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Extreme temperatures in winter and summer generally lead to higher electric bills. The connection is straightforward: Your heating or cooling system works harder (i.e., uses more electricity) to keep you comfortable, and that comfort can come at a higher-than-ordinary cost compared to resting easily during mild-weathered months.

Fortunately, you can make simple adjustments for a sizable payoff. If you’re looking to freeze your electric bill this winter season, SVEC utility service technician Ray McGill has compiled a list of tips to get it done.

“From my experience there are a number of things that contribute to higher winter month electric bills,” he says. “If you’re looking for a small list, I can give you about 10 main culprits we have found over the years. They’re pretty common, but they’re what we find a lot.”

  1. Basic insulation. This includes lack of insulation in the attic, basement and crawlspace. We find that a lot of time members lack the proper amount and R value. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “An insulating material’s resistance to conductive heat flow is measured or rated in terms of its thermal resistance or R-value – the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness.”
  2. HVAC filters not changed regularly. We find clogged and old filters that cause HVAC systems to run harder and longer causing drastic spikes in usage in winter and summer months.
  3. Lack of caulking around older windows on older homes.
  4. Air handlers not properly sealed. This will leak air from the air handler into the crawlspace. Simple mastic tape will aid in sealing the air handler.
  5. Attic hatch not properly sealed and insulated.  A lot of air may pass through the attic hatch if not properly sealed.
  6. Space heater running in the winter months continuously. Space heaters are not energy efficient. One space heater running continuously for eight hours for the month will cost a homeowner roughly an extra $40 on his or her electric bill.
  7. Heat pump not serviced regularly. It’s advantageous for homeowners to have their equipment serviced regularly to maintain optimum efficiency from the unit.
  8. Emergency heat operating on a heat pump will cause the heat pump to cycle on and off continuously causing dramatic increase in energy usage.
  9. Heat pump being undersized for the square footage of the home. The heat pump will cycle more because the size of the pump will not be heating the home properly.
  10. Weatherstripping around doors. We often find that members either do not have weatherstripping around their entry or exit door. They may also have much older weatherstripping around their doors.

Kevin Alger, another utility technician, adds that a little common sense will go a long way this winter.

“This time of year would be a good time to check all windows and make sure they’re closed and locked, or storm windows are closed if the member has them, and doors have a good seal with minimal air gaps,” he says. “Also, a change of just a few degrees on the thermostat makes a difference. Water heaters are big users, too, and most any change there will be seen on their next bill. LED lights are popular now. I changed over in my house and can speak from experience on this one. My monthly bill dropped by at least $20.

“Like I tell every member, pennies make dollars and a few ‘little’ things will make a difference.”