ROCKFORD (WREX) — The recent stretch of below freezing temperatures isn't helping your heating bill. The price for natural gas has spiked causing residents and business owners to dig deeper in their pockets. But there are steps you can take to lower your bill.
According to Nicor Gas, its current prices (January 2022 - 61 cents per thermostat) are double than it was a year ago (January 2021 - 29 cents per thermostat). Experts say it's a national and global issue.
"The demand is up and the supply is not there to match," said Nicor Gas Vice President of Business and Community Development Meena Beyers. "Unfortunately, until the supply can catch up a bit; we are dealing with those really high market prices."
Beyers says more than 60% of a customer's bill on average is the cost for raw gas.
"We do not mark up the cost of the gas that we deliver to those customers. What we purchase it for and what we pay to purchase is what our customers pay. So it's a pass-through," said Beyers.
Additional charges like delivery to get gas to your home or business are small charges. Beyers says while those charges help maintain the systems of Nicor Gas, it's the lower supply and higher usage driving up your bill.
"Prices just keep going up: food prices, the electric or heat bill and gas for the car. That's outrageous," said Winnebago resident Dennis Sunday.
Inflation is creating a double whammy effect and hurting small businesses.
"Our avocados have doubled in price. I mean every single thing, if you go through our product list, is almost doubled," said Velvet Robot Coffee Lab owner Justin Carner.
Carner says he feels lucky that both coffee shop locations in Rockford share its natural gas with other businesses in their buildings. Even shared, the extra cost for heating is adding on to the additional costs he is spending on his products.
"We raised prices 50 cents here, a quarter here to try to make up for it a little bit and we have had to cut some menu items," said Carner when explaining his hopes to not raise all items on the menu too much. "Our goal is to keep everything open, keep all of our employees working and keep our customers happy."
"I don't run the AC in the summertime because I use that money right now for the heat bill," said Sunday.
Help is available.
"There are funds available through Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and other state programs where you can get a grant to put towards your bill or they adjust the amount you owe based on your income, said Beyers. Click here to learn more about Nicor Gas's assistence programs like rebates, free at-home kits and more.
Funds from any rental assistance program can also be used towards your bill. If you're looking to conserve energy, experts advise turning down your thermostat a couple of degrees while you're away and opening up blinds to let the sun warm your home.
Beyers says she doesn't know when market prices will go down but she recommends people take advantage of any assistance now before the situation becomes dire.
Carner says he's going to pay what he has to for now but is open to business relief options.
According to the City of Rockford, it has offered 5,310 people assistance through LIHEAP, with 584 applicants still pending. So far, that's more than $5 million in relief.