Colder weather driving energy bills skyward

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a winter of up and down temperatures as multiple cold fronts have dropped through Central Texas. The cold is driving energy bills up.

“Both my City of Austin bill and my Texas gas bill have been significantly higher,” said Kristin Williamson, an Austin resident. “It’s been electricity and gas that’s doubling this year for me.”

Williamson runs her real estate business from her home. She says staying comfortable is costing more this year.

Her Texas Gas Service bill jumped from nearly $25 in December 2012 to more than $70 this winter. She’s using five times as much natural gas.

“I don’t remember it being this cold or this variable,” said Williamson. “I feel like one day you’ll have the heater on full blast and could very well need the air conditioner on the next morning.”

“When we look at previous years, because we track all that through our residential usage, December 2012 was actually a warmer December than normal,” said Christy Penders, communications manager for Texas Gas Service. “So this past December was probably about 45 percent colder than the December before, so you will see more usage.”

Austin Energy says electricity usage is also up.

“We have set all-time peak demand records for the months of November, December and January because of the cold weather,” said Carlos Cordova with Austin Energy. “That translates into higher usage, maybe not for the entire month, but is an indication of how it has been consistently cold.”

The average monthly temperature in December 2012 was 57.4 degrees. This December the average temperature was seven degrees colder. So far for January, Austin is three degrees colder than last year.

In order to manage the cost, Williamson says she’s keeping a close eye on how she heats her home.

“As a small business owner I have to be very conscience of my bills,” said Williamson. “It does play a big part in how I manage my daily life.”

Texas Gas Service has these tips to conserve your natural gas use to save money.

  • Read your natural gas meter and monitor your natural gas usage.
  • By reading the meter, you can gauge your usage and make adjustments to stay within budget.
  • Keep a log of your weekly consumption.
  • Adjust your natural gas usage. For example, if midway through the month you are nearing your budget limit for natural gas, experiment with lower thermostat settings that maintain comfort and reduce your usage.
  • Have your gas furnace cleaned and serviced by a professional for greater efficiency.
  • Clean or replace air filters on heating or cooling systems.
  • Lower your thermostat by 5 or 10 degrees overnight or when no one is at home for four hours or longer.
  • Set your furnace thermostat no higher than 68 degrees F during the heating season.
  • Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees F or the “warm” setting.
  • Set your water heater temperature control to the pilot position when your home is vacant for two days or longer.
  • Place nonflammable insulation or nonflammable pliable materials in gaps around pipes, ducts, fans or other items that enter the attic or basement from a conditioned space.
  • Close dampers on unused fireplaces. If unused for long periods, add insulating material around the damper perimeter.
  • Add insulation to attic access panels and basement doors.
  • Caulk or tape any ductwork leaks.
  • Tighten or plug leaking joints in hot water or steam pipes.
  • Open curtains and shades to allow sunlight in during the day. Close them on overcast days and at night.

 

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