Fuel prices are on the rise and are already at a multiyear high according to federal energy researchers. These higher prices follow changes to energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts believe that households will spend more on energy this winter compared to the past several winters because of higher energy prices and because a slightly colder winter is expected in much of the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
While NOAA does forecast this winter to be colder than the last, Americans will see rising energy costs regardless of the temperatures according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). On average they expect prices for all fuels to be higher than during recent winters. The increases seen over the past year can be attributed to several factors – mainly that fuel demand has increased faster than production, leading to falling inventories.
The EIA forecasts that U.S. households that heat primarily using electricity could spend up to 15 percent higher in a colder-than-forecast winter and 4 percent higher in a warmer winter. This increase may be attributed to more electric consumption and higher residential electricity prices.
The increase in residential electricity demand is a result of changing social patterns – more people are working from home and some virtual learning continues at this time. This could account for more energy demand this winter.
January is typically the coldest month members in WFEC’s service area experience. These colder than normal temperatures cause heating systems to work overtime. Since heating and cooling costs make up nearly half of electric usage – members may experience sticker shock when opening winter billing statements.
Keep in mind that when you hear the weatherman talking about bringing in pets and plants, your WFEC bill may be higher than normal. Why?
Even the most efficient homes will see more electric use in extreme weather. When extreme cold weather hits, heaters work very hard. Even if thermostats remain set to the recommended temperature of 68 degrees in the winter, when temperatures fall as low as the upper teens, HVAC systems have to work very hard to make up that temperature difference.
Heaters come on more often and stay on longer, making energy use even higher. This means electric bills will be higher. Keep in mind that there is value in comfort, too. For many of us to be comfortable in our homes, the heaters we use are going to work harder – but it could be worth the additional cost if it makes you more comfortable.
Many members in our area use space heaters to supplement HVAC systems or that may be the only heat source available. This could be a costly choice – many space heaters advertise they can reduce electric costs, but this is not true. Don’t be fooled by claims that certain types of heaters will help you save money. Keep in mind that if a space heater is necessary, try to use one that has a thermostat or turn the heater off when the desired temperature is reached.
Our energy experts are here to help you understand how weather and use patterns may impact your electric bills. They can also provide additional information about heat pump rebates and the manufactured home heat pump rebate program offered by West Florida Electric Cooperative to help its members upgrade their HVAC systems. For more information about these programs or to find out more about how to save on you electric bills, visit www.westflorida.coop or call the cooperative at (800) 342-7400.