Power officials: Lower temperatures mean higher utility bills

Updated: Jan. 4, 2018 at 5:43 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - This week's frigid temperatures, after a cold December, may leave many people with a case of sticker shock when the bills start rolling in.

In December, the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative experienced its highest December system energy use in more than six years, and this first week of January is bringing even colder temperatures.

"The last few winters have been relatively mild for our area, with only a few days of sub-freezing temperatures," said CAEC Vice President of Customer and Energy Services Chuck Billings. "Since heating and cooling usage can make up nearly half of an electric bill, this extended cold period will have a financial impact."

There are steps you can take, however, to help ensure you are managing your energy use and getting the most out of your energy dollars:

  • Wrap exposed hot water pipes and water heaters that are in unconditioned spaces.
  • Make sure to change your air filter once a month.
  • Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too.
  • Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use - leaving it open can bring cold air into the room.
  • Caulk around the fireplace hearth, and caulk or weather strip around doors and windows.
  • Log on to your Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) account to keep up with your usage.
  • 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 to bump up the thermostat.

Using the tips above can certainly help manage energy use, but CAEC officials say bills may still be higher than normal in winter months, even with a highly efficient HVAC system. Why? When extreme cold temperatures hit, heaters work overtime.

For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 19 degrees outside, your system has to work hard to make up that 49-degree difference by cycling on and off more often, increasing energy use.

Many companies offer options to help monitor energy use and provide billing and payment options to help afford to keep your home warm.

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