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Pinching pennies Featured

9:35am EDT July 22, 2002

Lori Angus is always on the lookout for better business deals.

She's the sales and marketing director for Designed Lighting Concepts based in Hilliard, and when she saw advertisements for energy.com on billboards around downtown Columbus, she knew she needed to check it out. After all, the company claimed it could reduce her company's energy bills.

"When you go into the site, there is a list of all the providers available in your area. You can go to each individual one, and it will tell you what their particular cost package is," Angus says. "I went online to see if I could save money, and the differences were quite different."

Designed Lighting Concepts, which has annual revenue of $1.5 million but only two employees, spent more than $250 a month last year on its winter utility bills, Angus says. This year, she plans on paying 30 percent less by signing with Summit Natural Gas, a company she found on energy.com. Already she's seen significant savings since switching utility providers this summer. Her company's natural gas costs have dropped 11 cents per cubic foot, which means Designed Lighting is saving about $10 to $15 a month.

Utility deregulation has meant more choices for Ohio consumers. Angus says she still gets bills from Columbia Gas, but that's only because Columbia still handles the billing and provides the infrastructure -- such as pipes and meters -- to deliver the gas to her business.

"It's a great opportunity as these markets deregulate and people have more choices," says Tammy Cardoso, marketing manager for energy.com, which launched its Web site in April 1998.

Cardoso says more commercial and residential gas users are choosing marketers instead of buying directly from Columbia Gas simply because of the price savings. She says it was slow at first, because many people were uncertain about making the switch from Columbia to a marketer, but "ultimately, competition and new technology will create lower prices for customers."

Energy.com lists prices for six natural gas suppliers in Ohio, how much they charge and the benefits each offers.

Angus says when visiting energy.com it's important to know what kind of service you need because the companies list their prices in different ways.

"I took a year of gas bills and sat down and figured out the gas costs portions and what the gas prices were for the year," she says. "I had to look at somebody who had a good rate that stayed the same for the full year, because some of them had variable rates."

A fixed rate was important to Angus because some companies charge more for gas service in the winter months when usage increases.

But that's the beauty of energy.com, Cardoso says: "Consumers can figure out which plan is best for them." Darrel Richter (DRichter01@aol.com) is a free-lance writer for SBN.

How to choose an energy supplier

  • Figure out how much you currently pay for utilities.

  • Acquire offers from several suppliers in your area.

  • Understand the offers thoroughly.

  • Know the different price options available.

  • Get a contract in writing that includes all terms of the deal.

  • Get references from the supplier and talk with those people.

  • Don't be rushed into making a decision.

Source: Energy.com