The Panhandle has experienced a cold start to 2018. The frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing have caused heating systems to work over time, and since heating and cooling makes up nearly half of your electric usage, you may experience sticker shock when you open your winter statement. But, there are things you can do to help ensure you are managing your energy consumption.
These simple steps can help you manage your use:
- Wrap exposed pipes and water heaters that are in unconditioned spaces.
- Check your air filter to see if it needs to be changed.
- Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too. Open drapes and blinds during the daytime to let sunlight heat your home.
- Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use. Keeping it open can bring cold air into the home.
- Caulk around the fireplace hearth and caulk or weather strip around doors and windows.
- Dress for the weather, even if you are inside. Wearing proper clothing like long sleeves and pants, or wrapping up in a cozy blanket will help combat the temptation of bumping up the thermostat.
- Remember for every one degree you adjust your thermostat could increase or decrease your heating costs by up to five percent.
So, when temperatures fall and you hear your weatherman talking about bringing in pets and plants, remembering these tips can certainly help you manage your energy use. But, your WFEC statement may still be higher than normal in winter months. Why?
- The weather has a major impact on electric usage and can account for a significant increase on your statement.
- Even those with the most efficient HVAC systems will see more use in extreme weather. When extreme cold temperatures hit, our heaters work overtime. For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 29 degrees outside, your system has to work hard to make up that 39-degree difference.
- Your heater comes on more often and stays on longer, making your use much higher. That means your statement will be much higher. Remember, there is value in comfort. For us to be comfortable in our homes, our heaters are going to work harder, but it may be worth the additional cost to you.
- Many of you may use a space heater to supplement your HVAC system or as the only heat source, but please keep in mind this can be a costly choice. Many electric space heaters advertise they can reduce your electric costs, but this is false. For example, if you plug in a space heater in one room of your home for an hour per day, you probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference on your electric use. A 1,500 watt space heater would use about 45 kWh per month, or about $4.98. On the other hand, if you placed that same heater in a cold pump house, shed or garage and let it run for 24 hours per day for a month, you would be billed for 1,080 kWh or $119.55. That is quite a difference!
Every electric heating device operates the same way – whether the heater is set on high or low, it most likely will be consuming the maximum wattage. A 1,000 watt heater will cost you 11.069 cents per hour to operate. If you multiply this by the number of space heaters in use, you can see that this would result in a dramatic increase in your statement. To determine how much an electric heater costs to use, check the wattage on the appliance, multiply that wattage by the number hours you use the heater, and divide that number by 1,000 to get the kilowatt hours. Then, multiply that number by your actual electric rate to get the estimated cost. Here’s the formula:
Watts x Hours used /1,000 = kWh
kWh’s x .11069 (11.069 cents per kWh) = Your Cost
Don’t be fooled by claims that certain types of “Amish” or other heaters will help you save money. The formula is the same – no matter the type of appliance. If a space heater is necessary, try to use one that has a thermostat to turn the heater off when the desired temperature is reached.
According to a pre-billing audit performed by the cooperative, a large percentage of WFEC’s members used over 50 percent more kilowatt hours during December 2017 than they did in December 2016. Keep in mind these percentages don’t take into account the extreme cold temperatures our area experienced during January 2018 when the average daily temperature was below 44 degrees for the first half of that month.
For additional help, you can also speak to our energy efficiency experts. They can help you understand how weather and your use patterns affect your bill.