Planning for frigid weather extends to usage and bills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – When forecasters predict extreme weather conditions, Appalachian Power encourages its customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee to prepare for possible power outages. With persistent frigid temperatures this winter, coupled with another dose of arctic air blasting the region this week, Appalachian Power is urging customers to plan for the possibility of higher electric bills.

“Temperatures throughout January so far have been significantly colder than average, so I would anticipate customers who heat with electricity will see an increase in their electrical usage,” said Alan Bragg, customer services manager. “Increased usage will result in higher bills.”

Weather records show January 2014 will likely be the coldest January of the century. In Charleston, for example, this month already is 81 percent colder than January 2013 and 27 percent colder than the 10-year average in January, according to preliminary local climatological data. The average temperature in Charleston in January 2012 was 39 degrees; January 2013 it was 37 degrees. But so far in January 2014, the average temperature has only been 29 degrees, and the month is on track to have about 20 days below freezing. Appalachian Power set an all-time peak across its three-state region on Jan. 7, 2014, when customers used more electricity at that time than they had in company history.   

“As outside temperatures get extremely cold, heating systems run longer and work harder to maintain warmth within our homes,” Bragg said. “If the outside temperature is 50 degrees, heating systems might only need to run a few minutes each hour to maintain the inside temperature, but when the temperature drops to near zero and below, the system runs more often and longer to maintain temperature. If it is a heat pump, less efficient supplemental electric resistance heat automatically comes on when the outdoor temperature is below 30 degrees.”

Fortunately, there are simple things customers can do to help lessen the burden of a higher bill, Bragg said. With several weeks of winter left there is still time to take action.

  • Customers should examine their bill and compare last year’s usage to this year.  If the kilowatt-hour usage is more than 25 to 30 percent higher than last year, or if they have any questions, the next step should be to contact Appalachian Power’s 24-hour Customer Operations Center at 1-800-956-4237 in Virginia; 1-800-982-4237 in West Virginia; and 1-800-967-4237 in Tennessee. A representative can review the account and help arrange a personalized payment plan.
  • Customers preferring to budget for electric bills should consider the Average Monthly Payment (AMP) plan. This plan differs from the older Budget plan because there is no settle up month. Instead, bills adjust on a 12-month rolling average and change slightly each month. Again, a customer service representative can provide more information on an AMP plan.
  • Air leaks, lack of insulation and lack of heating system maintenance are the three major areas in a home that contribute to wasted electricity. Customers should consider addressing these three areas to help lower their energy usage.
  • One easy way for West Virginia customers to learn where they are losing energy is with a free, home energy review through Appalachian Power’s energy efficiency program.  An energy specialist will conduct a walk-through with the homeowner. In addition, customers can participate in a self-service online energy check-up. Visit https://appalachianpower.com for more information and other low-cost, no-cost winter heating ideas.

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