From Illinois Business Journal news services
COLLINSVILLE – Ameren Illinois says customers will benefit from lower natural gas costs during the upcoming 2015-16 heating season.
The company’s purchasing strategies, along with an uptick in the production of natural gas in the U.S., will keep the gas supply portion of a customer’s bill an estimated 20 percent lower than last year. It’s the third year in a row Ameren Illinois customers will pay less than the national average for natural gas supply.
During the 2014-15 heating season, which was 8 percent colder than normal, Ameren Illinois customers paid an average of 54 cents per therm for their gas supply. Ameren Illinois anticipates 2015-16 heating-season average gas supply prices to decrease to a range of 42 to 44 cents per therm. Under current delivery rates, the average Ameren Illinois customer that uses 569 therms will save approximately $63 during the winter season.
Natural gas, including the cost of interstate gas transportation, leased storage, and the commodity itself, makes up a large portion of a customer’s monthly heating bill. Ameren Illinois purchases natural gas in the summer when prices are lower, stores it in underground reservoirs, and then delivers it for customers to use in the winter months.
“A customer’s total bill amount will depend on a variety of factors, including temperatures outside and the actual amount of energy a customer uses,” said Ken Dothage, Ameren Illinois gas supply director. “We’re pleased that our price hedging and storage strategies will keep supply-side costs low again this winter.”
Ameren Illinois customers can further reduce their heating bills by implementing energy saving strategies.
“With just a few simple actions, residential customers can use less energy and still be comfortable,” said Keith Martin, director of Energy Efficiency for Ameren Illinois. He encourages customers to:
• Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower this winter. You save about 3 percent on your heating costs for each degree you are able to lower your thermostat.
• Use a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature of your home according to your family’s schedule – lowering the temperature when you’re sleeping or away and raising the temperature only when needed.
• Set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees for safety and energy savings. Lowering the setting of your water heater thermostat can save approximately 3 to 5 percent in energy costs.
• Only heat the rooms you need to heat by closing vents and doors to unused rooms.
• Adequately insulate your home, which can reduce your energy usage by up to 30 percent. In the Midwest, experts recommend having 9 to 15 inches of insulation in your attic.
• Keep drapes and furniture from blocking air vents.
• Use weather stripping and caulk to reduce air leaks. Pay special attention to walls, ceilings, windows, and vents in your basement. Air leaks in the basement are less noticeable but cost you money.
• Use your ceiling fan to move warm air away from the ceiling and down to the floor. The room will be more comfortable and heating costs will be lowered. It costs only $2 a month to use ceiling and other fans to circulate air.
To get started, home owners may want to consider an energy audit. For $50, a trained energy advisor will perform an energy audit that includes a detailed inspection of heating equipment, along with a check for adequate wall and ceiling insulation. As a homeowner, you will receive a custom report with a list of recommendations for improving your home’s efficiency. Free compact fluorescent light bulbs, faucet aerators and reduced-flow shower heads are also provided during the audit.
For more information on Ameren Illinois’ energy efficiency programs and more tools and strategies for saving energy and money, visit AmerenIllinois.com/Programs.