Stay Warm, Stay Safe, and Save this Winter

Manage Your Utility Bills with Easy Tools and Tips

fireplace in winter

When winter temperatures drop, your heater works harder and may drive your electricity bills higher. Because wastewater averaging happens during the winter months, now is a great time to focus on responsible water use to keep your bills lower throughout the year. Austin Energy provides tools and tips to help you monitor your electricity use and manage your energy bills. Austin Water also has tools to track your water use and help you take charge of your water bills.

Whether you own or rent your home, our resources help you keep track of how much electricity and water you use, how to cut down on consumption, and how to increase your home’s overall efficiency.

Why Austin Energy and Austin Water Want Customers to Save Money

As a community-owned utility, Austin Energy’s customer driven and community focused approach brings a commitment to affordability, helping you save money and energy throughout the year. Helpful and easy savings tips, tools and rebates regularly empower customers like you to lower energy bills, increase indoor comfort, improve indoor air quality and reduce your environmental impact.

Austin Water shares that commitment. An affordable, safe and plentiful water supply provides tremendous benefits to customers and helps ensure a strong future for the community. When you conserve water through Austin Water’s savings, tips and tools, you save on your water bills and help save water for future generations.

Learn about water saving tips and rebates from Austin Water

Start with Our Web Apps

Find Help with High Utility Bills

The City of Austin has a long history of helping customers with their utility costs. The comprehensive Customer Assistance Program (CAP) channels millions of dollars annually to programs that help customers facing temporary and long-term financial difficulties as well as serious medical problems. Energy efficiency improvements are also available through CAP.

City of Austin services include:

  • Utility Bill Discounts — Customers on low or fixed incomes who already participate in certain federal, state, or local assistance programs can benefit from the City of Austin’s CAP Discounts Program. CAP Discounts can help reduce utility bills an average of $760 a year.
  • Financial Support Plus 1 — This program helps customers who are having financial difficulties and are unable to pay their utility bills due to unexpected emergencies. Austin Energy partners with local social service agencies who administer the funding to qualifying customers.
  • Payment Arrangements  — Payment arrangements are available to customers who fall behind on their utility bills. To enter into an arrangement, customers must pay their monthly bills on time and pay the current billed amount plus a monthly installment payment to reduce their delinquent balance.
  • Budget Billing  — Budget Billing is a service available to customers who prefer to avoid significant fluctuations in their monthly utility bills. To achieve this, Austin Energy takes an average of a customer's previous 12 months of utility bills to calculate an average utility bill payment.
  • Services for the Medically-Vulnerable  — The City of Austin offers a Medically Vulnerable Registry for customers with a long-term disease, ailment, or critical illness. Eligible customers receive additional time to pay their bills and receive one-on-one case management

Remember These Rebates and Resources

  • Weatherization Assistance  — Austin Energy helps income-eligible homeowners and renters save energy and improve indoor comfort with no-cost home energy improvements, which may include attic insulation, minor duct repair/replacement, weatherstripping, and solar screens.
  • Thermostat Rebates — Earn a $25 installation rebate for each eligible Wi-Fi thermostat you install. Plus, Austin Energy offers $85 back for participation in Power Partner Thermostat smart energy savings events.
  • Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® — Enjoy greater savings by making whole home energy improvements with the help of rebates and loans when you need to replace a 10+ year-old air conditioner. Through April 15, 2019, enjoy potential savings of up to $2,400 when you complete recommended energy upgrade measures. 
  • Instant In-Store Savings — Austin Energy customers can receive instant savings while shopping for select energy-efficient products at participating Austin-area retailers. Simply purchase one of the eligible energy-efficient products at a participating retailer and get your instant savings when you check out.
  • Residential Water Rebates — Austin Water provides several rebates to residential customers: up to $400 for an irrigation upgrade, up to $120 for landscape quality, up to $100 for a pressure-regulating valve, up to $5,000 for equipment to capture rainwater, up to $40 for hose timers, up to $1,750 to convert turf grass to native beds, and up to $500 for landscape features that retain rainwater.

Try These Energy-Saving Tips

Need to stay warm and keep bills low? Extra house guests? New home appliances? More time indoors? Heater working overtime? You might have many reasons for higher utility bills this winter.

