High Bill Tips
There is almost nothing worse than receiving an unexpectedly large bill in the mail. But every winter and summer 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.
Heating and cooling costs generally account for the largest percentage of east Texas residential electricity bills. These 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 in winter and 20+ in summer. 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.
By far, as the chart shows, kWh usage is highest in cold months of January and February, and the hottest months of July through September.
It’s important to note that members pay for their usage a month after. As an example, usage in January is billed to the member in February. When a large electricity bill arrives on a milder day a month later, it’s hard to remember that it was THAT cold or hot for THAT many days. Also, people don’t remember the very coldest temperatures because they occur during the wee hours after midnight.
Extreme weather is a fact of life. But that does not mean there aren’t things you can do 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
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.
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.
There are other simple tips to help members conserve kWh usage. One is to maintain a 68 degree temperature in winter 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. In summer, the more ideal temperature is 78. And depending on the temperature outside, each degree above 72 can save you 3% on cooling costs.
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.