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CenterPoint Energy expects Minnesota natural gas prices to be relatively low; same as last winter
Take advantage of energy saving programs in order to save even more

MINNEAPOLIS - September 27, 2010 - CenterPoint Energy experts estimate that natural gas prices in Minnesota are expected to be the same as last heating season. The average residential customer paid about $570 last year during the winter months of November through March. Even though gas prices are expected to remain low, CenterPoint Energy encourages customers to take advantage of its Conservation Improvement Program to save more energy and money.

“CenterPoint Energy is committed to delivering natural gas to its customers safely, reliably and at reasonable prices,” said Tal Centers, division regional vice president of Gas Operations. “We are pleased that gas prices are staying low for our customers, demonstrating that natural gas continues to be a great energy value when compared to other heating fuels. We are committed to providing ways our customers can reduce their overall energy consumption, which leads to lower energy bills.”

The combination of lower demand due to moderate temperatures and robust domestic natural gas production caused prices to drop in September. The cost of gas on a customer’s bill, which changes monthly depending on market prices, is passed directly to customers with no mark-up and makes up about 70 to 80 percent of a natural gas bill. The other 20 to 30 percent of the bill covers the cost of delivering natural gas. The actual total bill amount varies depending on the amount of natural gas used.

CenterPoint Energy encourages customers to take advantage of the many energy saving programs and Budget Plan program they offer to help manage energy bills as winter approaches. By following these simple energy savings tips, customers can lower natural gas bills this winter:

Furnace: A furnace is the largest natural gas consuming appliance, and makes up about 70 percent of your natural gas bill.

  • Schedule an annual tune-up by a professional to ensure that the heating system and other gas appliances are operating safely and efficiently, and to avoid costly and inconvenient repairs.
  • Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees when you are awake and lower when you are asleep or away from home. By lowering your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day, you can save up to 10 percent a year on your heating costs. Installing a programmable thermostat can help you automatically control your heat usage.
  • Replace your filter according to manufacturer’s specifications. A dirty filter restricts airflow and can increase the operating cost of your furnace by as much as 10 percent. A good reminder is to change the filter each time you receive your natural gas bill.

Water heater: The water heater is the second-largest gas consuming appliance making up about 25 percent of your bill.

  • Set the water heater temperature at 120 degrees and wrap any exposed water heater pipes. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees from 140 degrees and insulating your pipes can save you up to 10 percent on your water heating costs.

Make your home more airtight and keep cold air outside:

  • Seal leaks around doors, windows and other openings such as pipes or ducts, with caulk or weather-stripping. The most common places where air escapes in homes are floors, walls, ceilings, ducts, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans, vents, and electrical outlets.
  • If it has been a while, consider adding more insulation in your attic.
  • On sunny days, open draperies and blinds to let in the sun’s warmth. Close them at night to insulate against the cold air outside.

Get rebates for installation of energy saving equipment:

  • Heating System Rebates: The high efficiency heating rebate program provides rebates of up to $500 to customers who upgrade or replace their furnace or boiler to a high-efficiency model.
  • Water Heater Rebates: Rebates are available to customers who install a qualifying high efficiency natural gas tank water heater or an indirect water heater installed with a condensing boiler.
  • Natural gas fireplace rebate: Save energy when you install a direct-vent natural gas fireplace, insert of free-standing stove with electronic ignition.
  • Air Sealing and Insulation Rebates: This new rebate is available to customers that qualify based on receiving a recommendation from a certified auditor, such as those available through CenterPoint Energy.
  • Business Rebates: CenterPoint Energy is also offering energy efficiency incentives for businesses - the higher the efficiency of the equipment - the higher the rebate, as well as other energy saving programs. www.centerpointenergy.com/saveenergy.

Schedule a low-cost energy audit:

Install low flow showerheads and faucet aerators:

  • CenterPoint Energy residential customers are eligible to receive up to 3 free low flow showerheads and up to 3 free kitchen or bath faucet aerators. These items are available free of charge, regardless of whether customers have received showerheads from CenterPoint Energy in the past.
  • Using a single low flow showerhead and faucet aerator can save the average household over 3,000 gallons of water per year, lowering heating costs. www.centerpointenergy.com/lowflow

Join CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Plan:

  • Customers should also consider enrolling in CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Plan. By spreading your payments evenly throughout the year, customers can have a predictable, levelized payment each month and avoid high winter bill peaks. Customers can learn more at www.centerpointenergy.com/budgetplan.

Call CenterPoint Energy:

Obtain state information on how to stay safe and warm:

  • The Stay Warm Minnesota campaign was launched to help every Minnesota family experience a safe and comfortable winter. Visit www.staywarm.mn.gov for useful information regarding energy efficiency and heating assistance programs provided by the federal and state government, private industry, non-profits and energy utilities.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines and field services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Assets total more than $19 billion. With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years. In Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy is the state’s largest natural gas distribution utility, serving about 800,000 customers in 260 communities. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit CenterPointEnergy.com.