The old adage “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” will serve consumer-members well this upcoming winter. Rising energy prices are expected to hit household budgets in the coming months, and Oklahoma’s distribution electric cooperatives and generation and transmission cooperatives are hard at work to help keep your energy affordable, safe, and reliable.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released its “Winter Fuels Outlook” report. This report forecasts, on average, heating costs for those who primarily use natural gas or electricity will be on the rise this winter compared to last year’s heating bills.
EIA expects the largest increase to occur in the Midwest, with an average natural gas cost to be 45% higher than last winter. Regional natural gas spot prices reached record-high levels following the February 2021 polar vortex. The new forecast of high prices follows changes to energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The question consumer-members must ask themselves is, “What can I do to prepare?”
There are inexpensive ways you can ready your home without making major lifestyle adjustments. The first step is to replace your HVAC or furnace filter, and continue to do so regularly, to help the system run more efficiently. Now would be a good time to get your system evaluated for a tune-up as well.
Covering windows with plastic to block drafts, or closing off vents in unused rooms, will also allow for your energy dollars to extend further. Another inexpensive preparation tool is a door pillow. A door pillow is a weighted pillow placed at the base of the door frame. This pillow helps to keep the cold air from creeping in and the warm air from escaping.
As always, you can set your thermostat to the lowest temperature comfortable for your family. Try to keep the thermostat at a constant temperature. A one-degree increase can increase energy use by 3 to 5%. Consider using extra layers of clothing and blankets instead of space heaters to reduce overall cost.
Another resource is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This federal program keeps families warm through initiatives that help with energy costs. For a list of local intake agencies in each county, contact the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Your local electric cooperative is ready to serve as your trusted energy adviser. I encourage you to keep your co-op as your first source for information and to reach out for advice in advance of the coming winter.
General Manager, Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives