Public Service Electric & Gas says their New Jersey natural gas customers will realize an average $50 reduction on January and February gas bills.

PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson says this is a result of the company being able to procure lower-priced Marcellus Shale gas, and because of lower storage and transportation costs.

Marcellus Shale is buried deep beneath stretches of the states of New York and Pennsylvania, requiring a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in order to extract the gas. Environmental impacts of fracking are a concern for regulators and conservationists. Energy industry groups tout the economic benefits of further drilling.

For energy consumers, more gas can mean lower prices.

"For the months of January and February, instead of paying 37 cents per therm of gas, they are going to pay 22 cents, which is about 15 cents less than they would normally pay," Johnson said.

And the prices will remain locked in despite the harsh winter.

"We did file those rates with the Board of Public Utilities," she explained.

Johnson says everyone's usage is different — "based on the size of their house and whether they are home during the day, and how they set their thermostat." But a typical customer using 165 therms a month, who would normally pay about $300, will now see an average bill of $250.

"Whatever gas they are using is going to be about 17 percent lower than it normally would be."

"Even though the cost of gas will be lower for January and February, customers can still take steps to conserve," she said.

The utility offers homeowners these money-saving tips:

  • Check for sufficient water levels in the sight glass for steam systems and the pressure gauge for hot water systems.  This will ensure maximum efficiency from your heating system.
  • Lower your thermostat by just one degree, which may reduce your heating bill by up to 3 percent. More savings can be achieved by lowering your thermostat 2 degrees during the day and 5 to 10 degrees at bedtime if health conditions allow.
  • Close dampers in fireplaces not being used.
  • Move furniture and drapes away from heating registers, radiators, and baseboard covers.  Open any register or baseboard dampers.
  • Cover window air conditioners to reduce drafts. Install insulated or lined drapes on your windows.
  • Use weather stripping or one-sided sticky tape to seal up cracks and stop drafts in windows and doorframes. Caulk smaller gaps. Beneath doors, install draft guards or insulated door snakes.
  • Seal wall switches and electrical outlets with small foam gaskets available at home improvement centers and hardware stores. Remove the cover plate, insert the gasket, and screw the cover plate back in place.
  • If you have a door leading outside from your basement, hang a full-size sheet of plastic from the door frame to keep heat from escaping. Seal windows in the basement with plastic to create a barrier against the cold. (Make sure you allow enough air supply to feed your fuel-burning appliances safely).
  • Keep your garage door closed if the garage is attached to the house

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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