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Winter bills expected to be up to 20 percent lower on average than last winter depending on customer usage and normal weather
CenterPoint Energy recommends scheduling an Energy Audit to learn how to reduce consumption and save on total bill

MINNEAPOLIS - Sept. 30, 2009 - CenterPoint Energy will pass on lower wholesale natural gas prices to customers in Minnesota. With the lower price of natural gas, an average residential customer’s bill in Minnesota that was $137 last winter could average $110 this coming winter. The Cost of Gas on a customer’s bill, which changes monthly depending on the market prices, is passed on directly to customers with no mark-up and makes up about 70-80 percent of a natural gas bill. The actual total bill will vary depending on the amount of natural gas used. CenterPoint Energy recommends customers call now to schedule a home energy audit and learn how to lower their energy consumption to save even more on their total bill.

“The lower natural gas prices of the summer are a direct benefit of a tough economic market,” said David Baker, division regional vice president of Gas Operations. “We are happy our customers will benefit from lower wholesale natural gas prices going into the winter heating season, since natural gas usage increases due to heating needs.”

Baker adds, “By scheduling a low-cost energy audit with a qualified CenterPoint Energy technician, customers can learn where they have energy loss, how they can reduce their usage and ultimately lower their total natural gas bill even more.” Customers are encouraged to take advantage of energy conservation programs and levelized billing programs to help manage their natural gas bills.

By following some simple energy savings tips, customers can have even lower natural gas bills this winter.

Furnace: A furnace is the largest natural gas consumer, 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’re 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. 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 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.

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.

Get rebates for installation of energy saving equipment:

  • Homeowners and businesses: CenterPoint Energy's package of energy saving programs for efficient natural gas equipment can lower your energy use and operating costs, visit www.centerpointenergy.com/rebates.

Schedule a low-cost energy audit:

Request the Gas Affordability Program (GAP):

  • GAP is designed to help qualifying customers lower their monthly gas bills and pay past due balances.  Customers must have an active Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) guarantee or have received a LIHEAP grant for the current heating season to qualify for the GAP program. If qualified and accepted into the program, customers can receive credits on their monthly natural gas bill.

Join CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Billing Plan:

  • Customers should also consider getting on CenterPoint Energy’s Budget Plan. By spreading your payments evenly throughout the year, you have a predictable, levelized payment each month and avoid high winter bill peaks.

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 & 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 totaling nearly $19 billion. With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 130 years. In Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy is the state’s largest natural gas distribution utility, serving nearly 790,000 customers in 260 communities. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.centerpointenergy.com/home.

For more information contact:
Becca Virden
Phone 651.285-8129
Pager 612.538.1234