O&R: Preparation Key to Coping with Winter's Chill; Savings, Comfort and Safety All Top Goals

When O&R’s 130,000 natural gas customers raise their thermostats this winter, that welcomed heat flows as the result of O&R’s millions of dollars of investment, thousands of hours of planning, training and testing, and hundreds of days of installing new pipe in the ground.

O&R invests all that time, money and labor to make sure that — even on the coldest winter day — its natural gas delivery system can safely and reliably meet customer demand.

To make natural gas work harder for you, it makes sense to have a qualified heating contractor or plumber clean and inspect your heating system before winter sets in. An efficiently burning heating system not only makes your natural gas dollars go farther, but it’s cleaner and safer.

Taking steps to tighten up insulation by using weather-stripping at all attic stairwells and access openings, and stopping cold air infiltration from electric switch and plug outlets by using draft blockers can also pay off.

And, double-checking all points where heat enters a room to make sure, draperies, furniture or other obstacles do not interfere with the free-flow of heat is a practical, easy way to help.

Those tips, and other energy conservation and efficiency steps, gain greater importance if extreme cold weather, or other supply factors create spikes in winter natural gas prices.

As a utility, O&R does not control the price of natural gas, and makes no profit on the gas it delivers to customers.

However, O&R does analyze the supply and demand forecasts to create effective buying strategies that are designed to help minimize price fluctuations. These prices are passed on to customers at cost.

Based on its most recent forecast, O&R predicts that this winter’s residential natural gas bills for its customers will be approximately 5.8 percent higher than last winter’s. The increase is due to increased natural gas prices, which have been gradually rising from historic lows, and higher delivery rates.

The average monthly winter gas bill for a typical O&R full-service residential customer who uses natural gas for home heating is expected to increase $12 from $211 last winter to $223 this year.

That estimate is based on the average usage of 165 ccf per month and assumes normal winter weather.

What can residential customers do to further lower their energy costs?

Shop for alternate energy suppliers which may or may not provide you with a cheaper price on energy purchases. For more information about energy shopping, go to www.oru.com and the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) website at www.newyorkpowertochoose.com.

To better manage the monthly utility bill to avoid unpredictable bills that result from seasonal usage variations, sign up for O&R’s Budget Billing program.

Budget Billing does not reduce your overall energy expense. It simply lets you spread out your annual energy expense over a 12-month period and lets you know ahead of time what your monthly payment will be. That makes managing the household budget much easier.

For additional information about energy efficiency, alternate energy supplier programs and winter energy tips, visit O&R’s website at www.oru.com.

O&R urges its customers to always put safety first. Anyone who smells natural gas should leave the area immediately and call 911 or O&R’s emergency gas hotline at 1-800-533-LEAK (5325).