Consider these tips and more for saving energy as you look for easy ways to save this winter.

  • Set your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower in the winter. Each degree higher uses 3% more energy.
  • Lower your thermostat when you leave home. You’ll use much less energy to heat the house while you are away.
  • Let someone else pay the energy bills. Go to a library, shopping center or community center and take advantage of climate-controlled activities away from home.
  • Install LED light bulbs. LEDs use 90% less electricity, generate less heat, and last 10-25 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs, and five times longer than Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFLs).
  • Let the sun shine in. Open curtains and shades on eastern and southern windows during the day to let in more heat, then close them in the evening.
  • Add insulation to water heaters and hot water pipes to save energy and money. This is inexpensive and easy.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip windows and doors. This simple and inexpensive improvement prevents drafts.
  • Clean or change air filters monthly. Dirty filters make your system work longer than necessary
  • Cover exhaust fans when not in use. An open kitchen exhaust fan allows cold outside air to come into your home. Low-cost covers are available to cover exhaust fan openings.
  • Unplug appliances and electronic devices when you are not using them. They use energy even when they are turned off. Turn off your lights when you leave home.
  • Switch the fans. Switch the setting on ceiling fans to run clockwise at a low speed. This gentle updraft helps push warm air near the ceiling down into your living space.
  • Maintain your fireplace. When not in use, make sure your fireplace damper is closed to prevent heat from escaping up the chimney.
  • Save energy in the kitchen. Energy use in the kitchen can account for as much as 15% of your electric bill. Give your oven and wallet a break by using the oven light to check on the food instead of opening the door. Use a slow cooker or microwave oven to save energy.

Try These Water-Saving Tips

  • Take shorter showers (five minutes, tops). If you take a bath, fill the tub half full.
  • Replace bathroom faucet aerators and showerheads. Aerators use 0.5 gallons per minute, and showerheads use 1.5 gallons per minute or less.
  • Replace older toilets. High-efficiency models use 1.28 gallons per flush. A dual flush model uses even less water.
  • Turn off the water. Don’t use water while shaving, brushing your teeth, lathering in the shower and shampooing or conditioning your hair.
  • Fix leaky faucets. A slow drip can waste several gallons a day.
  • Winterize outdoor faucets when temperatures are expected to dip below freezing to prevent broken pipes.
  • Only run your dishwasher when full. Scrape food from plates instead of rinsing.
  • Replace your clothes washer with models that use less water.

Get more water-saving tips from Austin Water (pdf)

Check for Leaks

Water leaks can cost you money and wastewater. Here is what you can do if you suspect a leak:

  • Check Your Water Meter. Write down a meter reading, and check it again a few hours later (make sure not to use any water while performing this test).
  • Toilets. Check for toilet leaks by adding several drops of food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the toilet bowl within 30 minutes. Leaking toilets can waste about 200 gallons of water every day.
  • Faucets & Showerheads. Check all faucets and showerheads for drips. A slow drip can waste as much as 20 gallons of water each day.
  • Washing Machine & Dishwasher. Look for water on the floor near your washing machine or dishwasher, it could mean a leak.
  • Water Heater. Water dripping down the side of the tank could mean the pressure relief valve is stuck.
  • Irrigation System. Check the irrigation system for damage, especially after mowing your lawn. Schedule a free irrigation system evaluation if needed.
  • Soggy Spots. Soft, soggy, spots in your yard or uneven plant growth might be a sign of a leak in your underground water pipes.
  • Home Foundation. Standing water around the foundation could mean your underground pipes have become damaged.

Get additional resources on leak detection from Austin Water

Stay Safe — Indoors and Outside

Winter in the Austin area can bring sunshine one day and freezing rain the next. In frosty conditions, remember to protect people, pets and plants from the cold and drive safely on slick roads.

