he winter reconnect order is an assistance program available to all regulated electric and natural gas customers each winter. The PUCO issues the order to allow residential customers who have had their service disconnected or have received a disconnection notice an opportunity to pay a designated amount to have their home heating service restored or maintained. This is the 25th consecutive year that the PUCO has issued the winter reconnect order.
Residential customers must pay $175 or the amount owed, whichever is less, plus a reconnection fee of no more than $36 to restore or maintain service with their regulated natural gas or electric company. The winter reconnect order may be used only once during the winter heating season from Oct. 19, 2009 through April 15, 2010. There is no income eligibility requirement to use the reconnection program.
Customers requesting new natural gas or electric service that have no previous balance with the utility may establish service by paying $175, rather than paying the required security deposit. Customers utilizing the winter reconnection order to establish new service may have the remaining balance of the required security deposit added to their next month's bill.
The state of Ohio and the federal government offer several other home energy assistance programs to those who qualify. The PUCO suggests that customers explore all options including the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) and the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) in addition to the winter reconnect order.
Conserving energy is another way to reduce home heating costs this winter. Installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to lower the temperature when customers are not home or are sleeping, can help keep costs down. Setting back the temperature on hot water heaters and using long-life halogen or fluorescent light bulbs can also reduce energy usage.
Customers of Ohio's regulated natural gas utilities are encouraged to check the PUCO's Apples to Apples chart for the latest offers from natural gas choice program suppliers. The Apples to Apples charts provide customers with a "snapshot" comparison of current supplier price options, contract terms and an estimated annual total cost.
The PUCO offers informational materials on available assistance programs, energy conservation tips and links to the Apples to Apples charts at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Ohioans who at do not have access to the Web can contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) for more information or to have an Apples to Apples chart mailed to their home.