Rising heating costs put consumers in a cold spot

December 22, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

Despite warmer winter temperatures this year, gas bills have been higher.

Atmos Energy said its Kentucky customers can expect their bills to be at least 17 percent higher this year than last, and if the winter gets colder, the price could rise again.

Kyle and Marie Crain said they have certainly noticed a change in this year's gas bills - double the price of recent years. The couple, who was at the Gathering Place Friday, said they conserve energy, and are sure it is the price rather than the consumption that has gone up.

Figures from University of Kentucky Agriculture meteorologist Tom Priddy show residents probably have used their heaters 20 percent less Nov. 1-Dec. 19 than the same time period last year.


The average temprature has been 45 degrees, almost five degrees warmer than last year.

Kyle Crain said he can remember that in the 1960s, it cost him $19 to heat his two-story house, and this year it cost $200 to heat the same house.

Seniors Lucille Orcutt and Rosie Hargrave said their gas bills have been high, but they would rather pay the bill than be cold.

"I'm not going to be cold," said Hargrave. "There are other things that I don't buy, but I have to have heat."

The pair believes that it seems to be colder this December than in years past. The temprature has been 1.7 degrees below normal so far in December, but it still has been warmer than last year.

The gas company said that the cost of gas spiked in early December as demand, across the country, increased.

Atmos encourages people to conserve heating, and to enroll in its budget billing plan that spreads out the annual gas bill payments throughout the year.

Here are some tips, from, to conserve gas consumption:

* Insulate, seal and weather-strip windows and doors.

* Put added insulation in your attic.

* Repair leaky faucets. One leaky faucet can use about 6,000 gallons of water in a year.

* Change your air filter in a forced heating and cooling system regularly.

* A dirty air filter makes the heating and cooling system work harder.

* You can reduce your energy bills by five percent or more by simply keeping a clean filter in your heating and cooling system.

* Inspect your thermostat, older thermostats only go down to 60 degrees. If you are gone for long periods of time or on vacation lower your thermostat to 55 degrees.

* An inaccurate thermostat can cost you money. For example, it may read 68 degrees but it really may be 71 degrees in your home. Have your thermostat checked by a contractor if it needs an adjustment.

* Cold water does just as good a job as warm or hot water for laundry; always select cold water in the rinse cycle.

* Wash a full load and if equipped with an energy saver cycle, use it.

* Heating water is the second largest energy expense in your home. Keep the setting at 120 degrees. You can save 15 percent if you cut the temperature on your water heater from 140 to 120 degrees. If you are gone for a long period of time, set your thermostat at the "vacation" or lowest setting.

* Drain the water from your water heater periodically. This process removes the mineral sediment found in all water supplies.

* Inspect the relief (pop-off) valve on your water heater regularly.

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