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High Winter Bills Explained

According to the National Weather Service, the first week of 2018 was the coldest start to a new year on record in Indiana (or at least for the 146 years the NWS has been keeping track).

How cold was it? The average temperature for the first four days was 3.3 degrees, which is 25 degrees below normal. It also marked seven straight days of sub-zero temperatures, the most since 1990. That means we endured something like 320 consecutive hours of below-freezing temperatures during this big chill.

Oddly, all the cold weather came on the heels of a December that began as one of the warmest on record and ended with quite a cold snap. The average temperature of 30.2 degrees ended up just a tenth of a degree colder than December 2016, and the coldest December since 2013.

What does all this mean for your electric bill? The colder it is outside, the more energy it takes to keep things warm inside. With this extended cold spell, there was certainly an increase in electric use for members.

If you have electric heat, or a heat pump with an electric heat back up, you will see a significant use increase as a result of the frigid cold temperatures. The amount of increase will be based on how insulated and air tight your house is and the efficiency of your HVAC unit.

Even customers with natural gas or propane furnaces most likely have an electric starter and fan on their furnaces or fireplaces. When the temperatures are colder, the gas furnace engages the starter more often, drawing electricity, and the fan runs more as well.

Other appliances use more energy in the cold. Outdoor hot tubs, for example, are out in the cold and are set to maintain a certain temperature. Also, those heaters for animals, block heaters for diesel engines, etc., can use more energy in winter weather.

Supplemental space heaters can also raise electric bills. Use them strategically to keep the room you’re in warm and turn down your thermostat to accommodate for the additional electric use. 

Air leaks, lack of insulation and lack of heating system maintenance are the three major areas in a home that contribute to wasted electricity. Members should consider addressing these areas to help lower their energy use. A free home energy audit by our energy advisor can help you take steps to make your home energy efficient.

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