Stay Warm and Save in Winter Weather
Manage Your Utility Bills with Easy Tools and Tips
When temperatures drop, we get a much-needed break from the summer heat. However, you could end up using just as much — or more — energy and water in winter months when trying to stay warm. Because it’s colder outside, your heater and water heater work harder to keep your home comfortable. Austin Energy and Austin Water offer tools and tips to help you monitor your electricity and water use.
Whether you own or rent your home, these resources can help you reduce your consumption and increase your home’s overall efficiency.
We Want Customers to Save Money
As a publicly owned electric utility, Austin Energy commits to helping customers save money and energy year-round. Our resources can help you lower your energy use, improve indoor comfort and air quality, and reduce your environmental impact.
Austin Water shares that commitment. An affordable, safe and plentiful water supply creates a stronger community for customers. 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.
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 $560 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.
- Ways to Help Neighbors — Make a real difference. Whether you are a City of Austin Utilities customer or not, you can give a practical and thoughtful Gift of Comfort to help pay a customer’s utility bill. Or, contribute a tax deductible donation to the Financial Support Plus 1 Fund when you pay your utility bill. Giving this one-time or monthly on-bill donation helps neighbors who need emergency assistance.
- 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 extra support during power outages, one-on-one case management, and additional time to pay their bills. Check eligibility for yourself or a loved one.
Take Advantage of These Rebates and Resources
- Weatherization Assistance — Austin Energy offers free home energy improvements to eligible customers. If you rent or own, weatherization can help make your home more comfortable and energy efficient. Apply in minutes.
- Smart Thermostat Rebates — Seasonal Offer! Through Jan. 31, get a $75 bill credit for each eligible thermostat you enroll in Power Partner, a $25 annual bill credit for each thermostat that remains enrolled, and a $30 rebate for each new eligible thermostat you buy and install. If your house, condo, or apartment already has a smart thermostat installed, you may also qualify for rewards as a Power Partner.
- Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® — House 10+ years old? Whole-home energy improvements can help you save energy and money. Enjoy rebates averaging $1,800 if you do not need a loan. Or, take advantage of low interest financing on home improvements.
- Instant Savings — Find in-store discounts on select energy efficient products when you shop at local stores and see the green tag.
- Heat Pump Water Heaters — Consider an ENERGY STAR certified heat pump water heater for your next water heater purchase. See how you can enjoy energy bill savings and earn $800 in rebates from Austin Energy.
- Online Usage Tools — Check your energy usage regularly to avoid surprises on your energy bill. You can view your home electric usage anywhere you have internet access simply by logging in to Online Customer Care. You can compare your usage to the previous month or year or to similar homes in your neighborhood. You can also set alerts for higher billing tiers and receive customized energy savings tips. For an even deeper dive into your usage, including solar panel production info, access the Austin Energy web app.
Residential Water Rebates — Austin Water provides several rebates to residential
- Up to $1,000 for an irrigation upgrade
- Up to $120 for landscape survival tools (like mulch and compost)
- Up to $150 for a pressure-regulating valve
- Up to $200 for a new pool cover
- Up to $5,000 for equipment to capture rainwater
- Up to $40 for hose timers, and more
Tips for Saving Energy
Need to stay warm and help keep bills low? Spending a lot of time at home? Heater working overtime? You might have many reasons for higher utility bills this winter. However, you have the power to make changes at home to reduce your energy use.
Consider these tips and more for saving energy as you look for easy ways to save in winter weather.
- Lower your thermostat by a few degrees in colder months. High thermostat settings during winter weather increase energy use because your heater must work harder to maintain that temperature.
- 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 sunshine 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 lights when you leave the room and use smart power strips to help save energy.
- Switch the fans. Switch the setting on ceiling fans to run clockwise at a low speed on a cooler day. This gentle updraft helps push warm air near the ceiling down into your living space. Turn off fans when you leave the room.
- 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.
Tips for Saving Water
- Turn off automatic irrigation. Don't water outside in fall and winter months.
- 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.
Tips for Checking for Water 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.
- Learn about City of Austin Customer Assistance Programs
- See if you're eligible or learn how to donate to Financial Support Plus 1
- See if you're eligible for Weatherization Assistance
Savings, Rebates and Incentives
Safety and Preparedness
- Get Austin Energy’s winter weather safety tips
- Plan ahead for power outage emergencies
- Stay informed about any current outage emergency conditions
- Check the City of Austin’s emergency alert information
- Learn about winter electrical safety tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International
- Prepare for a winter storm
- Stay safe during and after a winter storm
- Prepare for extreme cold conditions (pdf)
Get Ready Central Texas