Big Bill is Rude. He's Ugly. And nobody likes him. He's worse than a very bad house guest, because he visits unexpectedly, cost us money, and can make us angry. As you may have guessed, Big Bill is a euphemism for a big electricity bill. One that is larger than expected. And one that comes as an unwelcome surprise. It doesn't have to be that way. Read on for tools and tactics to slam the door in Big Bad Bill's face.
Every year, WCEC receives panicked calls from members in February and March, wondering why their electric bill has doubled. They think we've raised rates, somehow there was a mistake, or their meter is broken. But, in almost every single case, it's increased kilowatt usage because of the cold weather.
Heating (and then cooling) costs generally account for the largest percentage of east Texas residential electricity bills. While the thermostat may be adjusted some, it's still set for a level that keeps occupants comfortable. That can be a 30 to 40 degree difference from the outside temperature. And that difference is always greater in the coldest months. The greater the temperature difference between the inside and the outside, the longer a unit must work to maintain indoor temperatures, and it takes killowatts to do that.
Let's take a look at some of the ways you can avoid Big Bad Bill forever.
ADJUST HOW YOU PAY YOUR BILLS NOW
- With this plan, members can even out payments to avoid billing spikes during the coldest and hottest seasons. When you sign up for Levelized Billing, you'll be billed the average amount over your previous twelve month history. Payments are made automatically from your bank account and they will be close to the same amount each month, so it's easier to budget. Anyone who has been a co-op member for at least a year and has a zero current balance is eligible for the plan. To learn more about Levelized Billing and to make bill-paying easier and more convenient, call our Member Services Department at (903) 763-2203 to get signed up.
elect this pre-pay method, large bills can be transferred and paid out over time.
With prepay, there are no deposits, no big monthly bills ever, and no late fees. Members simply add credit to their account when it's convenient for them and their budgets; daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Just whatever fits their lifestyle and usage patterns. And, they can do it 24/7 via the website, the bill pay App or by telephone, or in person at our office or the mobile unit.
Study Your Usage Habits -
Whether you pay your bill online or not, you can log in to your account to see your usage patterns, overlaid with weather charts. This information is a great help, to understand when inefficiencies are most likely, in order to take steps to combat those.
FIGURE 1 Caption - At wcec.org,
members can view information about their own usage. In this illustration, members can select a start date and an end date, up to 186 days, and view the usage in kilowatts overlaid with the weather temperatures. This information will help predict the size of upcoming bills for those interested.
EMPLOY SOME ENERGY EFFICIENCY MEASURES
If your electricity bill tracks up and down with the weather extremes like most people, an investment in insulation may offer long term payback on both winter and summer bills. Another way to keep HVAC generated air inside is to invest in a little caulking and sealing air leaks around windows and doors. Too, a well maintained HVAC system also saves money because it works more efficiently, so annual inspections and tune-ups are always recommended. Using efficiency measures now can help you start saving immediately, and over time, can pay for themselves many times over.
There are other simple tips to help members conserve kWh usage. One is to maintain a 68 degree temperature when you are at home and active; but when sleeping or away, consider lowering the thermostat a few degrees. Typically, the coldest hours are after midnight so lowering the temperature even just a few degrees, while you are tucked under the covers and sleeping, can cut usage quite a bit.
FIGURE 2 Caption -
High kWh usage and high bills track with extreme weather. Proof is in the usage data shown here. This chart depicts the average residential member usage over a 5 year span. It's easy to see that by far, the KWH usage is highest in our coldest months of January and February. It also spikes in the hottest months of August and September Then, in the months with milder temperature, usage is down. It's important to note that members pay for their usage a month after.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DO RECEIVE A HIGHER THAN NORMAL BILL
Receiving a large and unexpected bill is never welcome, and at WCEC we understand this. If you ever have questions about your bill or have difficulty paying it, reach out to our member services department by calling 903-763-2203.
We can help you look at options like SmartPower or levelized billing to see if one of those would be right for you. We can also schedule a home energy audit to help you better understand your usage. Sometimes an energy professional can spot a cause for high kWh usage that homeowners were not even aware of.
AND REMEMBER - WE WORK FOR YOU
At WCEC we only purchase the amount of electricity we sell. And we sell the amount we purchase. Most importantly, there is no incentive to raise rates, since the cooperative is a not-for-profit and any profits are returned to the members. What we charge members is based on the cost of service. Therefore, we truly want to help our members control their usage and their bills. As a cooperative, we're in this with our members.