How Winter Impacts Your Electric and Natural Gas Bill
Cold winter temperatures mean higher heating bills.
Learn what affects your energy usage so you can make adjustments and save.
Speaker 1: Have you ever opened your heating bill and been confused by a rise in cost? As colder weather begins to set in here in the Pacific Northwest, it's easy to be caught off guard.
Somewhere around October, temperatures usually start dropping at night, which means your heating system secretly starts working the night shift to keep you warm. As winter progresses, temperatures also begin to get colder throughout the day. If you think of your heating system as a car, most of the year is like driving on level ground, but winter is like motoring uphill. You have to give it more gas or use more energy to go the same distance.
It only takes a few days of extremely cold temperatures for your bill to climb, because heating consumes the most energy in your home and can be as much as 60% of your total bill. In fact, temperatures 10 to 14 degrees below normal, that last more than three days, can cause a home to use 25 to 50% more energy than usual in that same period.
It's not just cold weather that can affect your energy bill though. Holiday festivities, hosting guests, and having the kids home from school can also increase energy use, thanks to extra cooking, TV and lighting, warmer thermostat settings, and more devices being charged. There's added laundry, dishes and showers too.
Extra hot water adds up fast, because water heating accounts for about 14% of your home's total energy usage. Your winter bill may also be higher from one month to the next because Avista's billing cycles vary from 27 to 35 days between meter readings.
If you ever have questions about your energy bill, please call us anytime. Avista customer service representatives are always ready to assist you. Should you need help paying your bill, Avista has options and can help you find local community action agencies that may be able to assist you. We also provide easy to use tools online to help you better manage your energy use.
Our website lists lots of low cost/no cost energy saving tips too. For example, use weatherstripping and caulk to seal air leaks around windows and doors. An eighth-inch gap around your exterior door is like having a softball size hole in your wall. Also, keep your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees.
Set your thermostat at 68 degrees when you're at home during winter, and lower it even more at night or when you're away. Turning your thermostat down just three degrees, we'll use up to 10% less energy. If you use space heaters, only use them in a single occupied room. Continuous use of just one small 1500 watt heater can cost over a hundred dollars per month.
Also, restrict the use of your fireplace during extreme cold weather, and close the damper after use. This can prevent nearly 25% of the heat in your home from escaping out the chimney. The same goes for ventilation fans in a kitchen or bathroom. When you forget and leave them on, they can suck all of the warm air right out of your home, causing your heating system to work overtime.
For all our energy saving tools and tips, just go to myavista.com. Instead of a surprise on your energy bill, you'll be prepared and know what to expect from your home in the winter.
There are many factors that contribute to your winter bill.
What factors impact my bill?
- The arrival of sustained colder temperatures in winter means heating systems run more frequently and for longer periods of time, dramatically increasing energy use. This is important to know given that the cost of heating your home can make up 40% to 60% of your monthly winter bill. You can generally expect to see your energy bills start increasing in October and peaking in January or February.
- Billing cycle
- The number of days in a billing cycle can vary month-to-month, ranging from 27 to 35 days. This variation is due to the actual number of days in a month, the timing of weekends and holidays, and the accessibility of our meter (e.g. meter readers may be unable to access meters buried in snow). Longer billing cycles can result in higher bills.
- Additional activities and visiting family and friends can mean more cooking, showers, laundry and dishes, all of which use more energy. School vacations can cause us to keep our homes warmer for longer periods of time and can mean kids are using or charging more electronics.
- Shorter daylight hours
- When natural sunlight becomes scarce, we rely more heavily on interior lighting. Using more lights throughout the home for longer periods of time means more energy use.
- A major energy culprit, air drafts rob our homes of the warmth our heating systems have worked so hard to produce. Air leaks in ductwork, around windows, doors and even fireplaces, as well as walls and ceilings with inadequate insulation, let warm air out and cold air in, leaving us cold and uncomfortable.
- Heating system
- The age and type of heating source in a home can have a big impact on energy bills. Baseboard, wall and space heaters use a lot of energy and can be difficult to regulate. Although forced air furnaces are often the most energy-friendly choice, aging or malfunctioning systems can be costly to use. Open dampers on fireplaces can also impact energy use.
- Other items
- Hot tubs, shops, heated outbuildings or driveways, and recreational vehicles can use a lot of extra energy in the winter.
Tools to help you understand your usage
To use these tools, sign into your account.
- Usage history
- Usage details
- Billing days
- Average daily cost
- Bill comparison
- Billing days
- Average daily temperature
- Monthly and yearly bill comparison