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News / Life / Clark County Life

Energy Adviser: Lower your energy bill without much effort

By Clark Public Utilities
Published: January 6, 2024, 6:04am

Winter can be tough, and not just for the cold, dark rainy days. To make things even less enjoyable the season can bring the highest utility bills of year and the trickiest to budget for.

Savvy consumers can lower their seasonal energy bill and add some much-welcomed predictability to their household budgets — without too much effort or sacrificing personal comfort.

“A harsh winter can cause some homes to triple or quadruple their electricity consumption,” said Anthony Jeffries, a Clark Public Utilities energy counselor. “In any home, but especially an electrically heated home, doing whatever you can to keep that heat close to you and carefully manage the household’s energy consumption will make a difference.”

To start, program the thermostat around the household’s routine. To balance warmth and savings, set it around 68 degrees while people are up and around the house, then lower it a few degrees before leaving the house or going to bed.

Ensure all of the supply vents are open. Closed vents can create temperature imbalances throughout the home. As soon as your furnace or heat pump turn on, that is energy you are paying for so get the most out of it with open air vents.

Owners of homes with knob-type mechanical thermostats should invest in a digital ambient thermometer for every room to get a better reading of the temperature. They will give a much more precise reading and greater control over your heating habits.

People living with zonal heaters — think cable ceiling, wall or baseboard heaters — should only heat the rooms that are occupied, as needed. Don’t heat the whole house at once with them.

If your home has a furnace, make sure the filter is cleaned or replaced regularly. Typically for a 4-inch filter you should replace it every five to six months and a 1-inch filter every three to four months.

Use portable space heaters with caution. Not only are they a fire hazard, but they can quickly burn through any potential energy savings if they run too long. Most models are around 12 cents an hour to operate, which can add up quickly.

Next time a chill sets in, reach for something fuzzy, a warm beverage or meal to heat up. Sweaters, blankets and slippers not only feel comfortable, they add nothing to your energy bill. A warm drink or hot meal can also bring quick relief. Heated blankets are fairly inexpensive to run versus a wall heater or an electric furnace.

Beyond the heat, there are several ways to reduce energy expense. Shut off any lights or electronics that aren’t in use. On a sunny day, open the curtains to let the sun warm the house up, then close them when the sun moves away to trap that heat in. Wash clothes on cold and use your dishwasher more to wash dishes versus by hand at the tap. Shorter showers without as much hot water will also help reduce energy costs.

Finally, add predictability to your monthly energy bill by signing up for EqualPay through MyAccount at ClarkPublicUtilities.com/myaccount. EqualPay estimates future energy use based on past annual energy use, and divides that amount into equal monthly payments. Instead of having bills that rise and fall with the season, EqualPay users enjoy stable, predictable monthly bills. EqualPay accounts are reviewed twice a year for accuracy. Customers never pay for more than what’s used.

While logged into MyAccount, customers can also see their monthly energy consumption of the current and previous year in a graph overlaid with the year’s average high and low temperatures. That past data can be useful for making more intentional energy choices in the future.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668