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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Something Scary in Your Mailbox

When I got my most recent electric bill for my house, I was a bit surprised, and I am supposed to be an expert on such things. So, it would likely be a good time for us all to discuss the electric and gas bills you are getting right now, and the ones you will get next month too. While we all know this winter has been one for the record books, the memory of the snow will melt long before the sting of the cost of staying warm this winter fades away. The truth is, Glasgow EPB is sending out some of the very largest residential electric bills we have ever mailed.

The reason for these sizable bills is pretty simple. It has been colder, for longer, this winter than nearly any other winter on record. . .and it is not over. When you combine sustained low temperatures and day after day of strong winds to go along with those temperatures, the heating systems in our homes struggle to keep us warm. Since the capacity of the heating systems is fixed, the only way they can make up for the demand for warm air is to run longer, and that sucks down a lot more energy. If you heat with electricity, that results in much larger electric bills. If you heat with gas, you already know that this winter has produced staggering gas bills and higher electric bills just from running the blower for the gas heat system.

What can a person do to reduce this financial shock? Well, in the short term for what remains of this winter, not a lot other than keeping the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees (for every degree you set the thermostat higher than 68, your monthly heating cost goes up about 3%), and looking for more cracks around windows and doors that can be quickly sealed with caulk or weather-stripping.

In the longer term, to get ready for this summer and the next winter, TVA has a couple of options to help. First, you can go to www.energyright.com and complete the online energy evaluation. You’ll get a range of ideas and suggested improvements you might make to improve the energy efficiency of your home and lower your electric bills. After you complete the online audit, you will receive a free energy conservation kit you can put to use immediately, as well as a free customized energy report to help you see where your home is wasting energy.

The second, and much more aggressive, option is to contact TVA and ask for an in-home Energy Evaluation. There is a $150 charge for this extensive evaluation but you might be able to get that refunded easily. Once you contact them and pay the fee, they will send a certified evaluator to inspect your home and make easy energy efficiency recommendations. You can reduce your power bill and receive a cash rebate for installing the recommended home energy improvements. To sign up for the In-home Energy Evaluation, visit this link and follow the instructions to schedule your visit. Once you’ve received your audit and completed the recommended energy efficiency upgrades, you’ll be eligible for a reimbursement of the cost of the evaluation, as well as up to $500 in reimbursement for the upgrades you make! You can find all of the details when you call to schedule your In-home Energy Evaluation.

In the mean time, just remember to plan for an electric bill that is quite large compared to your normal winter electric bill. Remember, this is far from a regular winter.

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