Although natural gas prices have declined since the summer, your heating costs may still be higher than last winter.
Leslie B. Enoch II, CEO of Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Utility District, says natural gas prices are currently higher than last year, though they have been trending downward in recent weeks. "We've watched a lot of different factors. We've been watching the recent turmoil in the financial markets and hurricane activity but neither of those has seemed to have had an impact on natural gas prices. We're pleased that natural gas prices, at the national level, have declined significantly since the record highs of the summer months. They've stabilized at a lower level. They're still higher than they were at this time last year, but just like gasoline prices, the trend is in the right direction, it's down and we're encouraged by that."
As for this winter, Enoch says expect to pay a little more on your monthly heating bill. "We believe at this point and time that the projected increase will be lower than we originally expected. If the weather is the same as last year, gas bills should be about 10% higher but that's substantially less than we thought it was going to be with the high energy prices we were seeing earlier in the summer. There's still room for natural gas and petroleum prices to go down and we're optimistic that will continue."
Enoch says the utility makes every effort to keep prices down. " We're very fortunate to have a very robust storage capability which helps stabilize prices for our customers. We have the opportunity to put natural gas in storage in several different locations around the country. We buy a lot of our gas in the summer and put it in underground storage, then we also buy some gas on the futures market. We're pretty well set. We have about 50% of our supply already ready and available and we'll buy the balance of it as we go into the winter based on how the temperatures change."
Enoch adds that natural gas customers can save money on their monthly heating costs by winterizing and conservation. "There are several ways to reduce energy usage and lower gas bills. We encourage our customers to winterize their homes by improving insulation, applying weather stripping, changing filters, and setting the water heater to a lower temperature, maybe to 120 degrees. One of the most important ways to do it (conserve) is to keep your heat at a lower, but comfortable level. For every degree you lower your thermostat, you can save about three percent on your heating bill. The district appreciates it's customers and provides free safety inspections and pilot lighting. We encourage our customers to go ahead and call us to set up those appointments. Call 597-4388."