Homeowners hot under the collar over higher heating bills
From a hundred dollars a month, to $400 -- local homeowners are hot under the collar over a recent spike in their gas bills. Joy Benedict has the story.
A Leimert Park street lined with perfectly manicured lawns and 1940s houses has homeowners inside heated up.
Linda Lindsey has never had a problem with her utilities before. But now, using her two heaters, gas dryer and gas stove, her gas bill is soaring.
"How am I supposed to live and provide food? Eggs already seven dollars -- what are we supposed to do?" said Lindsey.
And she's not the only one, as neighbors handed over their bills too. In two months another woman's gas bill climbed from $80 to $408.
"I turn down the thermostat now. I don't turn it on," said Lindsey. "It's too much money. I can't afford it."
The Southern California Gas Company says the soaring bills are due to a "perfect storm" of lack of supply and unseasonably chilly temperatures.
"We have our utility not being prepared with enough natural gas, so we have the spot market in the West being extraordinarily expensive, more expensive than anyone's ever seen it," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.
Court says SoCal Gas should have been more prepared.
"If you're Southern California Gas, you buy it when it's cheap in summer, transport it when it's cheap in summer, store it -- because they have plenty of storage -- and then you don't have to buy for winter. It's like you save your acorns up for winter," said Court. "But something went wrong."
But there are some things you can do right now to stop burning money:
- First, drop the temperature of your thermostat anywhere from 2 to 5 degrees.
- Don't shut it off completely, because you'll spend more fuel trying to re-heat a cold home than you will just maintaining a temperature.
- If you don't have a programmable thermostat, grab one -- you can get them for as little as $20.
- Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed to not let the heat out. If you can't get that fixed, roll up a towel to block the draft.
- Open your blinds during the day to help the sun heat up the room.
- Turn down your water heater. You don't need it at 140 degrees -- 120 is just fine.
- And close vents in rooms that are unused.
As for paying the bill?
"I am going to pay it in full when I get my check on the first," said Linda Lindsey.
But know that you don't have to: SoCal Gas is offering payment plans to help those in a bind. Because making sure you are safe and warm this winter is what matters most.
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