The costs of food, shelter and gas are on the rise. In fact, one in six American families are unable to pay their utility bills, according to a study by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association.
The reason why is two-fold.
First, Americans have seen their utility bills increase dramatically. NEADA executive director Mark Wolfe told FOX Weather on Thursday this is due to the rising cost of energy, along with record heat waves hitting many parts of the country.
"Families are using more electricity and that helps drive up the cost of cooling in the summer," noted Wolfe. "In other words, it's really a matter of both price and the use."
Secondly, essential expenses such as food are also on the rise — and it’s largely due to the rising energy costs.
According to Wolfe, energy is an underlying good for many essential purchases. When the price of food is determined, factors such as the cost of producing the food and then bringing it to the store are taken into account — essentially, energy touches virtually every stage of production.
"At the end of the day, two of the most important goods, cost of energy and the cost of food, have gone up very, very quickly in the last year," said Wolfe.
How to bring down costs
While American families cannot control the price of energy, Wolfe said they could control the amount they use and doing so will help bring down utility costs.
Here are a few of his recommendations:
- Consider the temperature you set your furnace. Setting it from 72 degrees to 70 or bringing it down to 65 degrees at night can potentially help you save 10-20% on the utility bill.
- Look for leaks around the house. Fixing a crack or leaky window can prevent heat from escaping your home.
- Call your local utility company. Many utilities offer free home energy audits and discounts on installing insulation or replacing items, such as an old furnace (or the utility company can tune-up).
How to find financial assistance
If your family still struggles to afford the utility bill, consider these options:
- See if you qualify for the Low Income Homeowner Assistance Program. According to Wolfe, Congress provides more than $4 billion annually to help families afford their heating and cooling bills.
- Call your local utility company to see if they can offer extended repayment plans and discounts.