Generally speaking, usage estimates work well for a majority of our customers who have "normal" usage patterns and whose consumption is primarily dependent on the temperatures we experience outdoors throughout the year.
In determining an estimate, we rely on three key factors:
*Base load is a term we refer to as the amount of natural gas consumed during a period of time that is relatively unaffected by the temperatures experienced outdoors. The natural gas used for hot-water heating and natural gas required for a pilot light are two examples. For most temperature-sensitive consumers of natural gas, the mid-summer period represents the base load period because it is a time when natural gas is not being used for space heating.
This doesn't always work:
This method of estimating works well for the majority of our customers. However, there can be instances where usage patterns of a customer are not "normal" and where this estimating procedure can produce unusual results. Also, this estimating procedure cannot predict a change if a customer alters the manner in which they are using natural gas. For example, there is no way for the system to "know" if someone installed new insulation in their home, added an additional natural gas appliance, removed or stopped using some natural gas-fired equipment, etc.
We try to have an actual reading once every two months:
Due to the sheer volume of accounts we must handle every month, we rely on estimated readings to help our customers avoid the cost of meter-reading every month. (The utility's rates are based on its costs and by keeping our costs down we are able to keep our customer's rates down, too.) Our current practice is to perform an actual reading once every two months and for the most part, works well for our customers and the utility. It is never our intention to use estimation as a means of having our customers prepay on their account. It is our every intention to estimate as accurately as possible. However, as discussed above, there are circumstances where no matter how complex or sophisticated a billing system may be, it simply cannot predict usage patterns that do not fit the "norm". In most of these cases we recommend to our customer that an actual, not estimated, reading would be most appropriate in this situation.
Our customer can provide us with an actual reading:
Usually, we will read the meter every other month. But on the months that we normally calculate an estimate, customers themselves can provide us with a meter reading. This works very well for customers whose consumption is different than the norm, or for customers who would simply prefer to have their billings based on actual readings every month. If you are interested in providing us with meter readings, please contact our General Inquiry phone line and we will provide you with the dates on which we will require meter readings from you and also instructions on how to read your meter.