Expect higher heating bills this winter

(October 27, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- As the weather turns colder, the state Public Service Commission warns that people can expect their heating bills to rise -- even more than during a usual winter. The commission says natural gas prices are 40 percent higher than a year ago. The P-S-C regulates natural gas utilities, but the price for the natural gas itself is determined on the open market and passed on to consumers. A cold winter could drive prices even higher as weather, availability and economic activity can all affect wholesale prices. As for paying those costly utility bills, the commission recommends that gas and electricity customers adopt a method of payment that averages monthly bills. That gives consumers a relatively consistent bill each month. The panel says Arkansans can save money by adding insulation, making sure heating systems are tuned up and changing filters regularly. Also, sealing leaks along windows and doors keeps costs down, as does keeping fireplace dampers closed when not in use.