Polar vortex leading to higher utility bills; find ways to save energy, money

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Unusually cold weather this month has caused most Wilson Energy customers’ bill to rise, a result of heating systems compensating for record cold.

As of Tuesday, Wilson had already recorded 11 nights in January with low temperatures of 21 degrees or less. The lowest temperatures were reported Jan. 7-9 when the “Polar Vortex” pushed arctic air across much of the United States. Temperatures are expected to fall into single digits this week.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that 90 percent of all U.S. residents will face higher heating bills this month. Customers have used more electricity and natural gas, even if they never touched their thermostats. The frigid nights meant heating systems were working overtime to keep up.

Duke Energy Carolinas set a new winter electrical usage peak – 20,246 megawatt-hours in one hour on Jan. 7 – breaking a three-year-old record. Natural gas prices have experienced enormously high spikes and are at a three-year high, due to natural gas pipeline operating problems that have slowed gas delivery.

It’s impossible to predict how much bills will be affected, but this time of year, about 50 percent of your home electric costs come from heating. The percentage is even higher for natural gas usage.

While there’s nothing you can do to change the past, there are steps you can take to keep bills lower in the future:

  • The thermostat is a real culprit of higher winter bills. To help save energy and money, select the lowest comfortable setting when home, and bump the thermostat down a degree or two when leaving home. You might even select a thermostat setting that is less than comfortable, and choose to wear more clothing and reduce your heating cost.
  • Have the HVAC system checked regularly by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor to maintain efficiency and peak performance.
  • Leave drapes or blinds open during the day to allow the sun's rays to warm the house. Close in the evening to keep the warmth in the house.
  • Change air filters regularly to improve efficiency of heating system.
  • Replace standard bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs are more efficient than regular bulbs, while giving off the same amount of light.
  • Go to for more energy-saving tips.

Wilson Energy offers programs to help people manage their bills, including budget billing, which makes it possible for customers to pay a set amount each month. Go to or call Customer Service at 399-2200 for more information.