The Central Virginian

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Record-breaking cold temps cause area heating bills to rise

Posted on Monday, January 29, 2018 at 9:16 am

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s (REC) service area experienced record-breaking cold temperatures in December and January that put heating systems into overdrive and increased electricity use.

Energy used by REC members is measured in kilowatt-hours. Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7, 2018, the average energy used by members was 104 kWh per day (approx. $13). This same time last year, the average energy use was 57 kWh per day. That is an 82 percent increase in energy use. In some cases, members have used over 200 kWh per day (approximately $25). It is likely that REC may see record-setting residential energy consumption. This translates into high bills, which pose a hardship for many members.

“Weather matters,” stresses Louis O’Berry, energy advisor for REC. “When it’s cold outside, family members want the house warm. We often raise the temperatures on our thermostats to create more warm air, and some people use space heaters.”

The effect weather has on REC members’ electric bills depends on many factors, including a home’s original construction materials, insulation, and air leaks. Personal comfort plays a role, too, as does the difference between the thermostat setting inside and temperatures outside.

“Other factors can contribute to a higher-than-normal electric bill,” added O’Berry. “During the holidays you cook and entertain more and air can escape or enter your home through leaks. Thinking back to recent activities in your home can help you understand spikes in energy use and sealing air leaks can make your home more efficient.”

Heating can contribute up to 70 percent of winter electric bills, even if the thermostat setting wasn’t changed. An electric heat pump will often rely on the auxiliary heating component when the outdoor temperature is about 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Homes will use more energy during the coldest periods of the day, which are usually overnight while we are asleep and right before sun up when the daily low temperature is reached.

REC recommends setting the thermostat to 68 degrees maximum in the winter. Lower the thermostat setting during the night and during the day when you’re away from home. Avoid increasing the thermostat settings suddenly – instead use a programmable thermostat to gradually increase the temperature. If you have a central heating system do not close doors or registers in unused rooms.

“Understanding how you use electricity and how to make changes will help you understand why your electric bill may be higher than normal,” explained O’Berry. “REC members can keep track of their energy use with My Usage. This tool found in MyREC SmartHub allows members to see how much electricity they are using every day. Knowing this information can help you make changes to your energy use.”

Members who are experiencing a financial hardship or who are struggling to pay their bill should call REC to make payment arrangements. Call 1-800-552-3904 to speak with a member service representative. By making payment arrangements you can possibly avoid additional fees.

(Press release from Rapphanannock Electric Cooperative)