Understanding Your Power Bill — Winter Weather
Wells Rural Electric Co. employees work hard to provide accurate consumer accounting and ensure every bill represents reliable electricity service and tremendous value for all of our members. We also realize it can be a complex process for members who might only look at their bill and electricity use once a month when they pay their bill.
To better explain the components of your bill and electricity use—and the value cooperative members receive—we will use this space regularly to address some of the bill questions we are most commonly asked.
Between holiday and community celebrations, December often is a busy month throughout Wells Rural Electric Co.’s service territory. It typically also is the start of higher electricity and utility bills in response to cold winter weather.
According to Energy.gov, heating and cooling accounts for nearly half of people’s total energy use. If you notice a spike in this month’s bill, it helps to understand the anatomy of winter bills.
Be Aware of the Billing Cycle
Your monthly bill is based on your previous month’s use, so your December bill reflects the kilowatt hours consumed in November. While that might seem intuitive, it is easily confused.
A typical inquiry sounds something like this: “My December bill is a lot higher than my November bill, but I haven’t changed anything in my home. Why would it be so much more?”
We often find a usage spike sometime around the beginning of November, when temperatures drop and members started using space heaters or cranking up their thermostats. While a member’s heating habits may not change from November to December, November’s bill is lower because it reflects electricity consumption in October when temperatures were higher.
Fortunately, WREC offers a great tool to both monitor use and develop an awareness for how temperature affects your home’s energy consumption. Download the SmartHub app on your phone, tablet or computer to check your daily use and adjust accordingly. You also can pay your bill through SmartHub.
Be Mindful of Space Heaters and Heat Tape
Space heaters and heat tape are the most common sources of high bill calls. That small ceramic space heater might not seem like a big drain on electricity, but a single 1,000 watt space heater or length of heat tape running for 12 hours per day costs WREC members about $30 per month. If you’re trying to heat your whole home that way, the costs add up quickly.
Do not think using space heaters in lieu of your home’s forced air system will lead to savings. Your forced air system could be a 2,000 watt heating element warming air from a fan being blown throughout your home. Using five or six 1,000 watt space heaters in its place is going to cost you money.
That is not to say space heaters can’t be effective. If you only use one bedroom or you spend most of your time in the living room, space heaters can allow you to significantly lower your thermostat and still heat the parts of your home you frequent. We recommend space heaters with thermostats or putting them on a timer.
Not All Cold is Created Equally
Sometimes our minds seem to be programmed to qualify anything below a certain temperature as “cold.” Even if we don’t fully recognize the difference between zero and 15 degrees as much as 30 degrees and 45 degrees, our heating systems definitely notice. What we consider “cold” could be an extra 15 to 20 degrees our home heating systems have to account for.
If your monthly bill seems high, it’s always good to compare the weather during that bill’s cycle and that of the previous bill’s cycle. Odds are a dip in temperatures led to a bigger bill because your heating systems had to work harder to maintain the same temperature.
Solutions for the Season
While winter will always be a high use period in our service territory, you can mitigate the effects of colder weather. Improving floor and ceiling insulation, installing energy efficient windows and ensuring your doors and windows seal tightly can help prevent heat from escaping. Check out WREC’s energy efficiency program to determine if you are eligible for a rebate.
Income qualified members may be eligible for government assistance on their utility bills. WREC also offers a voucher program through local organizations based on need, rather than income. If you are having a tough time paying your bill, call your local WREC office.
Finally, budget billing can be a great tool to help you mitigate the impact of high winter bills. If you have been a WREC member for a year, you may be eligible to sign up for budget billing, which averages 12 months’ worth of bills and charges you the same amount every month.