Avoid the High Bill Chills

There is almost nothing worse than receiving an unexpectedly large bill in the mail. But every winter, many WCEC members do receive shocking electricity bills that are in fact, double or even triple what they are expecting. And for many, it can turn into a hopeless economic challenge. Then they become angry.  Especially if they think they did not change their usage habits. They may even think that WCEC has raised the rates, but that is simply not the case. The following is a sample chart of historic and current rates.

In the winter, heating costs generally account for the largest percentage of east Texas residential electricity bills. And, these heating costs mirror outside temperature extremes. While the thermostat may be adjusted some, it’s still set for a level that keeps occupants comfortable. That can be a 30 to 40 degree difference from the outside temperature. And the greater the temperature difference between the inside and the outside, the harder and longer a heating unit must work to maintain indoor temperatures. The following example illustrates how residential usage spikes in extreme weather months.

 

A bar graph illustrating the WCEC average residential kWh usage by month from 2010-2014

Sadly, when the shocking electricity bill arrives on a milder day a month down the road, it’s really hard to remember that it was THAT cold for THAT many days. People absolutely don’t remember the very coldest temperatures because they occur during the wee hours after midnight when they were sleeping.

But just because cold weather is coming, it does not mean there aren’t things you can’t do now to avoid high bill surprises. You can change the way you pay your bills. And you can reduce future consumption by changing some habits, and by employing some energy efficiency measures.

Adjust How You Pay Your Bills Now

Levelized Billing

This is a way for members to even out payments to avoid billing peaks and budget better. When you sign up for Levelized Billing, you’ll be billed the average amount over your previous twelve-month history. Payments are made automatically from your bank account and they will be close to the same amount each month, so it’s easier to budget. Anyone who has been a co-op member for at least a year and has a zero current balance is eligible for the plan. The following is a sample plan.

A tabular chart showing the payment history over a 12 month period of a sample levelized billing account

To learn more about Levelized Billing and to make bill-paying easier and more convenient, call our Member Services Department at (903) 763-2203 or (800) 762-2203, or e-mail us at info@wcec.org.

SmartPower

WCEC has a “pay-as-you go” program called Smart Power. If members elect this pre-paid method, large bills can be transferred and paid out over time.  What is especially helpful about this program is it offers the members unparalleled real-time visibility into their kWh usage. This knowledge is indeed power. Members who know how many kWh they are using when they are using them typically shave about 20% off of their bills because they are conscious of their usage and will turn off unneeded appliances and electronics.

Employ Some Energy Efficiency Measures

If your electricity bills track up and down with peak heating and cooling months, an investment in insulation may offer long term payback. Another way to keep HVAC generated air inside is to invest in a little caulking and sealing air leaks around windows and doors. A well maintained HVAC system also saves money in the long run, as it runs much more efficiently, so annual inspections and tune-ups are always recommended. The investment in efficiency measures now can help you start saving on your energy bill immediately, and will pay for themselves many times over.  And luckily for WCEC members, there is a rebate program that can earn them case credits for specific actions. Details can be found online at WCEC.org, under member service and Great Rebates, or by calling the office.

There are other simple tips to help members conserve kWh usage. One is to maintain a 68 degree temperature when you are at home and active; but when sleeping or away, consider lowering the thermostat a few degrees. Typically, the coldest hours are after midnight so lowering the temperature even just a few degrees, while you are tucked under the covers and sleeping, can cut usage quite a bit.

What To Do If You Do Receive A Higher Than Normal Bill

Receiving a large and unexpected bill is never welcome, and at WCEC we understand this. If you ever have questions about your bill or will have difficulty paying it, reach out to our member services department by calling (903) 763-2203.

We can help you look at options like SmartPower or levelized billing to see if one of those would be right for you. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, payout plans can possibly be made on your current bill.

We can also schedule a home energy audit to help you better understand your usage. Sometimes an energy professional can spot a cause for high kWh that homeowners were not even aware of.

And Remember — We Work For You

At WCEC we only purchase the amount of electricity we sell, and sell the amount we purchase. Most importantly, there is no incentive to raise rates, since the cooperative is a not-for-profit and any profits are returned to the members. What we charge members is based on the cost of service. Therefore, we truly want to help our members control their usage and their bills. As a cooperative, we’re in this with our members.

Our Rates Have Not Changed

Every year in the colder months, members can be surprised by high bills. There are only two factors that contribute to an electric bill.

  1. The rate.
  2. The amount of kilowatts used.

Our rates haven’t changed, however, on April 1, 2017 the power cost recovery factor was slightly adjusted. Notably, it still remains lower than in 2015 (Read about PCRF here). The following chart depicts WCEC’s historical residential rates since 2002.  The base rate has been stable since 2002.