People’s Electric Cooperation released the following statement in response to mounting outcry on social media by customers who say their bills have, in some instances, doubled.
Members of People’s Electric Cooperative are feeling the effects that so many consumers across the nation are experiencing as they open up their February power bills.
As freezing temperatures blanketed our nation mid-December through mid-January, area residents in PEC’s service area faced 26 days at or below freezing temperatures during the 31 day billing cycle from Dec. 21 to Jan. 21 which included the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
“Frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work over time, and since heating and cooling can make up nearly half of your electric bill, many of our members, unfortunately, are experiencing a bit of sticker shock this month when they open their bill,” explained PEC’s CEO and executive vice-president Kevin Wood. “For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 19 degrees outside, your heating systems have to work hard to make up that 49-degree difference. Your HVAC unit and your water heater work harder and cycle on and off more often, making your usage much higher. That means your bill will be much higher. Even when consumers use other sources of heat, often times an electric blower is used to supplement a gas heater or fireplace which will run more during times of extreme cold and contribute to higher usage.”
Wood also confirmed PEC has not raised rates. “In fact, we have not had a rate increase in many years. We are working tirelessly to keep rates down,” added Wood.
The most recent billing cycle also happened during the time our area’s public schools were dismissed for Christmas break. Because the cold weather accompanied the holiday season this year, people were more likely to stay inside, turn up the heat, and enjoy a day of football on TV. Meanwhile, kids were home from school, ovens may have been working overtime, and many homes were filled with family and friends. Those who are cold natured may have found themselves flipping on a space heater to take the chill off.
PEC encourages members to remember to check air-source heat pumps and water heaters and make sure they are not on the emergency or auxiliary setting. The freezing temperatures may cause back-up ‘emergency’ heat strips to switch on to provide additional warmth. The strips are supposed to switch off automatically, but, as officials warn, they’ve been known to stick in the “on” position. When that happens, usage will increase dramatically. Another culprit can be the emergency heat setting on home thermostats. The emergency setting may be located next to the regular heat setting making it easy to turn on accidentally. When your thermostat is set on emergency or auxiliary setting, heating systems can run continuously, adding a mountain of kilowatts to your bill.
Other helpful tips include using PEC’s SmartHub online account management tool which outlines daily usage and shows how usage correlates with daily temperatures.
Vice-president of member services Allyson McElroy urges members to see what kinds of options might be right for them. “Prepaid billing and average payment plans are programs to consider, and our member service representatives are happy to help members over the phone during regular business hours (from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, ). They can reach us by calling (580) 332-3031 locally, (877) 456-3031 outside Ada and inside PEC’s service area, or they may visit PEC’s Ada office located at 1600 North Country Club Road in Ada.”
“Our member service representatives can discuss usage, explore options, and help members work through this month’s bill,” explained McElroy. “Members can still take steps now to make a difference this winter in their electric usage,” said McElroy.
PEC offers the following ways you can conserve energy and gain some control over your winter electric bills:
1. Tune up your furnace. Call a professional HVAC technician to inspect and repair your system and change its filters. Make sure to change your air filter once a month.
2. Add insulation. Especially if your home is older, the attic insulation might have fallen out of place and even diminished over the years. That could mean rising warm air is escaping through the roof.
3. Seal gaps and cracks. Use caulk or weather stripping to close up holes around doors, windows, outlets and trim where heated air can escape.
4. Open the drapes. In the daytime, the sun’s rays will help heat your home for free. Let them shine in all day, then cover windows once the sun goes down. Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too.
5. Wrap up in layers. It costs a lot less to pull on a sweater or wrap a blanket around you than it does to move the thermostat up even a couple of degrees. Keep blankets on the sofa, and wear socks or fuzzy slippers indoors.
6. Humidify. A humidifier will add moisture to the air, which makes it feel warmer and helps retain heat. Your whole house will feel more comfortable if the air isn’t so dry.
7. Unblock heating vents. Move furniture and other items away from vents so they can do a good job of evenly distributing warm air throughout the house.
8. Turn off exhaust fans. Kitchen and bathroom fans clear the air of odors and too much humidity—but once the air clears, turn them off. The longer an exhaust fan runs, the more heated air it sends outdoors.
9. Lower the temperature at bedtime. Throw an extra blanket on your bed and turn the thermostat down several degrees before you turn in. According to the Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.
10. Close the damper. Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use. Keeping it open can bring cold air into the room.
There is value in comfort. For us to be comfortable in our homes, our heaters are going to work harder. PEC wants their members’ comfort to be as affordable as possible, and remains at the forefront of their mission to provide safe and reliable power at the lowest possible cost.