This winter, avoid energy bill surprises

How to understand your bill, track energy use and reduce costs. 10 ways to manage energy use

In his poem Snow, Robert Frost wrote, “You can't get too much winter in the winter.” That might be true for children sledding on a day off from school, but too much winter can lead to higher energy bills.

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, check online to see if a daily usage analysis tool is available. Smart meters collect usage information by the hour, so checking spikes throughout the month – by day and even hour – can show what appliances and behaviors are increasing your bill.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Replace standard bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LED). LEDs are more efficient than regular bulbs, while giving off the same amount of light.
  • 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.
  • Operate ceiling fans in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room.
  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.

How much is that electric space heater costing you?

If you use electric space heaters, look at the wattage. Many are rated at 1,500 watts, so if you use them 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.

  1. Multiply 1,500 watts (or the wattage of your heater) by X hours of use = A.
  2. Multiply A by your electricity rate per kilowatt-hour (national average is about 10 cents) = B.
  3. Divide B by 1,000.