Our area experienced plenty of cold weather during the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, and we received numerous inquiries from members about high bills.

Higher electric bills are usually caused by an increased use of electricity, and during wintertime, increased consumption can usually be attributed to the large difference between cold outdoor temperatures and heated indoor temperatures. Frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work overtime, and heating can account for as much as 50 percent of the typical all-electric home’s energy use in winter.

Spikes in electric use are especially noticeable after a month or billing period that is significantly colder than the prior one, or when a month or billing period is significantly colder than historical averages. Something else to remember is that members’ December 2016 electric bills had WPTA(Wholesale Power and TIER Adjustment) credits on them that ranged from $30 upward (based on usage) thus reducing that month’s bill and perhaps making increased electric use and higher bills in January and February even more noticeable.

How cold has it been?

During December 2016, 15 out of the 31 days saw temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And, it was extremely cold 8 of those days, with the lows reaching below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

Keep in mind that the electricity needed to heat your home will vary depending on how efficient your heating, venting and air-conditioning (HVAC) unit is and how well-insulated your home is, among other factors. And unfortunately, when temperatures don’t get out of the 20s, 30s or 40s all day, your HVAC system will probably have to run off and on—all day and all night—to heat your home, regardless of how efficient your system is. Even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, when it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside (for example), your system still has to work hard to make up that 38-degree difference. If you have an electric HVAC system, you’ll be using a lot of electricity on days like these—even more so if you have a non-heat pump furnace system that uses straight electric heat (heat strips).

Tips to help reduce winter electricity use

  • Set your thermostat to 68°F or as low as is comfortable for you. During cold weather, your system has to work harder to overcome big temperature differences between the outside and inside air, but not as much as if you had set your thermostat at a higher temperature.
  • Going to be away from home? Program your thermostat to lower the temperature 10 degrees. If you turned the unit off, it will have to work overtime when turned back on, eating into any savings.
  • Dress for the weather, even if you’re inside. Wearing long sleeves and pants or wrapping up in a cozy blanket will help combat the temptation to bump up the thermostat.
  • Clean or replace HVAC filters monthly.
  • Keep vents free from obstructions.
  • Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day also.
  • Have your HVAC system serviced every year by a certified technician.
  • Space heaters sound like a good idea but they can use a surprising amount of electricity.
  • Close the fireplace damper when it’s not in use.
  • Caulk around the fireplace hearth and caulk or weatherstrip around doors and windows.