Posted by Bob Zahn
I'm always a little concerned when my January We Energies bill arrives in my e-mail. Already faced with larger bills than usual because of holiday gift giving and traveling, I know my energy bill probably is going to increase, too.
Why will it be more? Kids were home from school and more visitors were in the house. That meant more cooking, more hot water (showering, washing), more cleaning (vacuuming, steaming) and more lighting. The TV, game system, computers, chargers and other devices all had more use as well.
Because I work at We Energies, I’m aware that the billing periods are longer this time of the year, too. A typical billing period is between 29 and 31 days, but when you add holidays, the billing period can be as long as 37 days. This can add another 17 percent to the bill. The cold weather we had also makes the furnace run more often, adding more expense. Knowing that, I did some things to try to control the bill that I know is coming.
I go around the house turning things off and encouraging -- or badgering -- others to do the same, though they seldom share my motivation because they don't pay the bill. I signed up for Rely-a-Bill in the fall to keep the natural gas portion of the bill consistent throughout the year. Depending on the price of natural gas, I may end up paying a bit more for my natural gas, but at least I know what I'm going to pay each month.
I also keep the blinds open on the south side of the house to gain some heat from the sun when it's shining and close them at night to help retain some heat. I keep the thermostat set at 67 when we are at home during the day and 65 at night when asleep. I turn it down to 60 if we leave the house for the better part of the day. Since there almost always is someone in the house, this rarely happens, but it helps. I also changed the furnace filter -- probably a month later than I should have. The clean one will help the furnace run more efficiently. I checked the hot water temperature recently to see if it was 120 degrees. It was hotter than that, so I turned down the dial on my water heater, which should save some energy throughout the year. Last year, I put some switch plate gaskets on the north side of the house to reduce drafts coming in through the switches and outlets -- probably doesn't help a lot, but it was easy to do and inexpensive.
While it takes some effort to get others in the house to save energy and for me to take some steps to improve efficiency, I'm hoping that when the bill arrives, it pays off so it isn't too much higher than the $170 it was last month. I will find out in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, you might want to improve efficiency at your place to help control your winter bills.
You can find energy efficiency tips on our website. You also can learn about Budget Billing to spread your payments over 12 months and Rely-a-Bill, which opens again next fall.