How low should you set your thermostat?

If you live in a household with multiple people, a couple degrees on the thermostatthermostat-photoshop could spark the biggest arguments. So, let’s settle it once and for all: Where should you set your home’s temperature?

The Department of Energy says setting your thermostat back 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours a day—when you’re at work, for example—can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating. Keep Warm Illinois, a state website dedicated to helping consumers “battle winter,” puts it another way: For every degree you lower your thermostat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you could save an average of 3 percent on heating costs.

If that’s too much math and too many numbers, the Department of Energy makes it easy. You can save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68 degrees while you’re awake, and lower while you’re asleep or away from home.  Just remember: Setting the temperature too low is bad for your health and home. Anything below 55 degrees can freeze your pipes and cause them to burst.

All this temperature-setting  is made easier with a programmable or smart thermostat. (Read about great smart thermostat rebates!) If you have such a device, consider when you normally go to bed and wake up. The Energy Department suggests scheduling a lower temperature well before you go to bed. But how long before? That depends on how quickly your home cools down.

Also, consider the schedules of other people in the household. If there’s a time during the day when the house isn’t occupied for four hours or more, lower the temperature during that period.

The bottom line: It will take some guesswork and then trial and error to figure out the right temperature schedule to keep your home comfortable and and your utility bills affordable.

Finally, the location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency. Read the manufacturer’s installation instructions to prevent “ghost” or inaccurate readings, or unnecessary furnace cycling. To operate properly, a thermostat has to be on an interior wall away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights and windows.

For more tips, go to CUB’s Energy Efficiency page.

Posted in Cold weather tips, CUB, energy efficiency, Safety tips, Saving Money, smart thermostat, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Donations Doubled!

20161018_matchgift_fbThis week, a generous CUB supporter has agreed to match donations, which makes it the perfect time to give.

Your contribution—whatever you can afford— will help fund our lawyers, consumer advocates, and money-saving events and publications needed to fight rip-offs across the state.

Besides rip-offs, we’re also up against a slew of rate-hike battles. Take a look:

  • Fighting ComEd’s $138 million rate-hike plan.
  • Advocating for a $20 million Ameren electric rate cut.
  • Challenging Illinois American Water’s $43 million rate-hike request.
  • Pushing Springfield to double energy efficiency standards and spark more than $4 billion in consumer savings.
  • Fighting for refunds and reforms to prevent a wasteful Peoples Gas pipeline program from going $4 billion over-budget.

Our budget is stretched to the limit, so we hope all Illinoisans will pitch in to help us fight the big energy and gas companies. (And remember your gift will go twice as far.)

One man said it best, after CUB helped him drop an unregulated electricity supplier that was charging him double.

“My donations have been rewarded many times over!” he said.

Please fight for a better Illinois today!

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New report: Midwest natural gas bills could go up by 30%

Natural gas customers in the Midwest can expect to spend more to heat their homes this winter, but their bills should still be comparable to or lower than most winters this past decade, according to a new federal report .

Gas customers in the Midwest may see their total heating costs rise by an average of 30 percent, compared with last winter, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.

Propane customers also are projected to pay 30 percent more, and heating oil users could pay almost 40 percent more. Electric heating customers could pay about 8 percent more on their bills, the EIA said in its short-term energy outlook today.

Energy prices last winter were especially low, with warmer-than-normal weather reducing heating demand to the lowest level nationwide in at least 25 years, according to the report. We don’t know yet what Illinois utilities will predict for this winter, but last winter Crain’s Chicago Business reported that bills were down 12.5 percent to 23 percent.

The EIA’s estimates are based on a number of factors, including expected fuel prices, projected heating demand, and weather. This winter is expected to be colder than last year, but still warmer than the 10-year average.

No matter the predictions, remember that energy efficiency can help you stay comfortable without breaking the bank. Read our tips, and visit our energy efficiency page.

Also, don’t forget to share your best winter efficiency tip with us. You could win $100!

Heating source Expenditures  last winter ($) Projected expenditures this winter ($) Percent change (%)
Natural gas 515 $668 29.7
Heating oil 992 1,370 38.1
Electricity 972 1,052 8.2
Propane 982 1,272 29.6
Posted in Energy, gas bills, Natural Gas, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Give us your best winter efficiency tips, you could win $100

20161011_efficiencytip_fbAs we pull out our winter jackets from storage and hunker down for the (hopefully  short) winter, CUB wants to receive your best cold-weather energy efficiency tip.

