WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Washington Gas today announced that customers in the Washington, D.C.-area may experience a decrease of up to 6 percent in heating bills during the 2019-2020 winter season compared to last year as gas costs are forecasted to be slightly lower than last winter. If colder-than-projected temperatures drive added demand to keep homes warm, natural gas prices may vary and bills may be higher. Washington Gas also urges customers to follow several simple but important energy efficiency and weatherization practices to be as prepared as possible for the region’s harsh winter conditions.
“Washington Gas reminds our customers, neighbors and local community members throughout the DC-region to get ready for the frigid winter conditions headed our way by implementing easy steps to reduce the use of energy and lower energy spend when staying warm this season,” said Adrian Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Washington Gas. “We are committed to safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service all winter long. To ensure we are well positioned to serve our customers under a variety of winter weather conditions, as always, our natural gas storage supply is abundant, and we continue to maintain a diverse set of natural gas supply points to meet demand and provide dependable service again in the months ahead.”
“As with every winter, Washington Gas employees—including trained and qualified dispatch teams, service crews, call centers, and other core operations personnel—are fully committed to keeping our customers safe, secure and warm throughout our service territory,” added Douglas Staebler, Senior Vice President, Utility Operations, Washington Gas. “Each day, we will be fully prepared and dedicated to being attentive, responsive and resourceful to our 1.2 million customers with safety as our top priority.”
Winter Preparation Tips
Washington Gas customers may notice a fluctuation in their bill amounts as seasons change because more energy from natural gas is being used, especially in the coldest months of winter. Washington Gas recommends preparing homes now by taking simple steps to help manage energy costs and stay safe, warm and energy-smart when temperatures begin to drop. The typical low-income home saves an average of 25 percent on energy consumption and saves an average of more than $275 annually in heating and cooling costs after weatherization services.
- Change or clean your furnace or air filters once a month and schedule an annual furnace or boiler check-up with a licensed professional.
- Caulk and weather strip around doors and windows.
- Check dampers in unused fireplaces and close them if they are open.
- Turn the water heater down to warm or low settings— never more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash full loads of laundry in cold water, using specially-formulated cold water detergents.
- Consider installing new, high-efficiency appliances and look for the ENERGY STAR label for efficiency ratings.
- Consider purchasing a programmable thermostat, which automatically lowers the temperature setting at night and increases the setting during the day.
Safety is the Top Priority
Washington Gas also reminds customers of several important safety tips to reinforce during winter. For starters, carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and toxic gas, created when fossil fuels are not burned completely. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting CO detectors outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of your home. Also suggested is the installation of smoke alarms on each level of your residence and inside every bedroom. For both types of devices, check batteries monthly and replace them at least twice a year.
In addition, Washington Gas strongly urges anyone who smells gas to please move to a safe location and call 911 and the Washington Gas emergency line at 844-WASHGAS (927-4427). As a reminder, we add an unpleasant odorant called mercaptan to natural gas delivered through Washington Gas’ distribution system. Mercaptan gives natural gas a strong, unpleasant odor (like sulfur or rotten eggs) to easily detect escaping natural gas.
Understanding Your Bill
If customers have difficulty navigating their utility bill, contact Washington Gas directly with questions when bills arrive. In summary, bills have three main components:
- Gas supplied to the customer (calculated and noted in “therms” in the Purchased Gas Charge section of the bill)
- Cost of delivering the gas (labeled the Distribution Charge), and
- System charge, a fixed monthly amount that covers certain costs of providing natural gas service, such as maintenance and repair of critical infrastructure.
Instructional videos that provide education on how to better understand your bill can be found on washingtongas.com (search: Understanding your charges).
As a regulated utility, Washington Gas charges customers the same price that the company pays for the natural gas supply, transportation and storage. Taxes or other fees levied by state and local governments also are included as separate line items on the bill.
To help manage energy costs, Washington Gas offers several payment plans and services. For customers having difficulty paying their natural gas bills, please contact Washington Gas as soon as possible to learn about alternative payment plans that may be available.
- The Washington Gas Budget Plan: This plan allows eligible customers to spread the cost of winter heating over the entire year. It helps to minimize the impact of typically higher seasonal bills and provides greater flexibility in managing a household budget. The Budget Plan is designed as a 12-month program, and we encourage customers to stay on it year-round to realize the potential benefits.
- Customer Choice: This is an option for customers to buy their natural gas from a licensed energy supply company other than Washington Gas. Regardless of which company sells you natural gas, Washington Gas will continue to deliver the gas safely and reliably to your home through its distribution system, address your customer needs and respond around the clock to natural gas emergencies. For more information, visit washingtongas.com, place your cursor over MY ACCOUNT and click on Customer Choice.
- The Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF): Founded by Washington Gas and administered by The Salvation Army, WAFF helps families who do not qualify for, or who have exhausted, government energy assistance. WAFF provides funds for all types of fuel to heat families' homes during the winter heating season. Washington Gas pays the administrative fees of the fund so that 100 percent of WAFF donations go directly to those who need assistance. For more information or to apply for assistance, contact The Salvation Army at 888-318-WAFF (9233) or visit www.waffhelp.org.
WAFF Washington Gas Merger Funds Program: Through its merger with AltaGas, Washington Gas established the Merger Funds Program to broaden the eligibility for energy assistance for Washington Gas customers to families making up to $75,000 per year.
Further, if a customer or someone they know is having difficulty paying a natural gas bill in the District of Columbia, they can also contact the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) at 311 or online to determine eligibility for the following program:
- Residential Essential Service (RES) Program: Eligible Washington, D.C. residents may qualify for a discount on a portion of the natural gas they use during the winter heating season from November 1 to April 30. To be eligible for the RES discount, residents must use natural gas as the principal source for home heating and be certified by DOEE as eligible for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Once certified, eligible customers may participate in the RES program for one heating season and must reapply annually.
- Deferred Payment Arrangement: Washington Gas will work with all of its eligible customers who cannot pay the “past due bill amount” as well as the “current charges” on their gas bill, by entering into a deferment/pay agreement/ or consent order at the request of the customer. Washington Gas will comply with all applicable laws, tariff regulations, or other arrangements Washington Gas enters into with its regulators when extending payment deferments to customers who show a willingness to pay past due amounts. The deferred payment agreement Washington Gas may enter into with its customers prevents further credit action on the account, including the assessment of late charges, the sending of reminder and/or turn off notices, and outbound calls, as long as the customer abides by the agreement.
For additional information about energy assistance, the budget plan, energy efficiency, safety and more, visit washingtongas.com.
About Washington Gas
Washington Gas is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AltaGas Ltd [TSX:ALA]. The regulated natural gas utility provides safe, reliable natural gas service to more than 1.2 million customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The company has been providing energy to residential, commercial and industrial customers for more than 171 years. Visit us at www.washingtongas.com and follow us on Twitter @washingtongas.