Cold temps, gas price increases bring big bills to N. Texas - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Cold temps, gas price increases bring big bills to N. Texas

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North Texas residents might be in for some sticker shock when they open their next gas bills.

Temperatures are down, so natural gas consumption levels in December were the some of the highest on record since December 2000.

Sonia Diaz's most recent has bill isn't necessarily big, but it is a big increase -- four times what it was last month. It jumped from $16.98 to $64.17.

Jennifer Ryan with Atmos Energy says to get ready for higher bills -- with a recent snap of cold weather and an increase in the cost of natural gas, bills may be ballooning.

"Natural gas prices are up just a slight bit; about $1 on average," said Ryan.

Diaz's surprising bill is mostly due to a sharp increase in her family's consumption.

To battle the bill, she keeps temperatures pretty moderate with a programmable thermostat, but FOX 4 also discovered some real dollars and sense solutions.

"We can do that -- put you on an installment plan where you're only gonna owe about a third of that bill up front," said Ryan.

That's best suited for customers in good standing; there's no interest or penalties.

Those who may be slightly strapped for cash can apply for assistance.

"Folks can call 211 to see if they qualify," said Ryan. "If they do, they go to our Community Energy Assistance Agency, where Atmos Energy provides them dollars to pay their actual heating bills."

Or, to eliminate surprises altogether, folks can sign up for budget billing, which will charge a consistent average each month based on their usage all year long.

It's important to note that Atmos does not make money off the price of natural gas. Instead, it buys it on the commodities exchange in the summer months, stores it and passes it along to customers, dollar for dollar, in the winter.

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