PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- If you've suffered sticker shock when you recently opened a utility bill, you're not alone -- and the current cold snap is only going to make the situation worse.
So, why not go shopping for a lower rate?
The possibility of savings is definitely out there and the Public Utility Commission, better known as the PUC, says all you have to do is look.
Just like comparing prices on the grocery store shelves, you can do the same when it comes to your gas and electric bills.
What you're choosing when you shop is the portion of your bill that involves the energy you actually use -- either the kilowatts of electricity or the cubit feet of natural gas that you consume on a monthly basis to light or heat your home.
The service is still going to come through the same power lines or gas lines in your home, and you'll still pay the same utility company like Duquesne Light or People's Gas. They keep their transmission costs and send the rest to the provider you choose.
"For most consumers, it is 1/2 to 2/3 of your bill," said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesperson for the PUC.
But one question that comes into play, is how do you know that the company you choose is reputable.
"They do require a PUC certificate to operate in the Commonwealth," Hagen-Frederiksen said.
Watch: KDKA's John Shumway reports:
Know that there are a lot of providers and you first need to know who you are paying now and how much you are paying. Then, you can begin shopping.
"It's very important as you shop that you understand the terms and conditions and the PUC has two energy shopping websites. They're neutral, independent places where people can go for energy shopping information," Hagen-Frederiksen said.
The PUC doesn't care who you choose, but warns there are some things to watch out for.
Terms and conditions, including rates, are one critical thing to watch for.
uWhether rates are fixed or variable and if terms are for three months, six months, or one year all can impact the price.
Great savings can be found, but you have to read the fine print.
"You can save at least 7% off current prices offered by your utility with something that's called the standard offer program, which is a 12-month-long fixed rate program that most suppliers participate in," Hagen-Frederiksen said.
Prices are competitive and savings are there, but the devil is in the details.
For someone living in a smaller home or apartment, savings can be found, but the less you are spending total, the fewer dollars there are to be saved.
If you're on a tight budget, every dollar helps, so read every offer you get, but comparison shop online.
Click here for more information from the PUC.
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