HARRISBURG, Pa -- Getting that first heating bill after a cold snap is a reality check And here in Pennsylvania, we`re no strangers the frigid temperatures.
However, the Public Utility Commission chairman Gladys Brown says if you don`t like the price of your energy bill, shop around!
"They can shop, at home, in their pajamas and do all the things they need to do."
The option to shop around for different energy suppliers in Pennsylvania has been around for 20 years.
However, the commission recently did a study that revealed only 4 out of 10 Pennsylvanians know they have the option to get a different supplier and actually do so.
Brown understand the process can be a bit intimidating, especially reading things like kilowatt hours or therms.
However, she says the process to switch is pretty easy and so is paying your balance.
"They get one bill, even if you have a different generation supplier, it's on one bill," said Brown.
Pennsylvania offers two websites to shop around for a fixed or variable rate.
You can pick a new energy supplier.
That`s known as your "generation use" which is usually the most expensive part of your bill.
By checking out the websites, here`s a look at some savings.
In York, by shopping around the average homeowner can save about $18 a month for electric and about $2 a month for gas.
In Lancaster and Harrisburg, there`s a possibility to save about $31 a month off your electric bill and $8 off your gas bill.
Other counties in central pa can see savings too.
Now, when it comes to your bill and your service nothing really changes.
You would still pay your bill the same way you always have.
The PUC says there`s another reason to shop around too, that`s because of rate hikes.
For instance, Columbia Gas is introducing a 7% rate hike later this month.
That means the average Columbia Gas customer who uses 70 therms a cycle will be paying about $6 more a month.
So, how are these rate hikes even proposed?
Brown says it`s about a 9 month process from start to finish.
"Everyone has the opportunity to have input in this process."
That means consumers, stakeholders and businesses can all provide testimony for or against the hike.
The PUC says it takes two things into consideration for rate hikes - will it be used and is it useful?
"It's something that we look at in terms of the dollar figure that will go on their monthly bill, so we try to balance all of that out," said Brown.
Meaning companies can`t just say they want more money, they have to prove why customers need to shell out more cash.
"They would have to put the infrastructure in place and then come and request for any type of increase in rates to recover those cost," said Brown.