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Cold Brings High Bills

Pacific Power says inclement weather to blame

POLK COUNTY — Power bill higher than expected? You’re not alone.

Many in Polk County received power bills that were double what they were used to seeing.

Heating

Simple ways to make your heating system run more efficiently:

Pay attention to the thermostat — Keeping the temperature a few degrees cooler can lower your heating bill and you can still be comfortable. Pacific Power recommends setting your thermostat to 68° to save energy.

Use a programmable or smart thermostat to set the temperature back automatically at night and while you're away from home during the day.

Replace filters — Check forced-air furnace filters regularly, and clean or replace them as often as once each month during the heating season. Shake reusable filters outside or spray them with a garden hose. Be sure they're dry before replacing them.

Use window coverings to help insulate — Drapes can add an extra layer of insulation to windows. Blinds also can insulate, but they aren't as effective. Keep your drapes closed at night and on sunny days, open the drapes and blinds to let in the sun's free heat, especially on the south side.

Keep vents clear — Don't block registers, baseboards, radiators or cold air returns. Air must circulate through and around them for maximum efficiency.

Seal and insulate your ducts — Seal heating ducts and insulate ducts that run through unheated spaces. You may be eligible to receive a cash incentive.

Consider a heat pump — If you have electric heat, consider installing a heat pump or ductless heat pump to increase energy efficiency. Heat pumps keep you warm in the winter and cool in summer. Look for the Energy Guide label that contains the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) energy ratings. Look for 9 HSPF and 16 SEER or higher. You may be eligible to receive a cash incentive.

— Source: PacificPower.net

Tom Gauntt, spokesman for Pacific Power, said the simple answer is people use more power when it is cold.

“There weren’t any major rate increases,” he said. At the first of the year, a 0.6 percent increase went into effect. Depending on the days covered in the bill, that increase may be reflected.

Pacific Power charges consumers a few cents more for using more than 1,000 kilowatts in a billing cycle.

“The average use for folks is 800, so there’s usually plenty of room,” Gauntt said. “If we increase (the billing time), it starts stepping up in a pro-rated way. The higher rate wouldn’t hit until you hit 1,300 kw hours.”

Most billing cycles are about 28 days, Gauntt said, but many in Polk County said their cycle was 35 days last month.

Gauntt said the reasons behind a longer cycle are often because someone couldn’t get out to read the meters.

Then, if a customer usually gets his or her meter read on Tuesday, for example, but the Pacific Power employee couldn’t make it out, now that employee has to read all of Tuesday’s meters along with all of Wednesday’s meters, Gauntt said.

The flip side is that as Pacific Power meter readers get back on track, it could mean a shorter billing period next time, he said, meaning a lower-than-expected bill.

The power company does not regularly estimate someone’s power bill, Gauntt said.

“That’s something that sometimes happens, but in these cases when we know that there’s potential to be a high amount, we don’t want to be guessing on something like that,” he said.

Also, with kids out of school during the inclement weather and people staying home from work or running fewer errands, heaters have been on more throughout the day, as well as lights and other things.

“I have gas heat, but the fan is going that much more if it’s cold and windy,” Gauntt said. “Are you home more, you’re cooking browines, the TV is on, the kids aren’t at school.”

He said with cold, windy weather, heaters and furnaces have to work harder to keep homes warm.

Turning down the thermostat while away is one way homeowners can save on energy costs, but Gauntt said not to turn them down too low, because it takes more energy to reheat the home.

Homeowners can take simple steps to decrease their energy costs without replacing every old appliance, Gauntt said.

“Not everyone can invest in a new furnace,” he said. “Caulking is a simple, cheap thing.”

Weather stripping helps, too, but those are things that may be difficult to think about when it’s 15 degrees outside, Gauntt said.

“It’s kind of a hassle, but a good idea,” he said.

Weatherization and insulation help during the summer, too, Gauntt said.

“Even the simple thing of pulling your drapes helps keep heat in,” he said. “Not everything’s expensive, and they all add up.”

For questions about your specific power bill: 888-221-7070. To read more about energy: pacificpower.net.

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