Chill Ushers in Higher Bills
The chill has arrived, and many members might find themselves singing ‘Baby it’s cold outside’. While bundling up, they often do not directly correlate the degrees on the thermometer with the dollar signs arriving on their electric bill, and local folks are already seeing elevations in the price they must pay. With an average daily high of 74 degrees and an average low of only 46 in the month of October, the bills received the following month were quite pleasing to most. Yet, November temperatures were not nearly so pleasant, and the average daily high decreased to 60, while the average low plummeted to a mere 35 degrees. Thus, bills received in December created sticker shock for quite a few.
“Realistically, members can expect to see higher bills in December, January and February,” states Michelle Simpson, Holston Electric Cooperative’s Director of Member Services. “This is directly associated with temperature decreases and influx in electricity consumption during the cold. The bills received in December were primarily for usage in November. With 12 nights dropping into the 20’s and an average daily high 14 degrees lower than October, energy utilization skyrocketed, and bills received in January and February will likely further increase.”
To put it in perspective, electric bills increase when outdoor temperatures decrease because more energy is consumed. The colder the outdoor temperature, the less efficiently heat pumps work, and while heating accounts for about 50% of an average home’s electric bill, heat pumps actually work best when the outdoor temperature is above freezing. During extended periods with temperatures below 32 degrees, most heat pumps will not be able to keep the room heated to the setting on the thermostat. “We receive a lot of phone calls from members who believe their unit is broken or malfunctioning during extremely cold snaps,” Simpson points out. “A heat pump pulls heat from outside air, and when it gets colder outside, eventually it can’t meet the heating load of the home. Then supplemental (strip) heat kicks in, which is drastically less energy efficient and costing members more. One or two nights below freezing can create a very noticeable escalation on your monthly bill.”
“While we cannot control just how cold it gets, there is one way to save. Members should avoid the major falsehoods of heat pumps. Many people turn their unit way down while sleeping or away, and then crank it up when they return home. Each time they do this, they are forcing the supplemental heat to kick in. Any increase on the thermostat beyond 2 degrees at a time is less energy efficient and actually costing you more money. Other folks have been told to use the ‘Emergency Heat’ setting when temperatures are below freezing. That is absolutely false, as the setting is only for real emergencies, such as when the heat pump doesn’t work. You will not notice a difference in how well ‘Emergency Heat’ warms your home, but you will surely notice a difference in your electricity bill,” notes Simpson.
“While Holston Electric Cooperative works to provide reliable and affordable service to meet our members’ energy needs, we are also committed to providing awareness to those we serve,” adds Simpson. “This winter Holston Electric Cooperative encourages our members to be safe and stay warm. Just remember, Spring is right around the corner.”