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January freeze to send February utility bills soaring

If you have been cranking the heat all week, and inside your home it still feels like Florida, you'll soon pay the price.

The colder it is outside, the more it costs to heat a house. And with the frigid weather expected to continue, some could see their January power costs double what they paid in December.

"In this cold weather, customers could run their heat for one week and end up with their bill being more than it is during the hottest month in summer," TECO project manager Kenneth Hernandez said Friday.

Here's why: When it's 90 degrees outside and you're cooling your home to 70, you need only enough energy to lower the temperature 20 degrees.

But when it's 30 degrees outside and you're heating your home to 70, you have to use enough energy to effect a 40-degree change in temperature.

"If the normal January temperature is 57 degrees, and now we're in the 30s, the cost to keep your home a constant 70 degrees increases 200 percent," Hernandez said.

Progress Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said that for a house with 1,850 square feet of living space, where the thermostat is set at 68 degrees, it costs about $10 more per day to heat your house in 30-degree weather than it does when it's 50 degrees outside. That's $10 a day times … how many days have we been shivering now?

Another problem, Hernandez said, is that most Floridians don't have furnaces. And when the temperature stays low for long, many heat pumps can't keep up with the demand, so emergency heat kicks in. It costs almost triple — 85 cents an hour on average instead of the usual 30 cents. "And when it's really cold out at night, that backup can run for hours at a time," he said.

If you want to help cut back on consumption — and costs — the power companies offer some suggestions:

• Turn down your thermostat from 74 degrees to 70 and you'll save $65 a month. Every degree under 70 saves another 10 percent on your heating bill.

• Find a comfortable temperature and stick to it. Constantly shifting your thermostat takes extra energy. But if your house will be empty for more than two hours, be sure to turn your thermostat down to 65.

• Use portable heaters sparingly. Running a 1,500-watt heater all day costs $149 a month.

• Lower the temperature on your water heater. Going from 140 degrees to 120 degrees will save an average of $85 a year.

>>Fast facts

For more help

For more energy saving tips, or to schedule an energy check, Progress Energy customers can go to www.savethewatts.com or call (877) 364-9003. For help paying your bill, go to progress-energy.com or call (800) 700-8744.

TECO Energy customers can get more information at www.tampaelectric.com or www.peoplesgas.com.

January freeze to send February utility bills soaring 01/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 11:02am]

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