How to save on gas bills amid Texas cold snap

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Texas braced for the cold weather, Texas Gas Service wanted to remind the public how to stay warm and help lessen the impact cold weather has on their monthly bills.

By following certain tips, customers can conserve energy and save money.

Safeena Walji with Texas Gas Service spoke with KXAN’s Jennifer Sanders about saving on your monthly bills, conservation and how crews have prepared for the recent cold front.

Read the conversation below for more.

SANDERS: We know that when the cold weather comes, it can really impact our monthly bills, so what can people do to save and conserve energy? And not have had such a big impact on those bills?

WALJI: As we’re all preparing for the cold weather ahead, Texas Gas Service is happy to share some tips on how people can stay warm and comfortable but also minimize the impact of that weather on their bills. So, one of the things that people can do is apply weather stripping or caulk to seal the gaps and cracks around doors and windows. And that helps stop the warm air inside from leaking outside and prevents energy loss in your home. And if you’re not able to access those materials, even just you know, towels and cheese that you can find in your house will do the job. There are also a couple of other areas in your home that don’t typically come to mind as a place where air escapes. And so, one thing that we always like to remind people of is their fireplace and warm air escaping from their chimney. And so, if it’s possible to add an airtight door to your fireplace, that can really help minimize the amount of warm air escaping through the chimney. And another one is the switches and the outlets and electrical switches in your home. And so, installing foam gaskets into those can actually help save up to 10% of the energy loss in your home.

SANDERS: Perfect. Then also there has to be there has to be a conversation around safety and warmth. How can people stay safe while they’re trying to warm their homes?

WALJI: Yeah, safety is always top of mind for us. It’s our biggest priority. Yeah. So that’s a really great question. We always want to remind people never to use appliances like their stove or their ovens to heat their homes. There are a number of warming centers around the city of Austin, if that’s a need or a gap that needs to be filled. Austintexas.gov has a really helpful map of all around Austin where the centers are. So, take advantage of that if you need to. But never use appliances like that to try to stay warm inside. Another thing to remember is to make sure there are no objects obstructing something like your furnace, air intake and the Bunsen fluids in their house, you know, those getting blocked can potentially lead to carbon monoxide exposure. So, it’s really important to make sure all that air can flow out where it needs to. And then lastly, if there is ice buildup near your natural gas meter, and you’re trying to remove it take a lot of caution. As you know, any damage that is caused to your natural gas meter could result in us having to turn off your gas to fix it.

SANDERS: Okay, and would you suggest that they remove the ice? Or is there a better alternative to that?

WALJI: You know, since it’s not looking like it’s going to be below freezing for too long and too many hours, I think it would be probably smart to just allow it to melt off on its own. And you know, if there were going to be freezing temperatures for a longer time, I’d be different. But I would say for this winter storm, probably just let it melt off on its own.

SANDERS: Lastly, are your crews doing anything in preparation for the winter weather that we’re expecting this weekend?

WALJI: Absolutely. We are always preparing for colder weather, we always want to make sure we can deliver natural gas, especially when it’s so essential that people keep keeping people warm. And so a couple of things that we’ve done over the last few years really to help enhance our system’s performance. We’ve increased our natural gas storage across the state. We’ve actually increased it by 85% in Texas and so that means that we’re able to purchase more gas at stable prices in the summer ahead of the winter and store it and so when our customers need it most it’s there for them. We also deploy compressed natural gas trailers that are mobile trailers. So if there is any area that is experiencing low pressure during the really cold weather, we can deploy those trailers and help minimize service disruptions because of that.

SANDERS: Anything else you want to add? I don’t know if there are any issues you all have seen in the past that you want to warn people about with this upcoming freeze?

WALJI: We’re fortunate to have such a strong reliability rate of like 99%, even during the coldest weather conditions. And so, all these extra steps we’ve taken are really just precautions to make sure nothing worse happens. You never know when, you know, they seem to get worse and worse the storm. So, those steps are kind of just precautionary, but even during Uri, we only lost service to like 300 of our 690,000 customers in Texas for less than 24 hours. And so, we’re proud of having already a baseline of a very reliable system.

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