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Cold snap means shocking electric bills for many locals

Cold snap means shocking electric bills for many locals

February 12th, 2018 by Junius Stone in Texarkana News

Snow, ice and record low temperatures in January left many area residents with a significant increase in their electricity costs for the month.

The biggest strain on home heating was Jan. 17, according to SWEPCO spokeswoman Carey Sullivan.

"That was our peak day for coldness this winter," she said. "We used 5,092 megawatts that day, which is an all-time peak for SWEPCO."

Peak days usually happen in the summer in this area, Sullivan said.

J.T. Calhoun, director of marketing communications for Bowie-Cass Electric Co-operative, said their facilities recorded peak winter power usage that day, with 214 megawatts used.

"Last year's peak was 188 megawatts. We average 180 for most winter peaks," he said.

Calhoun said he doesn't think the average person realizes just how intense the winter has been or how much more power will be consumed during such conditions.

"I would say it has been pretty vicious," he said.

When it comes to greater winter efficiency for electric bills, setting the thermostat at 68 and walking away isn't enough, Calhoun said.

"When the temperatures (outside) get that much colder, your system has to use more electricity to hold things" at a comfortable temperature inside, he said. "Extreme temperatures outside are going to take more to keep warm. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is turn down your temperature a bit more if you don't want the higher bill."

Sullivan said the consumer does have some control over the electric bill.

"Keep in mind colder temperatures force your heater to work harder. Lower your thermostat and keep an eye on it," she said. " Also, keep in mind that heat pumps don't work as well in extreme conditions. Some of their efficiencies are lost when temperatures outside get below 30 degrees."

Sullivan said space heaters also pull a lot of power and will affect the bill.

"If you have these going, especially more than one in your house, and you just leave them running, that is going to add up," she said.

Sullivan offered more tips to help homeowners and apartment-renters to reduce bills, such as weather stripping for doors, caulking around windows and changing the central heat and air unit's air filter.

"A filthy air filter can make your heater work harder and, again, brings your bill up," she said.

"There are always things you can do. And in the event you get a bill whose number you weren't prepared for, we do have help for those who find themselves in financial difficulty," she said.

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