Cold temperatures could lead to higher electricity bills

February 10, 2018

Austin experienced some of the coldest temperatures to hit the area in years this January and some customers are seeing higher electric bills. With customer growth and temperatures in the teens, Austin Energy customers on Jan. 17 consumed a record amount of electric power for a winter month, which would have been higher without the utility’s decades-long commitment to energy efficiency. As customers continue to consume electricity throughout the colder-than-normal months, they could see higher electricity bills. 

Cold weather affects electric use when customers use strip heating or heat pumps more to keep interior spaces warm. Even with a gas furnace, customers use electricity to circulate air, increasing consumption and costs.

Each customer’s consumption of energy varies month to month, mostly based on weather. In extremely cold or extremely hot weather, many customers use more electricity. Austin Energy has a five-tier rate structure that incentivizes City of Austin customers to use less electricity. Here is an example of how the tiered rates impact a portion of a customer’s bill whose electric power usage grew from 400 kWh to 1,200 kWh over two months:

December 2017
400 kWh used
400 kWh at 2.801 cents/kWh ($11.20)
= $11.20 + other fees

February 2018
1200 kWh used
500 kWh at 2.801 cents/kWh ($14.50)
next 500 kWh at 5.832 cents/kWh ($29.16)
next 200 kWh at 7.814 cents/kWh ($15.63)
= $59.29 + other fees

Customers can monitor their energy usage by using the Austin Energy web app, which allows you to monitor daily consumption, view bill history and see a forecast of your future bill. 

Web app example:
Electricity use during cold weather

Customers can lower electric bills by modifying energy use or by making energy-efficiency improvements to their home. Austin Energy offers rebates on overall home improvements and on appliances and equipment, including on wifi-enabled thermostats that are part of the Power Partner Thermostat program

Colder Days Ahead
With another cold front headed toward Austin this weekend, here are some other ways customers can help conserve energy:

  • Set thermostats at 68 or lower when you are home; set at 63 when not at home
  • Lighting accounts for 10 percent of energy use, install LED bulbs, turn off lights not being used
  • Unplug electronics and chargers when not in use; use a smart power strip
  • Use a fireplace when you can to help heat your home. Remember to close the damper when not in use.
  • Let sunlight in during the day to help heat your home; close shades/curtains at nightUse cold water to wash clothes and only wash full loads to maximize the energy usage
  • Be sure water heaters and hot water pipes are insulated

Bill Payment Options
Customers can pay utility bills online using the City of Austin Utilities Online Customer Care website, by phone, by mail or in-person. The City offers programs, including payment arrangements and budget billing, to help customers facing temporary and long-term financial difficulties as well as serious medical problems. To inquire about these options, customers can call 512-494-9400 or email customercare@coautilities.com.

About Austin Energy
Austin Energy, the City of Austin’s electric utility, serves more than 475,000 customer accounts and more than one million residents in Greater Austin. The utility’s mission — to safely deliver clean, affordable and reliable energy along with excellent customer service — has guided Austin Energy in powering the community and supporting the region’s growth since 1895. As a publicly owned utility, Austin Energy contributes more than $108 million annually to support important City services such as streetlights, parks, libraries and public safety. For more information about Austin Energy, visit austinenergy.com.