Andy Yakim, Energy Services Supervisor at Greenville Utilities, says he fields several dozens of phone calls a day this time of year from people who have unexpectedly high energy bills. In January, Eastern Carolina experienced very cold weather, leading to very high bills for many people.
As the temperature drops, heating systems must work harder to maintain a home's set temperature. Therefore, it costs you more money to keep a home at 68 degrees when the temperature outside is 32 degrees, than when the temperature outside is 50 degrees.
Additionally, Yakim says the relationship between the temperature outside and the energy it takes to heat your home is exponential.
It the temperature is 58 degrees outside, and your thermostat inside is set at 68 degrees, it takes a certain amount of energy (and money) to heat your home that ten degrees. If the temperature is 48 degrees outside, it takes much more energy to heat it ten degrees to a thermostat set at 58 degrees. When you start talking about temperatures in the 20s and 30s and thermostats in the 60s and 70s, it is an astronomical difference in how much energy it takes, and therefore an astronomical difference in how much money it costs. The colder it gets, energy gets a lot more expensive.
Yakim says it almost always costs more to heat your home in the winter than to cool it in the summer. Winter months require an adjustment of several dozen degrees. In the summer, we're only making an adjustment of ten or 15 degrees.
To heat your home efficiently, Yakim says the most important thing is to know what type of system you have.
If you have a heat pump: In the winter, Yakim suggests you select your lowest comfortable temperature, set the thermostat there and leave it alone on a day-to-day basis. The recommended temperature is 68 degrees. Yakim says heat pumps are efficient and economical to operate. However, all heat pumps come with a back-up heating system, which are not as efficient to operate. Yakim says when you adjust the thermostat on a heat pump system, even by one degree, it automatically forces the less economical back-up system to start running. That runs up your bill.
If you are leaving your house for a few days, Yakim suggests you turn your heat down on your heat pump system. You will save more money in the long run that way. Also, in the summer, the rules about not adjusting the thermostat on a heat pump system go out the window. Yakim says in the summer, you will save more money by adjusting your thermostat as comfort dictates, within reason.
If you have anything other than a heat pump: Yakim says every other type of heating system works most efficiently if you adjust your thermostat as needed daily and throughout the day. Other heating systems may include natural gas, oil, propane, geothermal, electric furnace and electric baseboard. Yakim suggests you turn the heat down or off if everyone is out of the house during the day. He recommends you turn the thermostat down at night when people can cover up with blankets.
It is much cheaper to turn your heating system off during the day and use the energy it takes to bring the temperature inside back to your desired comfort level, than to leave it at a lower temperature.
Space Heaters: They can be a good way to help supplement heating your home, Yakim says. However, if you try to heat your entire home on space heaters, it will end up being very expensive. Yakim says space heaters running on high cost 18 cents an hour to operate. That doesn't sound very expensive, but there are 720 hours in a month. Running a space heater constantly will cost $129.60 by the end of the month. However, Yakim says if you use a space heater just to warm up one room for 30 minutes, for example, in early in the morning, you can have that added comfort every day of the month for less than an extra $3 on your monthly bill.
Yakim also makes an interesting point about GUC. It is a not-for-profit utility company. In other words, GUC does not make more money by charging its customers higher energy bills. In fact, Yakim says it costs the company money because of the time and energy personnel spends on responding to customer complaints.
Many utility companies urge their customers to contact them about how to lower their energy costs. In addition to knowing what type of system you have and how it works most efficiently, you can make changes in how you use energy in other ways that can save you a lot of money. Yakim says you can start by talking to him at (252) 551-1525.