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  • Beating the…..COLD?? What to Do When it’s Winter in Texas

    11:21 PM | December 11th, 2019

    Holy smokes! Winter is really trying its best to throw us Texans off our game this year. I know they say “if you don’t like it, wait five minutes,” but this is ridiculous.

    As this winter has kept things cold and unpredictable, we have been fielding some great calls from customers with questions about the effects of cold weather on their energy consumption. Even though things have been less severe than January’s temperatures, there are plenty of things to think about when staying warm until the Spring comes.

    First off, let’s address one of the most common questions. Severe cold weather can see unexpected spikes in your energy usage, resulting in a bigger bill than usual. If this has happened to you, there are a few possible reasons for it:

    1. The temperature has dropped— a lot. Houston hit 19 degrees for first time in 22 years this winter. December and January, traditionally the coldest days of the year, saw average temperatures that are lower than anything we’ve experienced in the past two years. All this cold makes it harder to keep the inside warm, which means more work for our heating systems. The larger the gap between outside and inside temperatures, the harder your system works to keep the inside warm.
    2. You have electric heating. Developers are installing electrical heating in apartments and condos because of lower installation and ongoing maintenance costs; however, it is not the most efficient way of heating a home. So when it gets cold, you use A LOT of electricity to stay comfortable.
    3. You are spending more time at home. Cold weather makes going out a chore, so most of us elect to stay in with our favorite streaming service and the take out food of our choice. More time indoors means more time with the lights on, the heater banishing the winter blues, and various electronics to keep us entertained.
    4. You went all out this holiday season. Holiday displays are amazing when you have the opportunity to make them great, but those beautiful icicle lights and giant blow-up snowmen consume a large amount of power that is often overlooked. There’s no need to change your holiday habits, but a conscious understanding of the power it provides will help you anticipate the January bill next year.

    How to make your home more energy efficient in the winter

    Just like in warm weather, there are little things you can do to lessen energy consumption and make sure you’re getting the most from your electricity.

    1. Lower your thermostat. It’s always best to set the thermostat to maintain the lowest possible temperature without getting uncomfortable. Our preferred thermostat setting is around 68 degrees when away or asleep, but everybody’s tastes are different.
    2. Check your filters. Clean or change your filters on a regular basis to maintain proper airflow and keep your HVAC system working efficiently. Also make sure you have the right filters for your system.
    3. Don’t block your air vents. If your vents are blocked by furniture, it’s time to rearrange. Clear space around vents helps to better circulate warm air.
    4. Use smart lighting habits. LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and you should make sure to turn the lights off when you leave a room.
    5. Get an HVAC tuneup. Occasional maintenance can make sure your heating system is in good health and working as efficiently as possible. If you haven’t had a tuneup in a while (or ever), it may be a time to call in the professionals.
    6. Check your insulation. Good insulation keeps you comfortable year-round, and one of the most important places to have sufficient insulation is in your attic. Proper attic floor insulation prevents warm air from rising out of your home.
    7. Avoid heating uninsulated rooms. Just like you should turn the lights off when you leave the room, there’s no need to heat places like garages and crawl spaces.
    8. Seal windows and doors. If your windows and doors are letting in a draft, try weather stripping or replacing the seals. A handy way to know when a seal needs replacing is to put a dollar between the door or window of the seal, and close it. If you can easily pull the dollar out, it’s time for that seal to go.
    9. Track your energy usage. Register your service location at www.smartmetertexas.com to track your consumption. If you know how much power you’re using, you have less chance of surprises when you receive your bill.
    10. Adjust your water heater. The recommended temperature for most water heaters is 120 degrees. If your water heater is set hotter than 120, it will waste energy and potentially create a safety hazard.
    11. Check your refrigerator. Is your refrigerator set at the right temperature? If it’s too cold, it could be costing you money. Check with the manufacturer to find the recommended temperature.