Freezing temperatures are blanketing our state and they don’t appear to be going away for awhile. This most recent round of winter weather may find more distance learners and more caregivers working from home than ever before. While at home, people will be inside, turning up the heat, and consuming more electricity than if they were at school or the office. Those who are cold-natured may find themselves flipping on a space heater to take the chill off. “It’s important that members take steps now to make a difference this winter in their electric usage,” explained People's Electric Cooperative's (PEC’s) CEO and executive vice-president Kevin Wood.
“Frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work overtime, and since heating and cooling can make up nearly half of your electric bill, many of our members, unfortunately, could experience a bit of sticker shock next month when they open their bill,” explained 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, oftentimes 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.
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 backup ‘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.
Director of member services Nick Skokos 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 Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. They can reach us by calling (580) 332-3031 locally, (877) 456-3031 outside Ada and inside PEC’s service area. With social distancing protocols in place, they may visit PEC’s Ada office located at 1600 North Country Club Road in Ada.”