The cost of staying warm during deep freeze
For Sharon Smith, the drop in temperature isn't measured in degrees but in dollars and cents.
"I have my heat at 62, and I'm like, 'No one turn it up. No one,'" she said.
The Easton mother of four children and the guardian of a 3-year-old granddaughter is the home's sole provider. She doesn't make much, and this time of year, most of what she does make goes to heat.
"If we run out of oil, have to have $400 just to get 100 gallons of oil. People won't come out for anything less," Smith said.
So instead, diesel fuel was bought and used for the hot water. Electric heat is now the family's warm coiled lifeline, and that's expensive too.
"$150 to $200," she said of her last electric bill.
Tim Werener, of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, said he sees more and more families like Smith's struggle with Mother Nature. He said the organization's low-income heating assistance program is busier than ever.
"Compared to last year, the amount of referrals for this year is 50 more," he said.
The state-funded program helped Smith repair her boiler and pay her heating bills, which allows her granddaughter to be blissfully unaware of the frigid dangers that could creep inside.
"Do you know how hard it is to tell her to keep her clothes on?" she chuckled.
Energy companies said they can't quantify how much extra it costs families to heat their homes for each degree dropped as it's different for each home and individual family, but doing simple things such as closing blinds at night and setting your thermostat correctly can lead to big savings.
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