JACKSON, Mich., Jan. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With Michigan feeling the impact of this cold winter, Consumers Energy is continuing to work to keep heating costs low. It also is offering information and assistance to help the public this heating season.
"Mother Nature isn't going easy on Michigan this winter, but the homeowners and business owners we serve should know we are looking out for them," said Mary Palkovich, Consumers Energy's vice president of energy delivery. "Even with increased energy usage, people still should be receiving smaller natural gas bills this winter than five years ago."
Consumers Energy continues to offer the lowest price of any major natural gas provider in Michigan, which is largely made possible by the third-largest natural gas storage system in the U.S. The company stores gas in 15 underground fields that cover about 99,000 acres throughout the state.
Consumers Energy offers the following suggestions to manage your monthly heating bill:
- Take free and low-cost steps to reduce heating costs. Homeowners should have their furnace inspected each year to make sure it's running efficiently and to replace the furnace filter often. Customers can also see savings of up to 20 percent by utilizing a programmable thermostat. Learn more at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/save.
- Sign up for Consumers Energy's Budget Plan, which spreads out annual energy costs into equal monthly payments. For more information, go to www.ConsumersEnergy.com/budgetplan.
- Know that recent winter storms and cold weather is leading to an increase in estimated meter reads. Estimates are based on past energy usage and recent weather data. If you receive a statement based on an estimated reading, your actual usage will be reconciled with the next actual meter reading. If you have questions, call 1-800-477-5050.
- Assistance is available to help people pay bills. The CARE program is available based on income, from $17,235 for an individual up to $59,445 for a household of eight. People can enroll in CARE through February by contacting one of three partner agencies: The Heat and Warmth Fund (877-646-2818), The Salvation Army (sawmni.org/cecare) or TrueNorth Community Services (800-379-0221).
"We appreciate that this cold winter can lead to increased energy usage to keep homes and businesses warm. We also want the public to know that help is available for those who need it," Palkovich said.
Last, the public should keep safety in mind. People are asked to inspect gas or electric meters to determine if icicles or snow have formed above or around meters, and undertake careful removal by hand.
Keeping meters free of ice, snow and icicle buildup can help prevent service interruptions. Mobile home customers are advised to safely clear snow away from rooftop chimneys, preferably by using a snow rake so that furnaces can continue to operate properly.
Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.
Safety tips Consumers Energy also offers safety tips:
- In the event of a service interruption, never use a cooking stove, oven or gas-fired space heater to heat a home because they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and can be produced when appliances aren't operating or vented properly. The best defense against CO poisoning is to install an alarm.
- Keep supplemental heaters away from curtains, bedspreads or anything flammable. Unplug heaters before going to bed or leaving home.
- Keep natural gas appliance and high efficiency furnace air intake valves and exhaust pipes free of snow and ice by carefully removing it by hand.
SOURCE Consumers Energy