Low-income Energy Assistance Program offers home-heating tips

Home heating is a saving grace this time of year. But for as much comfort as it provides, it also exposes us to certain safety hazards.

According to the American Red Cross, home heating is one of the leading causes of house fires in the U.S. With the cold and snow we’ve already experienced this winter, we at LEAP want to make sure you keep warm safely during the coming months. LEAP, the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Low-income Energy Assistance Program, provides cash assistance to help Coloradans pay a portion of winter home-heating costs.

“Home-heating safety is simple but crucial,” LEAP Manager Aggie Berens says. “We encourage everyone to follow a few basic steps to make sure their home heating doesn’t put them at risk.”

The following home heating safety tips come from the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Fire Protection Association.

· Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.

· Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any fireplace embers are extinguished before going to bed or leaving your home.

· Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (like a ceramic tile floor). Keep them off of carpets or rugs and away from bedding or drapes. Also keep children and pets away from space heaters.

· Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

· Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire in your fireplace and catch sparks and rolling logs.

· Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. Ensure that these devices are properly vented.

· Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use. Don’t substitute.

· Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation by installing battery-operated detectors. Test these alarms regularly.

· Defer to skilled professionals to install permanent heating equipment, water heaters and central heating units to ensure code and manufacturer’s instructions are properly followed.

Heating your home during wintertime is expensive. If you’re struggling to pay your heating bills, LEAP can help.

LEAP provides cash assistance to help hard-working families and individuals pay winter home heating costs or help with broken furnaces or wood stoves. This year the average benefit for people who qualify is currently $342 per household.

To qualify for LEAP, applicants must be responsible for paying heating costs directly to an energy provider, fuel dealer or as part of their rent. They also must be permanent legal residents of the United States and Colorado, or have household members who are U.S. citizens.

LEAP-eligible households may also qualify for programs that inspect a home’s primary heating source, such as a furnace or wood‐burning stove, and weatherization upgrades that improve a home’s energy efficiency.

The State of Colorado also offers a rebate of property tax, rent and heat expenses to low-income seniors and disabled persons. Please visit the Colorado Department of Revenue’s website at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/tax/property-tax-rent-heat-credit-ptc-rebate-file for more information and the rebate application booklet.

To find out if you qualify for LEAP, call toll-free at 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) or visit www.colorado.gov/cdhs/leap to view the most current program application requirements and download an application. Applications will be accepted until April 30, 2017.