What to Know About Your Gas Bill

If you’re one of those people who goes through the mail and just tosses bills in a pile (uh, like us), you’re not alone. After initially setting up your gas service, it’s likely that you, like most of us, pay little or no attention to what actually comes each month from the utility company. Well, that is, except for the part that says how much you owe – that’s the part that gets our attention!  Right? So with that in mind, let us ask you a few questions:

Do you ever—have you ever—actually read your entire gas bill?

Do you know how your utility measures your gas usage?

Do you know how much your gas costs?

If the answer to these questions is “no” or “maybe,” keep reading. As a consumer, it pays to be well-informed about household costs. But for a lot of us, it’s all a bit confusing. Different rates and billing methods take some time to understand. To help broaden your knowledge, let’s take a look at a few basic need-to-know elements on your gas bill.

  1. Know How Your Utility Measures Gas

Natural Gas can be measured using various units.  Check your bill to see which unit your utility uses:

Ccf (volume): The unit used to measure gas consumption and equal to the volume of 100 cubic feet of natural gas.

Mcf (volume): The unit used to measure gas consumption and equal to the volume of 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas

Therm (heat equivalent): Short for British Thermal Units (BTU) – A unit of measurement roughly equal to 1 Ccf.

  1. Actual Readings vs. Estimated Readings

This may come as a surprise to most people but it’s possible your utility doesn’t know exactly how much gas you use…so they take an educated guess! Don’t get too bent out of shape, though, because the sophisticated formula used to calculate estimated usage is composed of  key factors like outside temperature and previous usage.  Your meter reading of the actual usage then “trues up.” Actually, many utilities are now using Automated Meter Reading (AMR) —  a computerized, radio-transmitted meter reading system. This new system does away completely with estimated meter readings and provides actual monthly electronic meter readings. Check out the meter at your house and see if you’re on this new system.

  1. Reading the Graphs

Most of the time, your bill will include a small graph that shows your gas usage over the past year or so. This graph is one of the most important items on your bill because it shows both your estimated and actual numbers and highlights the pattern that tends to go with the season. Some bills even go so far as to calculate your monthly average, which is helpful if you want to budget ahead for the entire year.

  1. Your Natural Gas Rate

Honestly, gas bills can be a little difficult to decipher, especially when they come complete with graphs and numbers and abbreviations. But once you get the hang of it, it’s really no big deal to get a handle on your rate and the amount of gas you use each month.

Here’s a litte primer with sample bills of two utilities: Consumers Energy in Michigan and Columbia Gas of Ohio.

  • On the Consumers Energy utility bill, electricity and natural gas costs are both be shown on the same bill.  Your natural gas rate is listed in the Natural Gas section as “Gas Cost Recovery (GCR).”  You can find it here on this Consumers Energy sample bill.  In the sample the customer used 54.9 Mcf at a rate of $6.934600 per Mcf (you should remember Mcf from the abbreviations in point #1 above.)
  • On the Columbia Gas of Ohio sample bill, the natural gas costs are shown on page #2 under “Detail of Charges for Gas Service.”  If the customer were enrolled with VE then “Volunteer Energy” would be listed where it says ‘Supplier Name Here.’ The actual rate is listed in the right sidebar under “Service Charge Notes.” In this Columbia Gas of Ohio sample bill, the customer is paying a rate of $.35660 per Ccf.

Need help finding your rate?  Give us a call and our energy specialists are happy to assist.

Volunteer Energy is a gas supplier, which essentially means that we purchase your gas and supply it to the utility on your behalf. We are able to offer you gas at competitive rates by buying local production and keeping our overhead low.  We’re proud that people trust us year after year to help control their energy costs as we continually strive to be a leader in price control. That’s why Volunteer Energy has one of the highest customer retention rates in the business.

All you have to do is give us a call and we do the rest. You’ll still receive your billing from your utility — the only change you’ll see is the rate you pay for your natural gas!

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