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National Fuel Gas Co., beginning next year, will start offering free low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators that reduce the use of hot water to residential customers who take part in the Amherst energy company’s other programs aimed at reducing energy consumption.

The addition of the low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators to the company’s energy-efficiency program for residential and low-income customers, disclosed late last month in a filing with the state Public Service Commission, is the latest change to the company’s programs to reduce the consumption of natural gas by National Fuel’s customers.

Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators are viewed by PSC officials as an inexpensive way of saving energy, with a potential payback that can be seven to 10 times the modest cost of the equipment, depending on how much water a customer uses. The greater the water use, the greater the potential savings.

Beginning Jan. 1, National Fuel residential customers who are participating in the company’s Conservation Incentive Program or its separate program aimed at reducing gas use by low-income consumers will be eligible to receive one low-flow shower head and two faucet aerators for free.

Consumers who previously took advantage of either of those programs since they began five years ago also will be eligible to receive the shower head and aerators at no cost. National Fuel customers who have not participated in one of the company’s energy-conservation plans would not be eligible to receive free shower heads or aerators, said Karen L. Merkel, a company spokeswoman.

“As these programs continue to evolve, some incentives expire and other incentives are created based on PSC guidance,” Merkel said. “We try to keep up-to-date with low-cost measures approved for use in statewide energy-efficiency programs.”

National Fuel did not break out the estimated cost or the potential energy savings from the program, but another upstate utility that is implementing a similar program, National Grid, estimated that providing customers with a low-flow shower head and two faucet aerators would cost a total of $5.

But that investment would yield significant savings for consumers. With a low-flow shower head that uses less than 2.5 gallons of water per minute, residential customers could reduce their annual natural gas bills by more than $28, on average, while installing a pair of low-flow aerators on two faucets in their home would trim more than $10 off their annual gas costs, National Grid estimated.

That means the shower head would yield energy savings that are more than seven times greater than its cost. Low-flow aerators, which can reduce the amount of water used to 1.5 gallons per minute from 2.2 gallons per minute with a conventional faucet, would have a payback that exceeds 10 times their cost, National Grid said in a PSC filing.

Merkel said the company is working on a program in the coming months to make participants in its energy-efficiency programs aware of the availability of free shower heads and aerators.

“Right now,” she said, “it’s in the beginning phases of development.”

email: drobinson@buffnews.com