Our friends at the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) have just released an interesting "myths" list just in time for cold weather. Check it out:
Top 5 myths about your gas bills
Myth No. 1: There's nothing you can do to cut your energy bills.
You can't count on the energy markets, or the utilities, to cut your costs, but energy efficiency is the most reliable way to take control of your electric and gas bills. CUB's free online tool, CUBenergysaver.com, helps consumers build a money-saving plan perfect for their home. It's been showing households how to cut their bills by $100 a year. Plus, check out our library of efficiency incentives available to Illinois consumers this winter.
Winter is here! Know the myths about your gas bill.
Don’t let a gas debt build in the winter, assuming you’re protected from getting your service shut off. While a gas utility may impose its own moratorium on winter shut-offs, a company can shut off service as long as the temperature is expected to be above 32 degrees for the next 24 hours. There are some rights that a gas utility must extend to you before disconnecting your service. Call CUB's Consumer Hotline,1-800-669-5556, if you have questions about what those rights are.
Myth No. 3: The gas company always reads your meter.
Did you know the gas utility can delay reading your meter for months, and instead just estimate your usage? CUB gets complaints from people slammed with huge make-up bills after the gas company spent months underestimating bills. If you get two estimated readings in a row, call the company to ask why it's not reading your meter, and consider doing your own meter readings. (CUB's fact sheet can help you do that.) CUB has been pushing for rules changes that would require the utilities to read meters more often.
Myth No. 4: An alternative gas company can protect you from utility rate hikes.
Even if you buy gas from an alternative gas company you're not shielded from utility rate hikes. The regulated utility still charges you to deliver that gas to your home—and those "delivery rates" are subject to the increases that CUB fights all the time. (CUB's review of the natural gas market has found that most plans from alternative suppliers would lose customers money, to date. See CUB's guide to alternative gas suppliers in Nicor Gas and Peoples/North Shore Gas territories.)
Myth No. 5: Your utility profits off of high gas prices.
Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Nicor and Ameren DO profit off the "delivery rates" on gas bills—what the companies charge to deliver the gas to your home—but they DON'T profit off the actual supply of gas. The utilities are legally obligated to prudently buy the fuel and pass the cost onto customers, with no markup. Producers and marketers that sell gas to the utilities, however, are making big profits. CUB for years has called for stronger oversight of the wholesale gas market.