Following the recent extended period of frigid temperatures, many Alabamians are facing the reality of higher than normal electric bills.
According to the Public Service Commission (PSC), the state agency that regulates utilities in Alabama, the increased usage by customers in January 2018 has contributed to higher utility bills and an increase in customer billing/payment inquiries. Along with the PSC, Dothan Utilities would also like to remind customers that the higher electric bills are due to usage and not rate increases or billing issues.
Still, customers may ask, how could bills be so much higher than this same time last year? The reason is due to the fact that the number of days spent in below freezing temperatures is well above the average. Since mid-December, there have been 22 days recorded below freezing.
Also, please keep in mind that there are many, commonly overlooked elements in the home that can drive power usage up when temperatures are unusually low. Dothan Utilities recommends the following energy saving tips:
- Find places where heat may be leaking, like cracked windows or an open chimney. Seal these openings where you can or use a rolled-up towel.
- About 15 percent of your energy bill is for heating water. Lower the temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees and wash clothes in cold water. Help your water heater work more efficiently by wrapping it in a $20 insulation blanket.
- Avoid using the fireplace in below freezing temperatures. The heat generated by the fire will actually be less than the heat escaping through the chimney.
- Do not use space heaters to warm any area more than a small bedroom with the door shut. Otherwise, the heater's warmth will be diluted over a large area, forcing it to work harder.
- Keep doors closed as much as possible and secure garage doors to prevent the unconditioned, outside air from entering the home.
- If you have electric heat, it can account for around half your electric bill during the heating season. The best way to save is to turn down your thermostat. For every degree you turn down your thermostat, your bill will drop 2-5%.
- Weatherstrip your windows and doors. It is inexpensive and easy to do, and it is one of the best ways to trap warm air indoors.
- Seal joints in exposed ductwork in the basement and attic.
- Regularly change your home's vent filters every 30-60 days.
- If you can afford it, replace your windows with more efficient ones. If that is too expensive, install storm windows or smooth plastic sheeting over the panes. Both can reduce heat loss 25 to 50 percent.
For online energy-saving assessment tools, Dothan Utilities recommends the use of the Energy Star website. You can use the “Energy Star Home Advisor” tool for an overall assessment of your home and to get customized recommendations for energy efficiency improvements. Their “Home Energy Yardstick” tool can be used to see how your home's energy use measures up compared to similar homes. These online tools can both be found by visiting https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/home?s=mega