How Can I Lower My Monthly Bill for Natural Gas and Electricity?
Natural gas service providers, such as Southwest Gas Corporation and UNS Gas, Inc., pass on increases in their natural gas costs through purchased gas adjustor mechanisms that are approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Arizona Public Service Company and Tucson Electric Power customers may also experience higher electric bills as a result of those utilities' approved power and fuel adjuster mechanisms that allow APS and TEP to pass energy costs (that include natural gas) on to their customers. With this in mind, RUCO offers the following suggestions on how you can lessen the effects of natural gas costs that are directly passed on to you by your local service providers. You can also use RUCO's "Consumer Links" page to go directly to your local service providers' websites to find out what types of energy savings plans are available to you.
Levelized Billing Plans
Most of Arizona's utilities offer levelized billing plans that allow you to spread your total annual costs for natural gas or electricity over a twelve month period. In the case of natural gas, plans such as this have the effect of lowering your monthly bill during colder months and raising it over warmer months. For many consumers this type of plan makes their monthly utility bills more manageable. For example, if you have average monthly natural gas bills of lets say $65 during the five coldest months of the year, but only have average bills of $25 during the remaining seven warmer months of the year, a levelized billing plan would allow you to pay approximately $42 per month. Any increases or decreases in your consumption habits would be averaged into your next year's monthly bills.
Low Income Assistance Programs
Depending on your annual household income, you may qualify for low income assistance plans that can lower your monthly costs for natural gas and electricity. An example of this is a federal program called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP, which provides funds to state governments to help pay part of those bills for households that qualify, as well as for home weatherization. To find out more about LIHEAP you can contact the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Community Services Administration office. In addition, Most of Arizona's utilities offer programs of their own. Some of these programs, such as UNS Gas, Inc.'s "Warm Spirit" program, are funded by contributions that come directly from customers themselves.
Demand Side Management Programs
Demand side management, or DSM, programs are offered by utilities to help customers to conserve and use natural gas and electricity in the overall interests of reducing utility costs. In other words DSM is the implementation of those measures that help customers to use natural gas and electricity more efficiently. RUCO believes that properly implemented DSM programs can provide ratepayers with the tools they need to help mitigate the effects of utility rate increases. DSM programs include discounts for purchasing newer energy saving light bulbs and appliances and for the installation of home improvements that include insulated windows and weather stripping. You can contact your local electric or natural gas service provider to find out what types of DSM related plans are available to you.
Here are some tips on how to "weatherize" your home in order cut your monthly consumption of natural gas and electricity:
Furnaces and water heaters
- Tune up your existing furnace.
- Clean filters on forced-air furnaces in your home.
- Wrap your home's hot water heater in an insulating jacket.
- If you're buying a new furnace, do not get one any larger than what you need.
- If possible, replace inefficient furnaces and water heaters with new high-efficiency models.
Doors and windows
- Install curtains on the windows in your home.
- Check for leaks and drafts and add weather stripping as needed around your windows and doors.
- If your home already has some insulation, consider increasing the amount of insulation in the attic and/or floors over a basement or crawlspace.
- Insulate older homes that lack insulation.
- Install a thermostat that will automatically lower temperatures when rooms in your home are unoccupied.
- Use ceiling fans to circulate air in your home, keeping the air mixed.
- Seal flues in your home's unused fireplaces.
- Install low-flow showerheads.
- Conduct an "energy audit" of your home to evaluate your heating system's efficiency and determine where heat loss may be occurring. Many fuel dealers and utility providers offer these audits as a free service.
- You can also perform your own home energy audit on the Internet, and find other useful tips, by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Savers Tips web site, follow the instructions found there.