Energy companies urge saving to avoid higher bills

CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy are urging customers to make some changes to avoid higher heating bills.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — As record cold temperatures stabilize across the country, energy companies are urging customers to be proactive.

Xcel Energy said the increase in wholesale natural gas prices could last two days as production and demand for natural gas increased. The wholesale cost is passed directly to the customers.

Meanwhile, CenterPoint Energy buys, holds and stocks “a significant portion” of its natural gas supplies ahead of winter, but more purchases are needed to meet increased customer demand during cold weather. CenterPoint Energy said the market price they pay for natural gas is the same as the price they charge customers.

To avoid a high heating bill, Xcel Energy offers some tips:

One of the biggest ways to conserve energy is to lower your thermostat if you have a natural gas furnace or boiler. Xcel Energy recommends setting the thermostat to 65-70 degrees while home and 58 degrees while away.

Having a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature based on your routine then allows you to conserve energy when you’re asleep or away, said Trisha Duncan, Minnesota’s director of community relations.

Meanwhile, CenterPoint Energy urges its customers to reduce thermostat settings to 65 degrees during the day when they’re home and five degrees lower when sleeping or away from home. CenterPoint requires customers to make the change at least through Christmas.

Lower the temperature or isolate the water heater

According to Xcel Energy, the proper temperature for a water heater is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Reducing it by 10 degrees can save 3-5% on water heating costs.

Don’t let the heat escape

Open the blinds during the day to let the sunlight in. And during the night, close the blinds to help with insulation. Make sure the outside doors are closed. The main source of heat loss is external doors that are left open or unlocked. Also check for drafts around the house. Window seal kits can help with flush windows and fireplace dampers should be closed when not in use. Keep oven doors closed while cooking. Every time the door was opened, even if only for a few seconds, the temperature dropped 25 degrees. Finally, improving insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your bill. Xcel Energy said it can help you save up to 10% on your monthly energy bill.

Other tips include running ceiling fans clockwise to push warm air downward, as well as keeping furnace filters clean. A dirty filter requires an oven to work harder. Changing the filter once a month during the winter can reduce heating costs by 5-15%, according to Xcel Energy.

“If you’re having trouble paying your energy bill, please reach out. We have programs in place, we have options for energy assistance. Contact us and we’ll be happy to work with you,” Duncan said.

Customers can learn more by visiting here or by calling 1-800-895-4999.

CenterPoint Energy also has payment assistance information, here.

A reminder that if you smell a “rotten egg” in or near your home, it could be a gas leak. Don’t do anything that could cause a spark, including turning electrical appliances on or off, using a garage door opener, running a car near the site or using your phone. Leave your home immediately and call your gas company and 911 as soon as you are at a safe distance.

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