Weather Forecast


Electric bills rise as temperatures plummet

Winter’s early start and frigid temperatures made December 2013 a record-setter for East Central Energy.

“We purchased just over two percent more energy to supply our members than in previous Decembers,” said Vern Johnson, principal engineer and vice president of distribution operations at ECE.

That was before the arctic blast that ushered in the New Year, driving energy use up even more and leading to higher electric bills.

“Extreme cold causes everyone to use more electricity than usual, sometimes without even realizing it,” said Energy Services Supervisor Justin Jahnz. “Even members who don’t have an electric heating system will see higher bills because most systems use electricity to circulate warm air. In extremely cold temperatures, the fan can run continuously.”

Other factors that contribute to higher electric bills in winter are:

• Plugging in an electric space heater can add more than $4 per day to a member’s electric bill at ECE’s rate of 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour. If used around the clock for 30 days, one space heater would add more than $120 to your electric bill.

• Using engine block heaters on vehicles and equipment.

• Having the lights on and using electronic appliances like TVs and video games more because of the shorter days and longer nights.

• Staying warm at night with an electric blanket.

The following steps can help you reduce your energy use and control your electric bill during cold weather:

• Seal the air leaks in your home. Caulk and weather strip doors and windows, and seal any air leaks where plumbing, electrical wiring or ductwork penetrates through exterior walls, floors or ceilings.

• Have the wall outlets and switches on your exterior walls insulated. Ensure that your attic door closes tightly and insulate the attic door.

• Close the shades or curtains at night to keep heat inside your house, and open them during the day to let in the sun shine.

• If you have ceiling fans, run them on low when you’re home, blowing the air up in the winter.

• Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs. They use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.

• Install a programmable thermostat and set it to a lower temperature during the hours you’re away from home.

• Visit and take the virtual home tour for more ideas on how to save energy and money.

Frigid temperatures can cause damage to power lines, but ECE’s distribution system has weathered the conditions very well.

“When metal gets cold, it contracts,” Johnson said. “This can pull apart splices and other connection components and cause the power line to fall. That happened twice to ECE facilities in December.”

The biggest concern ECE has in extreme cold situations is the safety of its employees and members. Remember to take precautions when traveling or doing outdoor activities. Being prepared can help save a life, maybe yours. As always, remember to stay away from downed or damaged electrical equipment and report it to ECE at 800-254-7944.