Could High Gas Prices Leave You in the Cold this Winter?

Could High Gas Prices Leave You in the Cold this Winter?
By: Lauren Keith

If prices for natural gas rise like the petroleum prices we're already paying at the pump, then some Heartland homeowners just might want to prepare now.   That's apparently what many of you are doing.  Several of you have locked in already to some budget-billing strategies to save you money on heating your home this winter.     

We found plenty of utility customers who will sign up soon for Ameren's budget billing program.

Here's how it works, Ameren looks at the bills you've paid, over the last 12 months, and averages the price.

You then pay that average for the next year.  "I think budget billing is good because you don't want to have any surprises. You know what your bill is each month, so you can budget your own income accordingly,” claims a budget billing customer, Cathy McCarty.

While that program appears to save you money in the short run---be advised--- budget billing will not get you out of paying higher natural gas prices in the long run.

If the price for natural gas does go up, as predicted, then, at the end of your budget billing year, you will have to pay the remaining balance, which could be a huge chunk of change.

Meanwhile, those of you who use propane, or LP gas, to heat your home might just be thankful about a summer fill-up program.

The Co-op manager in Jackson says customers who act now can lock in current LP gas rates.  Jerry Day says 200 customers have already filled their tanks, but he stresses there's no need to panic.

"Propane has not followed crude oil and gasoline, we've not seen a big jump. We're still at the same level we were last year.  It will depend on how severe winter we have-- that's the biggest factor," says Day.

So, the bottom line, it's a good idea to expect higher heating bills this winter, and budget now if you can.

By the way, if you're late on one of your Ameren bills, then you''ll be ineligible for the budget billing program for an entire year after that.