Before Temperatures Go Down, Step Up to Weatherize for Warmth and Savings
Global rise in natural gas market costs and a colder winter than last season are contributing factors; easy energy conservation steps can help reduce impact on heating bill
October 29, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As winter approaches the metropolitan area, Washington Gas announced today that customers can expect to see an increase of up to 22 percent in heating bills compared to last year. Customers may pay more due to the recent rise in the market price of natural gas, as well as the warmer than normal weather last year which resulted in lower than average bills.
Customers Pay what Washington Gas Pays
Globally, natural gas market prices have spiked based on many factors, such as the economic recovery during COVID-19, increased natural gas demand from last winter, as well as slower than anticipated production. It is important to note that Washington Gas does not make any profit from the sale of natural gas. What Washington Gas pays for natural gas is what customers are charged on their bills.
Washington Gas protects customers from some of the volatility in natural gas prices because we maintain underground natural gas storage fields to provide gas supply during peak demand periods. Natural gas drawn from these fields can supply approximately 50 percent of customers’ needs. In addition to guarding against overall market volatility, our storage facilities support our mission to deliver natural gas safely, reliably, and affordably to our customers, especially as temperatures begin to drop and demand for gas increases.
Prepare for Winter Today
As the DC-area awaits cold conditions, Washington Gas encourages customers to begin preparing their homes as soon as possible to use less energy and save money while keeping warm. Following simple industry best-practices for energy efficiency and weatherization can lead to significant savings.
“We know that the effects of the pandemic and higher natural gas prices will have an impact on our customers this year. That’s why it is so important to weatherize your home and take advantage of programs like budget billing to lessen the effects,” said Blue Jenkins, President of Washington Gas. “If everyone follows a few simple, practical steps, they can reduce their energy use and lower their bills while keeping their homes comfortable and warm.”
“Washington Gas’ distribution and transmission systems, as well as our personnel, are prepared for winter conditions,” said Colleen Starring, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
of Washington Gas. “Our highly trained employees are ready to respond in any emergency situation to ensure continuous safe and reliable service to our customers. As a reminder to our more than 1.2 million customers, if you smell gas please call our emergency line at 844-WASHGAS (927-4427) immediately, and a technician will respond.”
Jenkins added, “We understand that many residents are still facing financial hardships and we are committed to helping them manage the challenges of paying their bills. That’s why we have the Washington Gas Cares program available to identify energy assistance options or payment plans that fit specific budgets.”
Washington Gas Cares features energy assistance programs and payment plan options and can be found at www.washingtoncares.com. Listed below is basic information about the energy assistance programs and payment plans available to assist Washington Gas customers.
Energy Assistance Programs and the Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistant Program (LIHEAP) -- the federal government distributes funds to the District of Columbia which, in turn, provides grants to qualified applicants to help them pay their energy bills.
- Residential Essential Service (RES) -- eligible households in the District of Columbia may qualify for a discount on a portion of the natural gas they use each month during the heating season from Nov. 1 to Apr. 30. To be eligible for the RES discount, customers must use natural gas as the main source for home heating; and be certified by the Department of Energy & Environment as eligible for LIHEAP. For assistance on LIHEAP, RES, or a payment plan, call 844-WASHGAS (927-4427) and select option 2.
- Maryland Energy Assistance Programs (MEAP) -- assists eligible Maryland customers to pay their winter heating bills. Grants are based on family size, income and the type of fuel used for heating. Applicants are eligible to apply for MEAP once each program year (July 1 - May 31). Customers must complete applications for MEAP in the county in which they reside.
- Utility Service Protection Program (USPP) -- begins the first week of November and is available to Maryland residential customers who are eligible for MEAP aid. With USPP, customers receive a natural gas bill for the same amount each month throughout the year. Payment plans for customers depend on natural gas usage from the previous year and the outstanding balance owed on a customer’s gas bill.
- For more information about MEAP or USPP programs described above, call the Office of Home Energy Programs at the Maryland Department of Human Resources, at 800-352-1446 or visit www.dhr.maryland.gov/ohep
- Empower Low Income Energy Efficiency Program (LIEEP) -- provides home weatherization services, such as weather-stripping, caulking, plastic window covering and gas furnace tune-up and replacement at no cost to eligible Maryland families. These improvements may reduce a household’s energy use and lower monthly utility bills and could improve the air quality. For more information or to apply, contact the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development at 855-583-8976 or visit www.dhcd.maryland.gov/empower.
- Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF) – in 1983, Washington Gas and The Salvation Army created the Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF) to help neighbors in need with their heating bills. Every winter, people in our community face the difficult decision of whether to give up heat in their homes to deal with other temporary financial crises. The Salvation Army disburses these funds through its 12 offices located throughout the Washington area from January 1 – May 31. To determine eligibility, please visit www.waffhelp.org.
Payment Plan Options Available for Washington Gas Customers
- Deferred Payment arrangements are available for up to 12-months, or 24-months for customers receiving energy assistance with no down payment required.
- The Washington Gas Budget Plan spreads the cost of winter heating over the entire year. We calculate your average monthly payment based on historical natural gas usage, adjusted for normal weather, and projected gas costs.
- The Payment Extension Plan are available for residential customers only and allows for the extension of the payment due date.
- The Automated-Payment Plan allows you to sign-up to pay your bill automatically every month on your payment due date.
Winter Preparation Tips
Generally, Washington Gas customers may notice a fluctuation in their bill amounts as seasons change because more energy from natural gas is being used in the coldest months. 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. On average, less energy efficient homes can save about 25 percent on energy consumption and more than $275 annually in heating and cooling costs if they weatherize their homes.
- 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:
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors – 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.
- Smoke Detectors – Install 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.
- Recognize, React and Respond to Natural Gas Odors – To detect natural gas leaks, Washington Gas adds an unpleasant odorant called mercaptan to natural gas to give it a strong, unpleasant odor (like sulfur or rotten eggs). Anyone who smells this odor is urged to move to a safe location and then call 911 and the Washington Gas emergency line at 844-WASHGAS (927-4427)
About Washington Gas
Washington Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of AltaGas Ltd [TSX:ALA], is a regulated natural gas utility that 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, LinkedIn and Facebook.