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Managing energy in an up-and-down winter
By Christine Patmon on March 10, 2015
Major temperature swings, with lows that have dipped to and below freezing four times since Feb. 18, have me wondering about the impact on my bill.
We marched into this month with more unusually cold weather, both here and throughout the state. As of Friday, the National Weather Service showed San Antonio about 12 degrees below the normal average temperature – not the high, but a combination of the daily high and low.
Fortunately, the state grid has held up despite high energy use across much of Texas, and normal plant maintenance taking place during what’s usually mild weather. However, there have been a few days when the grid’s come close to the reserve margin, or the preferred amount of extra energy on hand.
The result is a tight and sometimes costly energy market right now. We’re managing it pretty well, but we have to buy a little bit of energy off the market due to our planned plant maintenance. The impact for the average customer will be about $8 next month in the fuel adjustment charge – one of three items that affect the energy charges on your bill.
Just as our company is trying to manage the effects of the market, I’m working to manage the costs in my own home on the part of the bill that I can control – energy use.
During the recent almost 12-day cold snap (Feb 23-Mar 6), I only had a chance to shut off the HVAC system once. That’s my biggest cost-saving strategy, given that heating and cooling make up about 60 percent of the bill. The next is turning down the thermostat to 68, and 65 when we’re not home, to slow down the constant cycling of our heating system.
An energy audit we had done a few years ago, showed these annual costs for heating in our home.
- 68 degree setpoint: $478
- 72 degree setpoint: $654
- 76 degree setpoint: $792
So, I pay close attention to the thermostat and the weather.
I took advantage of a warm week in February by leaving the system off and that action, combined with a normal cycle of billing days, lowered our bill back to the low $100 range ($111, to be exact). The result – we got about $75 back into the budget from January’s higher bill of $187.
The meter at our home is read the third week of the month, so I expect the recent cold stretch to impact the upcoming bill.
With temperatures climbing well above 60 degrees today, I have shut off the HVAC for the rest of this week to try to balance out the bill.
I recommend these two top actions to anyone. If lowering the thermostat during cold snaps isn’t helping manage your costs, look to make your home more energy efficient. Try our Do-It-Yourself checkup to get your home’s energy profile. Then, consider adding attic insulation, natural gas appliances or applying for our weatherization program. We offer lots of rebate options. Just visit cpsenergysavers.com.
Whatever best suits you, take advantage of the offerings because despite this week’s warming trend, we can’t be sure that winter is officially over – or worse, that we won’t skip spring and head straight into the blistering heat of summer.