Given the unusually cold January temperatures experienced across the panhandle, most CHELCO members should anticipate increased electric bills.

Given the unusually cold January temperatures experienced across the panhandle, most CHELCO members should anticipate increased electric bills.

By looking at the increases in kilowatt usage by members, CHELCO anticipates that members’ bills could be from 30 percent to more than 100 percent higher than during the same time period last year.

With temperatures dipping below 20 degrees two days in January and into the low 20’s several other days, CHELCO members were likely using considerably more energy than usual.

“When the temperature drops below freezing, particularly below 25 degrees, depending on the individual home, a heat pump will use its auxiliary heat strips, which are not nearly as efficient as the compressor,” said Vice President of Member Services Steve Wolfrom. “Therefore, on the coldest days this year, this auxiliary heat, sometimes called emergency heat, was operating and, unfortunately, making those meters spin twice as fast as usual.”

In looking at the actual data available, CHELCO found that this winter was extreme.

“We recorded 517 heating degree days in January 2014, compared to 174 heating days last January," Wolfrom said.

Heating degree days (HDD) are a way of measuring the heating needed to keep a structure comfortable.

An average of the highest and lowest daily temperature is compared to a base temperature of 65 degrees and the results are the heating degrees for that day. By adding all of the days where heating is required, CHELCO calculates the HDD for the month.

While the extreme cold temperatures are the primary reason for the significant increase in energy use and energy costs this winter, there are some other factors that further magnify the effect, some of which may not be as obvious.

“When it’s bitter cold outside, many families spend more time at home, cooking, watching television, and using computers and other electronics,” Marketing Representative Tina Rushing said.  “In addition to making sure the heating system is working properly and the home is weatherized and properly insulated, we encourage CHELCO members to use simple steps to decrease the overall energy use in their home.” 

“For example, setting the thermostat for heat no higher than 68 degrees, making sure the fireplace damper is closed when not in use, using blankets and wearing warm clothes around the house, and closing window blinds and curtains at night can be a great start.  For every degree you lower the thermostat, you can potentially save 1-2 percent on your heating costs,” Rushing said.

There are many things co-op members can do to reduce their electricity usage and save money on their power bill.  CHELCO has a variety of energy efficiency and energy conservation resources available to members.  To better understand energy costs and how they can be lowered, contact CHELCO’s Marketing Department at 850-892-5069 or visit the company's website.