposit tactics.Eliminate practices that punish households with low incomes, such as credit score-based eligibility requirements and utility disconnections.
- Focus assistance on the most at-risk households including residents that are renters, low-income, BIPOC, rural, and elderly.
ACCESSIBLE | Policy makers should…
- Utilize culturally competent outreach language and methods that successfully reach families with low incomes or living in environmental justice and historically disinvested communities.
- Create realistic eligibility requirements for income-eligible programs that include undocumented families and individuals.
- Develop application processes that are coordinated across multiple programs, consolidated to prevent regularly or repeatedly reapplying, and simplified to require only necessary information and documentation.
PEOPLE-CENTERED | Policy makers should…
- Establish clean energy, decarbonization, and healthy homes programs that target communities that demonstrate the greatest need and potential to benefit including communities with lower incomes and living in environmental justice areas.
- Implement customer-supportive policies that allow communities to decarbonize however they choose, such as deep efficiency retrofits, net electricity metering, etc.
- Develop electrification programming and financial safeguards for larger, gas-heated multi-family affordable housing buildings to prevent saddling renters with increasing natural gas costs.
- Require program workforces to promote diversity and center local hiring.
HOUSING-FOCUSED | Policy makers should…
- Promote energy efficiency to lower energy costs and health and safety standards and materials to improve living conditions for residents of affordable housing.
- Encourage regular energy assessments, benchmarking, and performance certifications to advance deeper energy conservation measures and higher levels of energy performance.
- Administer whole-home approaches to energy efficiency retrofits, electrification measures, and solar and renewable energy.
- Require or incentivize only high-performing and electric-ready new construction housing.
- Permit alternative compliance pathways to building performance standards and other flexibility provisions for affordable housing buildings.
- Coordinate financial and non-energy related housing programs with efficiency and renewable energy programs.
DATA-DRIVEN | Policy makers should…
- Require adequate, transparent, and accurate and updated public data collection and disclosure from utilities to address the affordability data gap.
- Measure equitable metrics like energy burden and building performance with both on-site energy use intensity and onsite greenhouse gas emissions.
- Calculate equitable metrics in a manner that captures the objective (e.g., energy burden is annual utility bills divided by annual household income, per census data).
CALL TO ACTION:
How YOU can Engage with Equitable Energy Policy
Everyone can engage with equitable energy policy, no matter who they are. If these stories resonated with you and you want to get involved, check out some of these ways to take part at the local level. Remember though, progress and change happen in groups. Rather than start an initiative from scratch, try to plug into efforts that are already happening.
- Join local community groups who are pressing for change on energy policy and join in with their activities
- Organize an energy efficiency and decarbonization–focused community meeting where community members identify residential, commercial, and industrial buildings that would be good candidates for energy efficiency retrofits and electrification, with presentations from implementors and program representatives to explain available resources (and begin to collect information and resources in ward office or community center)
- Work with others to organize a waste and recycling-focused community meeting to share and discuss the city recycling contract(s), diverted waste methods and strategies, and organic waste and composting programs.
- Attend local elected officials’ town halls or constituent coffees and ask what they are doing on issues you care about.
- Talk to your city council about
- Collecting community input for “green infrastructure” project plans with ideas for green roofs, tree planting locations, and a resilience center
- Collecting community input for infrastructure projects that would increase and/or protect biking, walking, and community connectedness
- Collecting community input for infrastructure upgrades to public transportation including bikes and scooters, upgrades to existing bus and train stations, and locations for EV (Electric Vehicle) charging and electric bus charging stations
- Collecting community input regarding potential locations and opportunities to develop community gardens and eliminate food deserts
- Identify community members who wish to serve as representatives in future city working groups and notify your city councilor
- (If in Chicago) Request a presentation by Chicago’s Sustainability team at a ward meeting, where more specific/detailed questions can be answered by the folks who worked on the plan- request link here
- (If in Chicago) Have your community members fill out the City’s “What Matters to You” survey