Just as we thought winter was upon us, unseasonably warm weather is hovering over our area. But that should not stop us from taking steps to avoid higher energy usage and winter bills. In the same way we crank up the air conditioning during the dog days of summer (or winter, as may be the case this week when temps rise above 80 degrees), heating our homes can make up about 60 percent of our bills.
Understanding the factors that can lead to higher winter bills, and how you can better manage your energy usage is important. So, we’re laying out the potential impacts.
• Forecasts call for a colder, wetter winter this year due to the El Niño pattern. Residential gas usage may increase during the season due to expected colder temperatures.
• Daylight saving time means shorter days so we keep our lights on longer.
• We spend more time indoors using electronics and appliances. This increased electrical consumption might translate into a higher average monthly bill.
• Those beautiful holiday lights use more energy.
• Holiday visitors and cooking large feasts increase energy usage.
• Longer billing cycles due to the holidays. For example, if the meter is normally read on the 24th or 25th of the month, it will not happen until the 28th or 29th. This adds four additional days to the bill. This also might occur in January with the New Year’s Eve, New Year’s and Martin Luther King holidays.
The top reason for a higher winter bill is energy use, and for the average customer the November to December bill is estimated to change as indicated below.
Projection of estimated Dec. bill compared to Nov.
Here are a few simple steps to help you manage and understand your bill:
• Keep the thermostat at 68 to 70° when at home. Lower it a few degrees when away. Wearing a comfy sweatshirt and socks is cheaper than pumping more heat into the house.
• Get a programmable thermostat to make changes by your cell phone or other internet-enabled device. Through Jan. 31, you can get a $150 bill credit for a qualifying device.
Keep your home warmer by following some of these simple tips from the Dept. of Energy.
• If you qualify, sign up for Casa Verde to get an average of $5,000 in energy-saving improvements. And, enroll in the Affordability Discount Program, which can shave up to $12 off your monthly bill.
• If you have a smart meter, sign up for high bill alerts and check your energy use to see how you’re doing during the month through My Energy Portal. All customers can use the portal to see how weather may impact their energy purchase, make a plan to save, compare their monthly bills, and see how they compare to their neighbors.
Finally, if the heat that should keep your home comfy is escaping, consider doing a home energy audit to track down the problem so when the temps dip, your bill won’t rise.