Some simple precautions can help you stay safe this winter:

  • Follow these winter safety tips to use caution with space heaters, heating pads and electric blankets to stay warm. Read product labels carefully and never leave them unattended while in use.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms to keep your household safer.
  • Make sure your children know to stay away from electrical substations and never to climb a substation fence.
  • Do not attempt to climb utility poles or trees touching power lines. Also, never try to prune or trim trees touching power lines. Austin Energy can help you safely prune trees around power lines.
  • Only use extension cords safe for outdoor use to power tools and toys when you’re working or playing outside. Remember that extension cords are a temporary, and not permanent, solution for powering appliances. Use only when necessary.
  • Keep electrical appliances at least 10 feet away from pools or other bodies of water.
  • Make sure appliances like blenders, mixers, power tools or other appliances with moving parts are switched off before plugging them in.
  • Keep electronics away from the bathtub and shower, especially when plugged in. Phone chargers, hair dryers and similar items pose a risk near water.
  • Make sure lamps and light fixtures are unplugged or switched off before attempting to change a light bulb.
  • Never use silverware or other metal items to retrieve items from a plugged-in toaster.
  • Use outlet covers when small children are in the home.

Stay Safe During a Power Outage

Power outages are the result of a variety of causes — anything from traffic accidents and wildlife interference, to severe winter weather.  At Austin Energy, the safety of our crews and customers is our utmost concern.

Follow these tips to stay safe during power outages:

  • Call 9-1-1 if you have a medical emergency or your life is at risk during a power outage. Do not wait for your power to be turned back on.
  • Report power outages and receive updates by text message. Text REGISTER to 287846 to get started. Austin Energy will send you proactive texts during outages to keep you informed.
  • Avoid downed power lines. Stay indoors if at all possible during a storm to avoid downed power lines. You must stay at least 35 feet away from any downed lines. If you believe there is a downed power line near your home or business, call 512-322-9100 to report it immediately.
  • Be aware that limbs, fences, hoses, playsets, and other structures near you can become energized by a downed power line.
  • If you must travel across the city in the aftermath of severe weather, first consult the Outage Map to view the location and types of known electrical hazards.
  • Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns during an outage. Candles and kerosene lanterns are not recommended for lighting because of fire risks and fume hazards.
  • Follow safety precautions with portable emergency generators. Portable generators may be used to provide limited electrical power during an outage, but take care to ensure that they do not pose a threat to you and your family. Gas-powered generators pose serious fire and carbon monoxide threats.
  • Never fuel or run a portable generator inside the home, place of business, or garage. 
  • Make sure the generator is equipped with a double-throw transfer switch that protects your equipment and prevents feedback on power lines.
  • Always operate generators according to the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure installation meets proper electrical requirements.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed during an outage. Home refrigerators can keep food cold enough for a day or two without power, if the doors are kept closed. As a rule of thumb, 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer at the proper temperature (32 degrees F) for three to four days. When in doubt, throw it out. Read the FDA guidelines for keeping food safe during outages.
  • Turn off major appliances. When major appliances such as air conditioners and heat pumps are left on, they could overload electric lines once power is restored, causing a second outage. Leave just a few light switches on, including one or two exterior lights. Gas appliances may not work if the power is off because the equipment may require electricity for ignition or valve operation.
  • Do NOT attempt to assist emergency and utility crews. It’s dangerous work. Let the pros handle repairs and restoration.

Learn how to stay safe during an outage

Remember Indoor and Outdoor Water Safety Tips

  • During storm season, remember to turn around, don’t drown. Watch for low-water crossings and local flooding when planning your commute.
  • If you are going out on a boat or another vessel, dress for the water, not the air. Even when the temperature outside is 60 to 70 degrees, the water temperature could be near freezing.
  • Prepare a float plan so other people know your schedule on the water, whether you plan to fish, hunt, kayak or enjoy any other activity on the water.
  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket which fits properly while enjoying activities on the water. Read more tips from the Coast Guard to stay safe on the water this winter.
  • Teach children to ask permission to go near water.
  • Use physical barriers to prevent children from accessing any source of water.
  • Make sure children stay away from water hazards in your community such as garden ponds, creeks and streams, wells and cisterns, and other bodies of water.
  • Use safety locks on toilets and keep bathroom doors closed and toilet-bowl covers down when small children are in the home.
  • Never leave a young child unattended in a bathtub. Do not trust a child’s life to another child or to aids that help a child sit upright in a tub.

Learn More

Last Updated: 1/24/19

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