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High Bill - Increased Usage?

Why is my bill higher this month?

Understanding What Causes Increased Winter Energy Usage

Recent question from an electric cooperative member-consumer:

“Hi, my name is Blake. I’m calling because I just received my December electric bill and it seems a little high compared to usual. We keep our house temperature set at 78°F and have not really changed much. Could you help my wife and I understand why our usage increased last month? Thank you!”

As member-consumers receive their first winter bill, this is a frequently asked question. Here’s some insight into understanding why your winter usage may differ from the rest of the year.

Seasonal Weather

In Indiana we experience all the seasonal changes in weather. As winter sets in, the temperature decreases and snow and ice soon follow. Winter is notorious for keeping us indoors during inclement weather, resulting in higher usage of our home appliances and higher thermostat settings to stay warm and cozy. When it’s colder outside than it is inside, your heating system has to work harder to maintain the temperature setting inside the home.

Thermostat Settings

The biggest users of energy in the household are the furnace and air conditioner. If you are interested in saving energy easily and efficiently, the Department of Energy (DOE) recommends setting your thermostat at 68°F during the winter months. Note that this is a 10°F decrease from the setting of 78°F used by Blake as stated in the question above. The DOE suggest that changing this setting could save Blake as much as 10% on his heating cost.

Now, many of you may be thinking that’s way too chilly for our cold, Indiana winter nights! We all want to enjoy watching our favorite college football games or a fun game of Euchre in comfort, so personal preference on thermostats is important. Just remember, the harder your furnace has to work to maintain the temperature setting inside the home, the higher your usage will be.

Increased Visitors

If you drew the short straw to host the holiday party this year or your in-laws visited for New Year’s, remember that having increased visitors in your home increases energy usage. Maybe you have children home from college or on winter break from middle school. Keep in mind that they are utilizing multiple appliances throughout the day; increasing the normal amount of electricity your home usually uses when you are away at work and your home is empty. Those additional showers with hot water, cooking with your electric oven, or snuggling up beside your electric space heater can all attribute to your higher energy bill in winter.

Monitor Your Usage

Utilize the SmartHub app to target periods of high usage. The hour-by-hour readings allow member-consumers to pin-point the time of day higher usage is occurring and identify the appliance(s) that may be causing the increase.

Thermal Envelope of Home

If your home is not well insulated, or your windows or heating/cooling ducts are leaking; your usage may be higher. Simple fixes, like caulking around windows and doors, sealing your heating/cooling ducts, or adding attic insulation can be done easily and make a big difference in the energy efficiency of your home.

We hope these insights have helped you identify some ways to lower your usage, and ultimately your bills this winter. If you have any questions, please reach out to us. We are your trusted energy advisors, and we are here to serve YOU, our members.