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CenterPoint Energy issues important tips to help lower consumption, better manage natural gas bills
Colder weather this winter leads to increased customer usage, higher gas bills

HOUSTON - Feb. 10, 2010 - CenterPoint Energy is issuing important tips to help customers lower their gas consumption and better manage their natural gas bills.

The size of home heating bills primarily reflects two factors: the price of natural gas and the amount of gas the customer is using - which is often related to weather. This winter has been significantly colder than last; therefore customers have been consuming more natural gas for heating needs. And since the furnace is the largest natural gas consuming appliance in the home, making up anywhere from 50-70 percent of a typical winter natural gas bill, its usage greatly impacts the total bill amount.

If a customer still thinks their bill is unusually high, CenterPoint Energy recommends the following tips:

  • Check your meter reading to compare it to the “current reading” amount listed on your bill. If the reading you see on your gas meter is lower than the “current reading” amount on your bill, contact CenterPoint Energy. For instructions on how to read your meter, follow the instructions on the back of your bill.
  • Visit http://www.centerpointenergy.com/promo/selfservice to enroll in My Account Online and compare your gas usage history for the previous 15 months.
  • Visit http://www.centerpointenergy.com/paybill for a variety of payment options including paying by phone with a credit or debit card or electronic check. This service is provided by BillMatrix for a fee. CenterPoint Energy does not receive any portion of this fee.
  • Enroll in CenterPoint Energy’s Average Monthly Billing program to help you avoid winter bill peaks by spreading your natural gas costs throughout a 12-month period.
  • Contact CenterPoint Energy at the number listed on your bill as soon as possible if you are having difficulty or anticipate having difficulty paying your natural gas bill or have received a disconnect notice. We will discuss payment arrangements, provide information about Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds and connect you with social service agencies that may qualify you for payment assistance.

CenterPoint Energy also recommends that customers take advantage of the many low-cost, no-cost things they can do around the home to save energy and money:

  • Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and even lower 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.
  • 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.
  • Set your water heater temperature at 120 degrees and wrap 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.
  • 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 and ceilings, ducts, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans and vents, and electrical outlets.
  • 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.

Customers can visit www.centerpointenergy.com/readyforwinter for more helpful information on ways to save energy and money.

To stay safe while staying warm:

  • Follow manufacturers' operating instructions properly for gas heating equipment and do not use stovetop burners or ovens to heat a room since they are not designed for this use.
  • Make sure the fireplace damper is open at all times when using gas logs.
  • Crack windows slightly if using unvented space heaters and consider buying a CO detector as another line of defense against CO poisoning.

If you smell gas:

  • Leave immediately and tell others to do the same. Do not use electric switches, telephones (including cell phones), or anything that could cause a spark.
  • Go to a safe location and call CenterPoint Energy. Do not use e-mail or the Internet to contact the company about a leak, and never assume someone else has reported the leak.

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 total nearly $19 billion. With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years. For more information, visit the Web site at www.CenterPointEnergy.com.