Area electric companies are warning residents to be aware: Their next bill may see a spike due to the winter weather.
“A lot of people can be surprised because they say I didn’t change the thermostat. I know you didn’t but your system had to work harder,” said Paige Sheehan, spokeswoman for Duke Energy Progress.
With days of days of cold weather and a virtual shut down of the area thanks to an ice/snow storm, area residents have also been home more, which means more electricity is running at the house, according to Lisa Taylor-Galizia, spokeswoman for Carteret-Craven EMC.
“Everything adds on, but the heating is certainly what is going to drive them up,” she said.
Taylor-Galizia said it isn’t easy to guess how much the next bills will increase because of the number of variables that must be factored in, including the size of the house, if space heaters or heat pumps were used and how many items were running.
However, she said that customers used 20 to 25 percent more energy than is typical. The last time the cooperative saw such an increase was in January 2011.
According to the National Weather Service in Newport, the average temperature in New Bern during January 2011 was 39.3 degrees Fahrenheit. In January 2013, the average was 48.7 degrees while this January averaged 41.3, with some warmer days in the 60s and 70s.
“It’s not going to feel good when those bills come out, I’m sure; but hopefully people will have some time to prepare and collect the extra money they may need to bite the bullet and pay the bill,” Taylor-Galizia said.
Kristina Hill, spokeswoman for Duke Energy Progress, said usage and bill-increase information would not be available until next week, but users can expect a bump in their bills.
“In general when it’s colder outside, usage is higher so if customers use more energy during the cold snaps that we have been having, they can expect to see that reflected in their bill. Also in general, even if a customer did not make any changes to their thermostat your electrical system is working much harder … so that is reflected in those bills as well,” she said.
The spokeswoman said there may be enough time to forget about this cold spell before the next bill arrives.
“If it happens to be more when they open the bill, we just ask them to remember … they can actually look on their bill and see how much energy they used during the period,” Taylor-Galizia said.
James Satterfield, owner of Airflow Masters Heating & Cooling, said that maintenance is key to keeping costs as low as possible.
He recommends having the HVAC system serviced twice a year. Service, he said, includes cleaning coils, changing filters and making sure the refrigerant is OK in it.
Satterfield also recommends keeping the thermostat at about 68 degrees in the winter and at about 78 in the summer.
The filter, he said, should also be changed about every 30 days.
Propane users can also expect to see a rise in their bills due to nationally rising prices, according to information from the N.C. Attorney General.
“I’m concerned that North Carolinians who rely on propane for heat are struggling to keep their homes warm during an especially cold winter,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said. “While it’s understandable that cold temperatures have increased the demand for propane and reduced its supply, we’re monitoring this closely to see if anything is artificially inflating consumers’ heating costs.”
Residential propane prices have increased steadily since fall and spiked in January with prices averaging more than $4 per gallon nationwide, according to the Attorney General’s office. A year ago, the national average was $2.30 per gallon.
Amanda HIckey is a reporter with the Jacksonville Daily News.