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FortisBC customers dealing with sticker shock as natural gas bills arrive

Image Credit: PEXELS/Mikhail Nilov

The price of natural gas has gone up in B.C., so much so customers are experiencing sticker shock when their FortisBC bills arrive.

Amar Sanhu from Kamloops said he was shocked when he saw his FortisBC gas bill for December.

“My October bill was $84 then it jumped to $308 for November and now it is $458 for December,” he said.

Residential gas rates are made up of commodity and delivery charges. Commodity charges are reviewed by the British Columbia Utilities Commission every three months, while delivery charges are reviewed annually, according to the FortisBC website. Factors affecting the market price of natural gas in North America include weather, supply and demand and economic conditions.

“I saw the bill and I was scared,” Sanhu said. “I wondered if I had missed a bill but when I checked I hadn’t. I’m worried about next month’s bill and am hoping it won’t be too bad.”

Sanhu lives in a large, two story house that he said is well insulated. He is going to seal his windows and doors when the weather warms up.

“I didn’t bother sealing them because last year I didn’t have these high costs,” he said. “Everything we are doing for heating has stayed the same but the costs have gone up.”

He said he cleans the filter on his furnace regularly and a worker from FortisBC came out to check it was operating well in October.

“I thought maybe there is something wrong with my furnace but then I saw the same stories of high natural gas bills from others coming out on social media."  

Other charges and taxes include the B.C. carbon tax, Clean Energy Levy,  and goods and services tax which are set by various levels of government. Some customers reported the B.C. carbon tax cost them between $50 and $70 dollars this month. 

“The carbon tax cost was $69 on this month's bill," Sanhu said. 

FortisBC did not respond to a request for an interview by publication time.

The utility company has a web page that offers suggestion on ways to reduce heating bills during the colder months, mid-January being the most costly.

READ MORE: Cold records shattered in Kamloops and the Okanagan

Homeowners can learn how their particular home uses energy and choose energy efficiency upgrades for targeted areas.

One reason gas bills can be high is poor insulation so residents are advised to use caulking and weather stripping to seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors. Closing the doors and vents or turning down the thermostat for baseboard heaters in unoccupied rooms can lower usage.

“If you have a gas fireplace in a living space where your whole family is hanging out, you can turn this on and turn down the thermostat for your furnace,” reads the web page. “This is called zone heating and it can help you reduce heating costs by only using heat where needed.”

READ MORE: Being a firefighter at twenty below

Installing and using a programmable or connected thermostat can help you save on your energy bills. Thermostats should be set to 17 C when out or sleeping and 20 C when at home awake, according to FortisBC. The thermostats can be managed with smartphone.

Residents can set up an equal payment plan to even out fluctuating costs throughout the year, FortisBC suggests. The bills are averaged out over 12 months so customers are paying roughly the same amount every month.

Replacing you gas furnace with a high-efficiency model saves a lot of money over the year, after you get past the initial investment, FortisBC said. Getting furnaces serviced regularly and changing the filters often improves efficiency.

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