Published on 01/22/09

Are you paying too much for natural gas?

By Jackie Dallas
University of Georgia

If you are one of the 1.4 million natural gas customers in the deregulated Atlanta Gas Light service area, you could experience sticker shock in the next two months. The Georgia Public Service Commission says natural gas customers can expect a 24 percent increase in their heating bills this winter.

February is typically Georgia’s coldest month, which means heating bills are the highest in late winter.

What can you do to ease the economic impact during the coldest time of the year? Start by reviewing your bill, especially if you pay by bank draft or if you are on budget billing. If you are on a variable-rate plan, you can change your rate plan or marketer at no charge once every 12 months.

For a comprehensive list of marketers and rate plans, visit the Web site

If you are on a fixed rate, check when that rate is scheduled to end. If you locked into a rate last summer, chances are good that you are paying 20 percent to 30 percent more per therm, or gas unit, than rates that are currently being offered.

Historically, summer is not the best time to lock into a fixed rate. Locking in during September or October can save you the most money. You should start looking for a new rate plan about two months prior to the expiration date of your fixed rate.

For one-on-one assistance with bill management, call your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASKUGA1. Or, go to the Web site

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.