We want to hear hear from the real experts on Illinois winters: utility customers like you!

Fill out this form and you could be randomly selected to win $100 off your winter gas bills. Plus, we’ll publish the best tips in the winter CUB Voice, our quarterly newsletter.

The deadline to submit your answer is midnight, Oct. 31.



Posted in Cold weather tips, CUB survey, Energy, gas bills, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CUB Power Calculator update with new power prices

20161005_cubcalculator_fbCUB’s Power Calculator, a free tool to help you judge alternative electricity supplier offers in Illinois, has been updated with new winter power prices.

Here’s how you use it:

  • Go to 
  • Just plug in the price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of an alternative electricity supplier’s offer. (Make sure to ask if there’s a monthly fee. You can add that into the calculator too.)
  • Hit calculate.

CUB’s calculator will show you how the alternative offer compares with the ComEd or Ameren Illinois rates. As of Oct. 1, the utility companies are charging these rates:

ComEd: 6.388¢/kilowatt-hour (kWh)

Ameren: 6.514¢/kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the first 800 kWh used; 4.776¢/kWh for usage over 800 kWh

The prices above are what you compare to alternative supplier offers that are pitched to you. Follow these tips:

* Don’t give out your electric bill or account number unless you are sure you want to switch. If you do, an unethical marketer could use that information to switch you to an alternative supplier without your consent.

*Ask if the rate you are being offered is an introductory or promotional rate, and if so, when does that rate end and what will be the new rate.

*Ask if the rate you’re being offered has any fees tied to it—such as an exit fee, or a monthly fee that will inflate the per-kWh rate. Exit fees are capped at $50, and you can avoid getting slapped with one if you cancel a contract within 10 days once the supplier’s charges first appear on the bill.

Read CUB’s fact sheets on the new power prices for ComEd and Ameren customers. Tell us if you want our free poster, “Paying too much for power?” It could help you spot a bad deal on your bill.

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Retiree saves hundreds, thanks to CUB Voice, Consumer Hotline


The article Terry read that helped him save hundreds!

After reading CUB’s quarterly publication The CUB Voice, Stillman Valley resident Terry Temple realized he was paying way too much for his electric and gas service, and he did something about it.

The retired marketing director for GE Aviation Systems came upon a full-page article headlined “Paying too much for power?” in The Voice’s summer edition. That led him to make a grim discovery about his alternative supplier, Energy Plus.

“I was paying 14 cents a kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is ridiculous, and twice what I could be paying,” Terry said.

At the time, ComEd was charging a rate of about 6.2 cents per kWh. After consulting with CUB, Terry called Energy plus, which offered him a discount if he stayed with the supplier, but Terry said he didn’t want to deal with the company anymore, and he closed his contract.

However, his electric bill wasn’t the only problem.

Terry thought he also might be paying too much for natural gas, so he did some research and consulted with CUB and discovered he was with an alternative supplier called Nicor Advanced Energy. Terry didn’t realize Nicor Gas, the regulated utility, and Nicor Advanced Energy were different companies until CUB pointed out he was paying a rate about 25 percent higher than the utility’s price.

After reducing his bills by hundreds of dollars, Terry emailed CUB to thank the watchdog for its help.

“Both (Energy Plus and Nicor Advanced) were ripping me off with extremely high rates,” Terry wrote. “My donations have been rewarded many times over!”

“It’s great to have the services that CUB provides,” he said later. “You educate people on what’s happening with utilities in Illinois, and I’m thankful.”

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Consumer Alert: PIPP is back! (but funds are going fast)

A program that helps low-income seniors and families stay current with their utility bills was reinstated after budget disputes in Springfield suspended it for a year. However, due to the program’s popularity the funding has run out in Cook County and is going fast in other counties.

The Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) allows low-income households to get help paying gas or electric bills as long as they contribute a certain percentage of their gross income to those bills.

“We’re glad the program is so popular with consumers, because it encourages families to stay current with their bills,” CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen said. “As always, we’ll keep pushing for more funding for PIPP and other pro-consumer programs.”

To see what assistance programs are available in your area and if you qualify, call the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, at 1-877-411-9276.

CUB has a fact sheet on these programs, at

Also, for more information, look under the “Need Help Paying Your Utility Bills?” section on the Electric and Gas pages.

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