No matter what the weather forecasters say, winter is going to be cold.
Some forecasts call for a warmer winter in the western and southern states and average or below average temperatures in the north and east. And the Farmers' Almanac predicts a "polar coaster" of a winter, with temperatures rising and dropping.
So to avoid a high bill surprise, you can monitor and manage your energy use, even when temperatures drop for extended periods. If you haven’t signed up for an equal payment plan to get a predictable monthly bill, there are some things you can do to keep tabs on your energy use.
3 tips for understanding your bill
- Check the number of days in your billing cycle. Most bills are for 30 days, but there are times when the billing cycle is shorter or longer. If there are more days in the bill, it could be higher.
- Look at “average kilowatt-hour” (kWh) use per day. At first glance your bill may look higher, but if your average use is similar to the same time last year or in a month with similar extreme temps, it’s a normal bill.
- If you have a smart meter, log into to your Duke Energy account to view your energy usage. Smart meters provide daily and hourly usage information – available the day after you use it – providing customers with more information to help them save energy and money before their bill arrives.
7 ways to avoid billing surprises
- The best way to avoid billing surprises is to track your use. Duke Energy customers who have a smart meter can sign up for a Usage Alert. Similar to data alerts you get from your cellphone company, you can set a budget amount for your monthly energy bill and receive notices when you are approaching your limit.
- Reduce your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when at home and down a degree or two when leaving home. If you have a heat pump, set the thermostat and leave it. Lowering it may cause the auxiliary heat to turn on, which is inefficient and expensive.
- Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.
- Have the heating and air conditioning system checked regularly to maintain performance. Duke Energy offers qualified customers rebates to help offset the cost of replacing older HVAC units with more energy-efficient ones.
- Replace standard bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LED). LEDs are more efficient while giving off the same amount of light.
- Operate ceiling fans in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room.
- Leave drapes or blinds open during sunny winter days to allow the sun to warm the house. Close them at night to help insulate your home.
How much is that electric space heater costing you?
Many electric space heaters are rated at 1,500 watts, so if you use it as a main heating source, your costs could be significant. Using the example below and 10 cents as the average rate per kilowatt-hour, your cost is $3.60 per day if you ran the device 24 hours, or $108 per month per device.
- Multiply the wattage of your heater by X hours of use = A.
- Multiply A by your electricity rate per kilowatt-hour (national average is about 10 cents) = B.
- Divide B by 1,000.