Frigid Temperatures Likely to Mean Higher Electric Bills
The arctic blast that drove temperatures below zero in much of VEC’s service area is also likely to drive electric bills up for many customers.
Why Do Colder Temperatures Mean Higher Electric Bills?
Colder temperatures affect how much energy we use in many different ways. One of the main ways it affects energy use is in heating costs. The colder the temperature is outside, the harder a heating unit has to work to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
On January 7th when temperatures dropped to the lowest levels we’ve seen in the Tennessee Valley for about 20 years, VEC shattered it’s old record for electricity demand by about 15%. People across VEC’s service area were mostly using all that electricity to heat their homes.
Heat Pumps: Heat pumps are remarkable pieces of technology. Even when the temperature outside is as low as about 20 degrees, they are able to pull heat from the outside air and use it to heat your home. But when temperatures drop below about 20 degrees, heat pump heating systems have to rely on auxiliary heat to heat your home. Auxiliary heat is typically resistance heat, and that is one of the more expensive ways to heat.
Let’s say you have your home thermostat set at 68 degrees. When the outside temperature is 38 degrees, your heating system has to work hard enough to increase the indoor air temperature 30 degrees. When the temperature outside drops to eight degrees, the heating system has to work hard enough to increase the indoor temperature by twice as much – 60 degrees. But because the heat pump has to rely on auxiliary (resistance) heating to achieve that, the energy use is much more than twice as much – it’s three times as much.
Water Heaters: Water heaters that are placed in unconditioned areas will have to work overtime to maintain hot water when temperatures drop. When the heating element(s) cycle off, the water temperatures drops very quickly when the tank is exposed to frigid air.
Many factors go into just how much extra energy individual electricity consumers had to use during this record-setting period of frigid weather. Homes that retain heat better with things like weather-stripping, lots of good insulation, and energy-efficient windows will not use as much energy.
We’re probably all facing higher-than-normal electric bills, but we can do some things to help keep them as low as possible. Visit: http://vec.org/energy-efficiency/ to find out more.