As the weather turns colder and people are turning on their furnaces, state officials are reminding residents of the Cold Weather Rule (CWR), which goes into effect in Minnesota Thursday.
The rule protects people from having their heat shut off during the winter months if they have trouble paying their bills. It goes into effect each year on Oct. 15 and lasts until April 15, according to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
All electric and natural gas companies have to provide Cold Weather Rule protections for their customers, according to the PUC. Each company offers different types of payment plans, depending on household income.
If you have trouble keeping up with your winter heating bills, you should contact your utility to set up a payment plan.
Things to keep in mind:
- The CWR only applies to residential customers, not businesses.
- You must contact your utility to make arrangements for a payment plan; you won't be protected if you just skip paying your bills.
- You can set up a payment plan anytime during the CWR season.
- You need to keep up with the payment schedule you set up with the utility. If you break the terms of the plan, the utility doesn't have to renegotiate.
- If you can't agree on a payment amount, you can ask for an appeal from the utility.
- The rule only applies to natural gas and electric heat. Fuels that are delivered – such as fuel oil, propane or wood – are not covered. But if you need electricity to keep your heat on, you may apply for CWR protection with your electric company.
- When the CWR season ends on April 15 and you still owe on your bill, you can ask your utility to continue your payment plan.
You can get more information about the Cold Weather Rule from the Public Utilities Commission website, or you can call them at 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.
If you need help paying your bills, you can find help at one of the agencies listed here.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has more options for heating assistance here.
In the Twin Cities metro area, Xcel Energy Center and CenterPoint Energy are the two main electricity and natural gas providers.
You can find more from Xcel Energy online or by phone: 800-895-4999
You can find more from CenterPoint Energy online or by phone: 612-372-4680 or 800-729-6164
You can find your utility company here.