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Natural gas bills could be twice as high this month compared to last due to colder weather

 MINNEAPOLIS – December 17, 2013CenterPoint Energy is seeing higher consumption by natural gas customers as a result of the recent cold weather. Customers should expect that the bills they receive for December usage could be twice as high as the bills they received for November usage due to increased heating needs.   
“Temperatures have been 36 percent colder than average in Minnesota for the first half of December and throughput for firm customers on our system is estimated to be approximately 97% more than last month,” said Joe Vortherms, vice president of Gas Operations for CenterPoint Energy. “This increase is based primarily on higher usage and not on increases in the cost of natural gas, which remains a great energy value.

“Consumers can manage higher natural gas bills by lowering their consumption, making their home more energy efficient and enrolling in our Budget Plan to spread costs more evenly throughout the year,” added Vortherms.

CenterPoint Energy recommends the following tips:

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

• Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and 65 degrees when you’re not. By lowering your thermostat 10 – 15 percent 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. Add on extra layers of clothing to keep warm.
• Change your air filters monthly. 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 typically making up about 25 percent of your bill.

  • Set the water heater temperature at 120 degrees and wrap any exposed water heater pipes and install a water heater insulator blanket around the tank. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees from 140 degrees and insulating your pipes and water heater can save you up to 15 percent on your water heating costs.

Other appliances: Although they consume less natural gas, you can still maximize their efficiency.

  • Run your washing machine, dish washer and gas dryer only with full loads.

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 the sun’s warmth in. Close them at night to insulate against the cold air outside.

Take advantage of CenterPoint Energy’s energy efficiency programs-
CenterPoint Energy’s energy saving programs include rebates for high-efficiency natural gas heating and water heating equipment, electronic ignition direct-vent fireplaces, furnace and boiler tune-ups, and low flow devices, such as showerheads, spray valves and faucet aerators. Offerings include low-income household home weatherization for customers whose income is at less than 50 percent of the Minnesota state-median income level and who own a residential structure of 1-4 units.
 
To learn more about these money saving energy efficiency programs visit CenterPointEnergy.com/saveenergy.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and competitive natural gas sales and services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. The company also owns a 58.3 percent limited partner interest in a midstream partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp. with operations in major
natural gas and liquids-rich producing areas of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. With more than 8,700 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit CenterPointEnergy.com.