As 2016 gets going, Ohioans may find themselves moving to a new home or business location. This can be an exciting but hectic time. To help make that transition a smooth one, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) offers some helpful information for establishing utility services like electric, natural gas, telephone and water service.
The PUCO regulates investor-owned utilities. Your utility service may be supplied by a municipality, county, water/sewer district, cooperative or for-profit company that may have different requirements for establishing service, so be sure to call in advance to ensure that your utility service will be set up when you are ready to move.
Establishing service — plan ahead
Before you move into your new home or office, call the local utility companies to set up an appointment to establish your service. Each utility including electric, natural gas, telephone and water may have unique inspection and installation procedures that need to be completed before your service can begin. Since it may take several days to schedule an installation appointment and for any construction to be completed, the PUCO recommends that you call in advance to ensure that utility service will be available when you move in.
Electricity: If there is already a meter present, contact the company one week prior to needing service. If there is not an existing electric meter, call at least one month in advance. In this case, the company will need to install a meter and perform the necessary inspections before establishing your electric service.
Natural gas: Contact the company at least one week before you want your service to commence if there is already a meter present. If there is not an existing gas meter, call at least one month in advance. The company will need to install a meter and perform the necessary inspections before establishing your gas service.
Telephone: Contact your local telephone company two to four weeks in advance to allow for any technical service that may be needed before your telephone service can start.
Water: Contact the company at least one week before you want your service to commence.
Most utility companies allow customers to sign up for service by phone or online. Keep in mind that you may need to provide the company with information such as your name, driver’s license number, service address, mailing address, phone number and information necessary to determine creditworthiness.
When you move, remember to call your existing utility companies to terminate service at your present address. Many times, electric and natural gas companies will use an estimate based on your previous usage to determine the final bill. Another option is to read the meter yourself and call in the reading to the utility company. Contact your utility company or visit its website to find out how to read your meter.
The PUCO has established time frames in which utility companies are required to install your service.
Electricity: Once the electric company has been notified that the customer’s location is ready for service, the company will complete the installation within three business days, or 10 business days if construction not requiring a primary line extension, is needed for installation. If the electric company is unable to meet these deadlines, they must notify you about the delay.
Natural gas: Once the gas company has been notified that the customer’s location is ready for service, the company will complete the installation within three business days, or 20 business days if construction is needed for installation. If the natural gas company is unable to meet these deadlines, they must notify you about the delay.
Generally, the utility company will provide you with a time frame for installation when you sign up to establish your service.
When you sign up for utility service with a new company, you will be required to establish credit, which can be done in several ways. If you own your property, have a good credit rating or have had a similar type of utility service in the past 24 months, you may automatically qualify for credit with the company. If you do not meet one of these criteria, you will be able to establish credit by paying a security deposit or furnishing a creditworthy guarantor.
If you pay a security deposit, the company will review your payment history after 12 months to determine if you are eligible for a refund of your deposit, plus interest. Check with your utility company about the options for establishing credit and criteria for refund of your deposit.
Choice programs are available for customers of investor-owned electric and most natural gas utilities in Ohio. These customers are able to choose their electric or natural gas supplier or remain with the default sales service of the local utility, while distribution continues to be provided by the local utility. You can refer to the PUCO Energy Choice Ohio website’s Apples to Apples comparison charts to compare offers in your area. You may also check with your local government for a governmental aggregation program in your area. You will still need to establish service with your local utility before you can choose an alternative supplier.
Your utility companies should be able to establish your service in a timely manner. If the company does not meet its service commitments, you should first call your utility company and work with a company representative to resolve the issue. If you are unsatisfied with the way the company handled your complaint, you can contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or visit www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
If you have problems with service such as a power outage, gas leak or water leak; contact your local utility company. You can also contact the PUCO if the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction.
If you suspect a gas leak, leave the area and call 9-1-1 and the local natural gas company.
Utility assistance programs
A number of low-income assistance programs are available to help qualifying Ohioans pay for monthly electric, natural gas and telephone bills. For more information on program options, benefits and eligibility requirements, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or www.PUCO.ohio.gov or your local utility.