Customers shocked by jump in bills following cold snap


Read suggestions for numerous ways you can cut your electric bill by cutting useage


Co-Mo’s recently enhanced Web site.



The extreme cold in mid-January and a rate increase that began in April combined to make the most recent electric bill a doozy for many people in Co-Mo country. This electric cooperative covers about 2,300 square miles in central Missouri and includes most of the west side of the lake.
“This is the first winter with the new rate, but it was really the extreme cold that made bills go up so much,” Co-Mo Electric Cooperative spokesman John Agliata said. “While it’s difficult to determine average user, we did see some houses that, in December, used about 2,900 kWh (kilowatt hours). In January, they went up to about 5,700 kWh — so the usage nearly doubled.”
Overall, Co-Mo saw a big increase in its total electrical consumption compared to last year.
The total megawatt hours in January 2009 peaked at 129.273, according to Agliata. With just a few days left in January 2010, Agliata said usage peaked at 143.1 mWh on Jan. 10 amidst the below zero temperatures.
Not only did total the peak usage jump 10.7 percent, Co-Mo’s usage this month stayed above the old peak of 129 for four to five days, according to Agliata.
Co-Mo Electric buys its electricity from Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Springfield, Mo., which is owned by and provides wholesale power to six regional and 51 local electric cooperative systems in Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and southeast Iowa serving more than 850,000 customers. Agliata said AECI also saw an increased demand during this time. 

About the rates
For single phase residential 100 kVa and under (The category in which most homes fall)
New rate, which was effective April 1, 2009
All kWh at 7.75¢ and a $25 availability charge
Old rate for single phase residential 100 kVa and under
All kWh at 7.7¢ for the first 1,500 kilowatts, then at 6.65¢ above 1,500 and a $19 availability charge
Co-Mo has no rate increase planned in 2010, according to Agliata.

What is the availability charge?
Now $25, this monthly fee represents the fixed costs for service including:
• Cost to present a bill each month
• Expenses to keep trees and brush away from lines and meters
• Maintenance on poles, lines and other equipment

Ways to save
While we can’t fix what was in January, we can look ahead to ways we can cut electric usage going forward. Agliata noted that a home energy audit is in a sense a lifestyle audit. In large part, it examines how your lifestyle can affect your electric bill.
Co-Mo Electric Cooperative offers basic home energy audit to customers one time for free and a more advanced inspection with a blower test for $100. However, they recommend customers consider first conducting their own home energy audit with the help of Co-Mo’s recently enhanced Web site.
A new feature of the Co-Mo Web site launched Wednesday, Power by the Hour can literally show you how much electricity you’re using from hour to hour. By allowing customers to look at usage in a narrower time frame, it should make it easier to pinpoint how and where energy is being consumed, according to Agliata.
Here are some other tips from Co-Mo and from TogetherWeSave.com for making your home more energy efficient.
• Make sure your furnace filter is clean. Wash it or replace it once a month according to manufacturer’s recommendations to keep your furnace running most efficiently. Check your ductwork to make sure it is not separated anywhere and leaking air. Air coming from a furnace is at a high temperature, but before it arrives into a room, much of the heat is lost in the ductwork if located in an attic, crawl space or unheated basement. These must be insulated heavily. According to TogetherWeSave.com, going from six inches of insulation to 15 could save $188 per year.
• While your fireplace is cold, place a thin plastic bag (the type dry-cleaners use) inside. If the bag drifts upward, your damper is not tight. Also you should have a set of airtight glass doors to further reduce the draw. If you use a fireplace, combustion air from outdoors should be provided directly to it.
• Your water heater is a major energy user in your home, no matter what type of energy it uses. It may need an insulation blanket on it. Drain 1-2 gallons from the bottom of your water heater each year to reduce sediment build up. Set the water heater thermostat at 120 degrees; 140 if you use an automatic dishwasher. Turning it down to 120 could save $49 per year, according to TogetherWeSave.com.
• Check your refrigerator and freezer for air tightness by opening the door, inserting a new dollar bill where the seal meets the unit itself, then shutting the door and trying to pull the bill out. If it pulls easily, you need a new gasket. Does your freezer need defrosting? Are the coils clean in the back and underneath? A refrigerator or freezer needs room around and over to “breathe.” Check temperatures by placing a thermometer into the refrigerator or freezer. A refrigerator need not be any cooler than 38 to 41 degrees F; the freezer compartment, 5 degrees F, and a stand-alone freezer should be 0 degrees F.
• Consider replacing an old furnace and appliances with newer energy efficient models. You can download an application for a rebate for purchasing such an energy efficient model on Co-Mo’s Web site.
• On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak and may need caulking, sealing or weather-stripping. Try to slip a quarter under each outside door. If it goes through easily, the door needs weather-stripping. If you have single-pane windows, consider adding storm windows or replace them with new double-glazed windows. In colder climates “low-e” coatings on glass can also help reduce heat loss through windows.
• Check around the house to see if devices are unnecessarily plugged in. Cell phones, MP3 player chargers and appliances are still drawing power when not in use. Be aware that plasma TVs and entertainment systems are drawing power even when they are off. Also, switch computers off or use the computer’s power management settings to allow standby mode when it’s not needed. A computer can use as much electricity as a new refrigerator.
• Consider installing a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature during unoccupied hours. Lowering the thermostat from 70 to 68 degrees could save $123 per year, according to TogetherWeSave.com.
• Consider replacing incandescent light bulbs with a Compact Flourescent Light bulb, which are 70 percent more efficient.

Read suggestions for numerous ways you can cut your electric bill by cutting useage

 


Contact this reporter at  amy.wilson@westsidestar.net