Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to SVEC’s FAQs. If you have a question about your cooperative or our services, please contact us. We will get you an answer. From time to time, other questions will be added to this list.

General Questions

Does SVEC serve my location?

If you're moving to the area, or moving homes within the area, you may wonder if SVEC serves your new location. Boundary lines are drawn and regulated by the State Corporation Commission, meaning electric providers such as SVEC have defined areas to provide service. It's common to have multiple providers serving a single road, based on how the lines are drawn. Please contact the cooperative at 1-800-234-7832 if you are unsure about your location.

Electric Meter Questions

What is a kilowatt-hour?

A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of electrical energy equal to the energy delivered by the flow of one kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electrical power for one hour. For example, a 100-watt bulb burning for 10 hours will use one kilowatt-hour of energy.

How do I know how much electricity I use?

The amount of electricity you use is measured by your meter. Your meter measures kilowatt-hours continuously the same way your car’s odometer measures miles and is read in the same fashion, from left to right.

How do I know my meter is accurate?

Members frequently assume there must be something wrong with their electric meter if they receive a larger-than-expected electric bill. The fact is, electric meters are very reliable devices. Before a meter is installed, we test the meter for accuracy. Upon request, Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative will test a member’s meter for accuracy for a nominal fee.

Billing Questions

What are some causes of higher-than-normal bills?

If you receive a bill that is higher than normal, the first thing to look for is how many days of service were included in that billing period. Find the average daily cost for service on the lower portion of your bill. Compare that number to previous bills for the past few months.

If it’s significantly different, stop to think if you have added a major appliance or altered your lifestyle in some way that would account for the increased usage.

Why do my bills vary when I don’t have any new electrical equipment?

Many factors can cause your electric bills to vary. Most commonly they include weather and changes of habits or lifestyles.

In hotter weather there can be increased usage due to air conditioning or even window fans. Hotter weather also leads to higher humidity so some dehumidifiers may run more often and for long periods of time.

In colder weather electric consumption can be increased by use of central heating equipment or space heaters. Typically during the colder parts of the year it gets dark earlier and people stay inside more. This leads to more use of lights, televisions, radios and other electronic equipment.

Changes in habits or lifestyles can also lead to varying electric bills. During the holidays your family may cook more. You may have overnight guests. Cooking and guests can lead to more use of water (and hot water). If you have a well and/or an electric water heater this will lead to more electric usage.

Another major change may be the addition of a new family member. Bringing a baby into a home usually adds to more laundry being washed, higher desired room temperatures and more lighting at night.

Vacation & Seasonal Use Questions

Will my electric hot water heater use electricity when I’m away?

If you have an electric water heater it will use less electricity when you are away than if you were home using hot water. If an electric water heater is left energized during your vacation it will continue to maintain the tank temperature, even if you’re not using hot water.

Heat is lost through the insulation and copper pipes that come out of the top. If you are going to be away for more than a few days, you might want to consider turning your water heater off at the panel box.

How much will my refrigerator or freezer use when I’m gone?

If refrigerators and freezers are not emptied and turned off while you are away they will continue to operate in order to maintain preset temperatures. Other electrical appliances like clocks, security lights, water heaters and televisions with an “instant-on” feature will continue to use electricity if they are not unplugged or shut off at the panel box.

Can I eliminate electricity usage when my house is vacant?

If you are determined to use no electricity during your vacation, turn off the main breaker in your home. But remember, when you do this the automatic appliances and lighting will stop. Your refrigerator and freezer will defrost, your water heater will not have hot water ready for use upon your return, and your home may experience freezing problems or be very cold when you return.

Can I install my own emergency generator?

The National Electric Code (NEC), Article 700-6 and Article 230-83, requires that for safety reasons a “double-pole, double-throw transfer switch be installed.” It is SVEC’s recommendation that the transfer switch be installed by a licensed electrician for safety reasons as well as for proper application.

Are fireplaces good energy savers?

Not really. In most fireplaces all the energy (heat) from the burning wood, plus some of the home’s other heat, is lost up the chimney. Open fireplaces act as a vent to the outside of your home. Therefore, even when the fireplace is not in use heat can escape through the chimney if the damper is not tightly closed.

Lighting Questions

When should I turn off standard fluorescent fixtures?

It is a myth that it costs more to turn off fluorescent lights than to leave them on. This was true in the 1940s when fluorescent lamps first became popular because turning them off and on again greatly shortened the lamp life. Today’s lamps are not as affected by start-up damage and the energy surge to start them up is so small that it’s cheaper to switch them off when they’re not needed.

Can I do anything to reduce my lighting costs?

Use only the amount of light you need.

For maximum lighting efficiency use a higher lumen-per-watt bulb. Watts measure the amount of energy going into a bulb. Lumens measure the light output or brightness of a bulb. This information is printed on bulb packages. To determine efficiency, divide the lumens by the watts of electricity used.

For example, the efficiency of a 100-watt bulb measuring 1710 lumens would be 17.1 lumens-per-watt.

Appliance Questions

How do I calculate the electricity costs for my appliances?

To find your monthly cost to operate each appliance, multiply the total kilowatt-hours used by the current energy rate (approximately 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh)).

For example, if you have an appliance that uses 3 kWh per month and an energy rate of 11 cent per kWh the cost would be 33 cents per month.

Check out our appliance calculator in the Energy Resource Center here: Home Appliance Calculator

How do I determine how much energy (kWh) an appliance uses?

You need no more than 3 pieces of information.

First, look at the name plate on the appliance. You are looking for a number with a “W” beside it. This stands for wattage. Some appliances provide the amperage (A) and voltage (V) in place of the wattage. To get wattage, simply multiply amps times volts. An example would be a 120 V heater rated at 12.5 amps. This would equal 1500 watts.

Now to determine kilowatt-hours (kWh) you need to take the length of time (in hours) an appliance operates. Take watts and multiply by the hours of operation. Using our heater example above we would have 1500 watts times the number of hours of use. If we use that heater for 2 hours we would have 3000 watt-hours of electricity used.

To convert watt-hours to kilowatt-hours you must divide by 1000. Therefore, our 1500-watt heater operating for two hours would use 3 kilowatt-hours.

Energy Saving Questions

How often should heat pumps be serviced?

You should check the information provided by the manufacturer or installer, however, as a rule it is recommended that you should have heat pumps serviced before the heating season and before the cooling season.