HARRISBURG – With frigid temperatures gripping the state this week, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today provided tips to consumers on lessening the harsh impacts of the cold weather and keeping families safer through the practices of sound energy conservation and safe heating.

Severe cold temperatures put extra demands on utility systems, and energy conservation around the house helps. Try these energy-saving tips:

Instead of turning up the heat, add an extra blanket or sweater, if your health permits.  Use a programmable thermostat and set it to lower the temperature at night or whenever the house is unoccupied. Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible. This includes overhead doors on attached garages. Seal off unused rooms. Close the floor or wall registers and return air vents, and keep the doors closed in those areas. Open south-facing window curtains, drapes and blinds during the day. Close coverings at night to keep the heat in. Weather strip and caulk windows.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than one-fifth of residential fires are related to the use of supplemental room heaters, including wood- and coal-burning stoves, kerosene heaters, gas space heaters and electric heaters, so before you put logs on the fireplace or plug in the electric heater, take some precautions. Also, never use an oven or stove to help heat your home.

In addition to winter weather and home heating safety, the PUC’s annual Prepare Now campaign focuses on educating consumers about the availability of low-income programs; increasing consumer awareness of ways to reduce winter heating costs; educating consumers on energy conservation; encouraging consumers to check electric and natural gas bills and supplier contracts; and informing customers about www.PAPowerSwitch.com and www.PAGasSwitch.com as resources to shop for energy suppliers and learn more about efficiency and conservation measures. Visit www.puc.pa.gov and click on "Prepare Now" or call the PUC at 1-800-692-7380.

Should you lose power, consider the following to help stay safe until power is restored:

Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards. If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage. Also, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home's electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here. Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except for the refrigerator and freezer). When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment. After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances. Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.

Consumers using natural gas appliances can also be impacted by the colder than normal temperatures:

Electric power outages can affect gas furnaces and other appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored, call a professional for service. If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately. Leave the door open and do NOT use phones, switch lights or turn appliances on or off, or take any other action while inside the building. After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility.  “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.