column logo Alithea Athans

Having cold agglutinin disease (CAD) brings many challenges, including high bills for heating our homes. We often don’t think of this until it happens—until we get the bill in the mail. This past winter my heating bills were exceptionally high, although I had no choice but to keep the temperature higher than many others may. I must say that I am not looking forward to this year’s winter bills.

The weather across the globe has been extreme recently, but what will that mean for everyone this winter season? Your guess is as good as mine. I have always used the Farmer’s Almanac, not because of CAD, but because I travel so much for work. I just read a report that extreme changes in weather patterns will make it so that the almanac could be unreliable this year.

Because weather is somewhat unpredictable, and with CAD it is necessary to stay warm, we must be prepared. I have noticed that many of my neighbors have generators in the event that the electricity goes out. Where I live, our power lines are above ground, which could be a problem. Ice storms and heavy snow can bring the lines down, causing outages from minor to major. Luckily, I haven’t had this issue yet, but I don’t want to be without power during the colder months. I am going to research generators.

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A great way to offset the recent steady increase in the cost of natural gas, oil, and electricity is the use of a wood-burning stove, which could drastically reduce heating bills. I do have a fireplace, but believe it or not, I have never used it. It would probably be a good idea to have my chimney cleaned and half a cord of wood on hand.

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With energy costs as high as they are and as a person with CAD, I can’t just lower the heat to save on dollars. Therefore, it’s important to know what help I have available (and you might, in your situation) before an issue arises.

A good place to start is knowing the law in your state. An amazing resource is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federal program that helps communities and families with their heating and cooling bills. The website is user friendly; right on the main page, under the Get Help tab, it lists several resources to help with energy bills, disaster relief, food and housing, and other social services.

This winter, if you should find yourself in a situation where you cannot afford your heating costs, do not ignore them; this can compound the problem. Instead, reach out to your utility company to explain your medical situation. Most states have special protections where you can be added to a list at your utility company that protects you from having your utilities turned off. One of those protections is for people with medical conditions. CAD is not a listed condition, but a simple letter from your doctor would be sufficient.  

I would highly recommend at your next visit before winter comes that you request such a letter so you have it in your files should you ever need it. Never be too proud to ask for help; this is your life and health that could be at stake.

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If you are not disabled or in a low-income bracket, what do you do? Some suggestions have been to only heat the essential rooms that you use during the day and keep all the doors shut to the rooms that you are not using. Of course, it is suggested that you wear extra sweaters, but I don’t think I could wear any more than I do in the winter. I already wear a ridiculous number of layers.

There are also many government grants available that can help assist you in paying for energy upgrades. Just make sure you use government websites so you know that you are applying for the real thing, and not falling prey to any of the many scams out there. Be careful! Also, if you happen to have an Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, you can apply for a Title 1 loan for up to $7500. They don’t check your credit, but they do check your debt-to-income ratio, and it cannot be above 45%. You just need to find a bank that handles FHA loans. This could be a great way to get a loan to make your home more energy efficient, which may make your heating less expensive.

Although the resources here are primarily for low-income families, it doesn’t they won’t also apply to you. Don’t just assume. Always try to apply, because you never know. The worst thing they will say is no, and then you can research other options.