Fight the winter chills
By April Lollar
Another colder-than-normal winter is predicted for much of the country this year. Frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work overtime, and since heating and cooling can make up nearly half of your electric bill, you may experience sticker shock when you open that bill.
Instead of waiting until after a potentially high bill is in your mailbox, be proactive. There are things you can do now to help ensure you are managing your energy use and spending less.
Simple steps to help you manage your use
- Wrap exposed pipes and water heaters that are in unconditioned spaces.
- Make sure to change your air filter once a month.
- Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too.
- Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use. Keeping it open can bring cold air into the room.
- Caulk around the fireplace hearth, and caulk or weather strip around doors and windows.
- Log on to the PEC Member Portal and check your MyUse Energy Analyzer reports to keep up with your use. See how a few days of frigid temperatures impact your use and employ strategies to use less on days that are milder.
- Dress for the weather, even if you are inside. Wearing proper clothing like long sleeves and pants, or wrapping up in a cozy blanket will help combat the temptation of bumping up the thermostat.
Why higher bills?
Using the tips above can certainly help you manage your energy use, but your bill may still be higher than normal in winter months. Why?
- The weather makes a big impact on electric bills, accounting for nearly half of your bill.
- Even those with the most efficient HVAC systems will see more use in extreme weather.
- When extreme cold temperatures hit, our heaters work overtime.
- For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 29 degrees outside, your system has to work hard to make up that 39-degree difference.
- Your heater works harder and cycles on and off more often, making your use much higher. That means your bill will be much higher.
- Remember, there is value in comfort. For us to be comfortable in our homes, our heaters are going to work harder, but it may be worth the additional cost to you.
April Lollar writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.