When surveyed, the majority of Americans say that they feel like they are overpaying for their utilities. But at the same time, almost everyone goes ahead and pays whatever the bill says. And with good reason. Utilities are a necessity, and if you stop paying the bills, they could be shut off. So we all just pay whatever we are asked. Many of us don't even think about it or have our bills set up on autopay, so we don't even know what we are spending. If that sounds like you, you're in luck. You don't have to keep paying and paying for overpriced utilities. In many states, deregulation has opened the utilities marketplace to competition, which means that utility companies compete for your business. It may take a little research, but you could probably save hundreds of dollars or more by carefully selecting your natural gas provider.

What is Deregulation?

For a long time, utilities functioned as monopolies, with a single corporate entity producing and supplying gas or electricity. The companies were allowed complete control over the market in a particular area, but they were bound by tight legal guidelines. For example, if a utility wanted to raise rates, they would often have to lobby state legislatures to approve the rate hikes.

In the 1970s, during the global oil crisis, federal and state governments realized that they needed to move away from 100% reliance on foreign oil. Among the steps they took to become more energy independent was to begin deregulating the natural gas sector. Congress passed legislation to allow states to break up their utility companies and separate the production and delivery of natural gas. Many, though not all, states chose to deregulate.

The State of Natural Gas Today

Today, many states allow consumers to choose their natural gas providers. In some zip codes, there may even be dozens of choices. Unfortunately, the natural gas business is complex, and rates can be hard to understand. The cost of natural gas fluctuates daily with the markets. In addition, natural gas companies offer all sorts of complicated packages that allow you to lock in rates for a period, follow the markets, and almost anything in between. Some plans may base your rates on your average use, while some may use standard seasonal shifts to set their prices.

Ultimately, the price of natural gas is driven by supply and demand. When demand rises, prices go up. And when utilities produce more gas without accompanying demand, prices drop. But the plethora of pricing options can make it hard to compare natural gas plans "apples to apples." Luckily, some natural gas companies are trying to make it easier.

Meet True Natural Gas

True Natural Gas is a natural gas provider and a member of the TrustDALE Community of Trust. That means that they have undergone Dale's rigorous 7-point investigative review to ensure that they adhere to the highest standards of customer service, pricing, and reliability. One way in which True Natural Gas helps consumers navigate the complex world of utilities is by offering simple, easily understood pricing plans that can help you determine which option is best for you. 

Their residential service offers three pricing structures. For consumers who don't want to be locked into a contract or who aren't sure they will use much natural gas, they offer a no-contract plan with rates that move with the markets. When demand outstrips supply, rates go up. If supply exceeds demand, rates go down. But consumers don't have to worry about daily fluctuations. The cost of natural gas is assessed each month, a month at a time.

If you want more predictability, you can lock in a lower rate when you sign up for a six or twelve-month contract. The more extended contract offers slightly lower rates, but both contracts provide the stability and predictability of low rates that stay the same all season or all year long.

Once your contract is up, or if you are on the no-contract plan, you can always switch to a new plan. All of True Natural Gas's plans are available to all customers, whether you are new or a long-time customer. They also offer additional discounts for low-income seniors.

Other Ways to Lower Your Natural Gas Bill

If you want to lower your monthly natural gas bill, one foolproof method is to reduce your use. Even with great rates, the less you use, the more you save. And it's good for the planet, too. Most natural gas is used by four appliances in your home: your water heater, your heat furnace, your stove, and your dryer. Using these appliances responsibly can help you save money and reduce your environmental impact.

Save Hot Water

To reduce the amount of gas you use in your water heater, be mindful of letting hot water run. A long, hot shower may feel luxurious, but it uses lots and lots of hot water, anywhere from 2 to 2.5 gallons a minute, depending on your shower head. A ten-minute shower would use anywhere from 20 to 25 gallons of water, and heating that water uses gas. A longer shower can use much more, up to nearly 40 gallons for a 15-minute shower. Of course, the hotter the shower, the more gas you use. By keeping showers to 8 minutes or less, you can save as much as 20 gallons of water while still getting just as clean. You may also consider turning off the water while you soap up.

The frequency of your showers is another factor. According to the Harvard School of Medicine, daily showers are not necessary from a health standpoint. "Showering several times per week is plenty for most people (unless you are grimy, sweaty, or have other reasons to shower more often). Short showers (lasting three or four minutes) with a focus on the armpits and groin may suffice." If you switch from a daily 10-minute shower to only two 10-minute showers and three 4-minute showers a week, you could save 95 gallons of water every week.

Washing dishes is another area where you can waste a lot of hot water. It may seem counterintuitive, but you can actually save a lot of hot water by running your dishwasher even when it's not full, as long as you don't spend time pre-washing each item. Most dishwashers are pretty water-efficient, so running a wash every day still uses a lot less water than doing dishes by hand.

Save on Heat

There is no need to turn your home into a tropical getaway during winter. The difference between 68º and 75º can be immense. So if you find yourself cranking the heat, consider putting on a sweater instead. Also, if you have a smart or programmable thermostat, you can save even more. Set your thermostat to lower the temperature during the day when the house is empty and at night when people are asleep. It saves energy, and as a bonus, you will be pleased to know that most research indicates that humans get longer and better sleep in a slightly colder environment.

Save on Your Dryer

Dryers can burn through a lot of gas heating your clothes as they dry. The easiest way to reduce your gas use is to avoid running small loads in the dryer. As much as possible, fill your dryer to capacity—just don't overfill. A full dryer uses less gas than the smaller loads, but an overfull dryer may require multiple cycles to dry, erasing the efficiency of a larger load.

Save on Cooking

Cooking on a gas stove is a pleasure, and almost every professional chef will use gas exclusively. But it also creates the potential for waste. Remember that gas always burns at the same temperature. A small flame provides less heat only because there is less fire, and turning up the flame provides more fire but not more heat. Never turn up the flame so high that you can see the flame coming out the sides of your cooking utensils. If the flame is larger than your pot or pan, you are gaining no additional heat, but you are burning more gas.

You can also save heat with your oven. As much as possible, avoid opening the oven while you are cooking. Every time you open the oven, you let heat escape, and the temperature drops. To bring the temperature back up, your oven needs to burn more gas. Keeping a steady temperature is also better for the food you are cooking.

Finding Natural Gas You Can Trust

If you're paying too much for natural gas—and you probably are—try a TrustDALE certified natural gas provider. They will get you the best prices and the best customer service, so you can feel confident that you are getting the most for your money.

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