With recurring blasts of arctic air that recently surged across the Great Plains and into North Texas, and which are predicted to bite even deeper into consumers’ pocketbooks as heating systems ramped up over the last month to answer morning low temperatures that fell into the single digits, United Cooperative Services is encouraging members and the general public to be even more vigilant in determining ways to control their energy usage—holding onto precious energy dollars.

“When we encounter the weather we’ve been seeing recently, members ask why the cooperative raised rates,” said United CEO Ray Beavers. “It’s not that rates have gone up. It’s that usage has surged as all of us hunker down and try to stay warm. During these types of weather events, we strongly encourage our members to reach out to us and take advantage of our free home energy audits and all of the resources and rebates United provides to help hold down energy costs,” said Beavers.

Use the tips below to ensure your household is using energy wisely.

• Ensure attic insulation levels are sufficient and add more, if necessary. United recommends an insulation value of R-38 (United provides rebates on some qualifying attic insulation upgrades).

• Weatherize the home, including caulking around windows and sealing with weather-stripping around doors.

• Ensure duct work is adequately sealed at joints and intersections with appropriate tape or mastic.

• Avoid using electric space heaters, which are energy hogs and can substantially increase electric bills.

• Ensure the fireplace flue is closed when not in use. An open flue sucks heat out of the home.

• Utilize programmable thermostats to lower the home temperature when not at home and set it no higher than 68 degrees when occupying the home.

• Water heaters should be set to 120 degrees and if the unit is in a garage or another unconditioned space, utilize an insulated water heater blanket (United members may obtain one during a free energy audit while supplies last).

• Check and or change furnace filters monthly.

• Close drapes at night.

United also offers residential EnergySmarts grants to low-income members. The program is similar to the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) with regard to weatherization support and also in how the funds are dispersed. The grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis until the budget amount is used up. United members at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and who own or are in the process of purchasing a home, are eligible to apply for one grant. Renters are ineligible to receive grants.