The value of gas is determined in a free market, where supply and demand set current and future gas prices. Ameren companies pass on these natural gas prices dollar-for-dollar through the PGA (purchased gas adjustment) rate to the customer without any markup.
For customers who want to ease the impact of typically higher winter bills, Ameren companies offer the budget plans that "average out" a customer's monthly bills to minimize the effect of higher prices or higher seasonal usage. For information, customers can call AmerenCILCO at 888-672-5252; AmerenCIPS at 888- 789-2477; AmerenIP at 800-755-5000 and AmerenUE at 800-552-7583, or customers can visit the Ameren Web site (www.ameren.com).
Ameren companies also work with customers to set up a payment plan or provide referrals for energy assistance. The Dollar More program offered through AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO and AmerenUE and the AmerenIP Warm Neighbors program allow customers and employees to help the needy stay warm. Visit the Ameren Web site for full information.
Ameren encourages conservation through its Web site, where consumers can obtain a copy of the "Cut Your Home Utilities Bill" poster. This poster provides room- by-room tips for reducing energy costs.
Ameren residential energy experts say lifestyle, family size, the number of appliances, quality of home construction and degree of weatherization are the key factors that affect winter energy bills. The easiest, least expensive and perhaps most immediate action a resident can take is to weatherize a home for comfort and efficiency.
The energy experts offer these suggestions for home weatherization:
• Have your furnace checked for safety and efficiency before the start of the heating season. Changing furnace filters regularly also helps. Filters should be changed more frequently if there are pets in the home. Using a humidifier can help residents feel comfortable at lower thermostat settings. Residents should consider replacing old, inefficient furnaces, water heaters and other natural gas appliances with newer high-efficiency models.
• The installation of storm windows and caulking are the best ways to reduce the infiltration of cold air. Caulking is economical and easy to use.
Generally, one tube of caulking is enough to weatherize at least one average size window. The most durable caulking contains silicone.
• For doors, try weather stripping to keep cold air from entering the home. Weather stripping materials include metal, vinyl, rubber and foam. Metal with vinyl backing is recommended because of its durability and flexibility.
• Set the thermostat a little lower. For each degree it is lowered, you can save 2 percent to 3 percent on heating costs. For maximum efficiency, experts generally recommend a setting of 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees overnight (but don't set the thermostat too low, or pipes in exterior walls could freeze). Programmable thermostats can help reduce heating costs by allowing better control of the settings.
• On sunny days, open blinds or draperies on the sunny side of your house to let in solar heat. Be sure to close them again at night, to help keep heat from escaping.
• Use ceiling fans - especially in homes with high ceilings - to push warm air down and keep it from being wasted near the ceiling. Fans should be set to run counterclockwise during the heating season.
• Adding insulation to attics and walls can be a significant energy-saver if your home was built many years ago when efficiency standards were lower. Either blown or blanket insulation holds heat so a furnace doesn't have to operate as long.
• An insulating blanket on water heaters reduces energy waste from the unit. Wraparound hot water pipe insulation retards heat loss as water travels through cooler or unheated areas of the house. Water heater life will be extended and efficiency improved by periodically draining the tank to eliminate the buildup of sediment.
• Close off areas of your home that are infrequently used. Close registers in those areas.
• Be sure the damper is closed when you're not using the fireplace. Glass doors for fireplaces save energy and heat by keeping cold air from coming down the flue and preventing warm air from being sucked out of the house. Without glass doors, as much as 26 percent of the heated air can be drawn up the flue. With assets of more than $17 billion, Ameren, through its subsidiaries, serves 2.3 million electric and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000- square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.