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Home heating help available

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Several programs are available to help area residents struggling to keep warm this winter.

NV Energy, formerly Sierra Pacific Power Co., offers financial and weatherization programs.

Larry Rackley, project manager for the company’s weatherization program, said the company will hire a contractor to come out and install insulation for attics, pipes, water heaters, CFL light bulbs, high-efficiency shower heads, a programmable thermostat, and caulk windows and doors and put in weather-stripping to qualified customers.

Customers have to meet eligibility requirements set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is to have income at 150 percent of the federal poverty level or 80 percent of the median income of the county they live in, he said.

“It also varies with the amount of people in a house,” he said. “It starts at $1,300 a month and goes up from there.”

Another program, the Senior Power program, takes place in a different location every year and provides company employees as volunteers to aid senior citizens with their weatherization needs.

Denice Tsuda, manager of credit and billing operations for NV Energy, said the company also offers the SAFE program, or Special Assistance Fund For Energy, which is not income based, but helps people with emergency needs.

She said program recipients have to have a past due bill, can’t have any returned checks and can’t use funds to pay the deposit on their accounts.

“It’s for if you’re just having a financial hardship and trouble paying the bill,” she said. “It’s just helping customers that need additional help at the time.”

The fund is paid for by customers who round up their bills and by shareholders who donate funds, she said.

“We also set up deferred payment arrangements for customers,” Tsuda said, adding that anyone needing additional time to pay bills can contact the company.

Tsuda said the state also offers the Energy Assistance Program, which has both financial and weatherization components. To qualify for EAP, residents have to be 150 percent of the federal poverty level and can get assistance only once a year.

For the past 12 years, local heating and air conditioning contractor Sierra Air as donated labor, parts and materials to service furnaces for homeowners who can’t afford needed repairs. Workers have provided more than 1,000 free service calls since the effort began. The program runs from Dec. 10 to Jan. 5.

Steve Sanford, service manager for the company, said requests for free service are judged on a case-by-case basis.

“We listen to your story and typically if you are needy and don’t have much income, we’ll come out and do the free service call for you,” he said. “If you are a single mom, or have a bunch of kids. We get quite a few calls, but if people can’t afford it, we’ll just come out and do it.”

In a press release, Sierra Air president Ron Ford said often workers go to a home to find a furnace that is not only broken but unsafe.

“I can’t imagine a family or anyone freezing during the holidays,” he said.

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.

TO GET HELP

Sierra Air: 775-356-5566

NV Energy’s Comfort Savings Program: 866-920-7822 or http://www.nvenergy.com/home/assistance/

NV Energy’s other programs: 775-834-4444

State of Nevada’s Energy Assistance Program: 866-846-2009

TIPS ON SAVING ENERGY

* Adjust furnace thermostat to a lower setting

* Replace furnace air filter monthly

* Inspect air ducts for leaks

* Install programmable thermostat

* Install a water heater blanket

* Insulating hot water pipes

* Caulk gaps around window and door frames

* Weather strip doors

* Open blinds and curtains during the day to let the sun in and close them at night or on cloudy days

* Turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use.

* Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

* Vacuum the coils underneath or on the back of your refrigerator.

* Set the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees.

* Close foundation vents during winter months.