Energy bills mirror outside temps – take steps to save

January 23, 2014

The second severe cold snap of the year is upon us and South River EMC wants to warn members to take measures to lessen the impact on their utility bills.

Even when no one is home, a house is using energy; refrigerators, freezers, water heaters and HVAC units all continue to work. Energy use typically mirrors the outside temperatures. The colder the temperature outside, the harder your heating unit must work to maintain the inside temperature, therefore, the higher your utility bills. Colder weather puts a strain on electric systems, with homes and businesses constantly using electricity to keep warm and run day-to-day business.

Making sure your unit is properly maintained is the first step. Ensure air return filters are clean and clear of debris, which makes your HVAC unit run more efficiently with less strain on the motor. In order to lessen your heating costs, adjust the thermostat setting to no higher than 68°F. Offset the cooler setting with layers of clothes, blankets and use of your fireplace. Also, by switching the ceiling fan to run counter-clockwise, it will blow the warm, rising air back down to the living space. If using a fireplace, make sure your home is properly ventilated. If you choose to use space heaters, follow these tips:

Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or the heating element. This will help keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.

When selecting a space heater, buy one that has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as UL. These heaters meet specific space heater safety standards.

Show everyone in your home how to use a space heater properly.

Ensure you have proper ventilation for a gas-fired space heater.

Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the area. For fuel-fired heaters, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate, or unmonitored burning could cause a fire.

Be aware that mobile homes require specially designated heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.

Use electric space heating sparingly. Running two 1500 watt heaters for four hours a day can cost nearly $40 a month.

For fireplaces that aren’t in use, make sure the flue damper is closed tightly; this prevents cold air from getting into the home. Close and lock windows and doors to prevent air leakage. Take advantage of the heat of the sun by opening blinds during the sunniest times of the day and closing them at night to help keep out that chilled air.

If you haven’t done so, consider wrapping your water heater and your pipes, not only will this help protect your pipes, it helps to reduce heat loss. If you feel drafts around doors or windows, install weather stripping. In the meantime, place a rolled towel or blanket at the bottom or the doors or on window sills to block drafts.

With strain on the electric grid during extreme cold temperatures, outages may occur. Some people may choose to run a generator while electric service is restored. Generators are handy, but it is important to follow basic safety tips:

Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Keep the generator dry.

Dry your hands before touching the generator.

Never refuel a generator while it is running or still hot. Wait until the generator cools down before pouring fuel into the tank.

Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor- rated extension cord.

Never plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as back feeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same transformer.

In the event of an outage, please contact the Cooperative at 910-892-8071 and follow the automated prompts. Don’t e-mail or send outage information through social media sites — these aren’t monitored continuously.

Visit for more energy efficiency tips and ways to lessen the impact of the cold winter days on your utility bill. South River EMC members can also monitor their daily energy use by visiting and signing up for energy monitoring.

South River EMC is a locally-owned and operated electric cooperative, which provides electric service to 42,000 homes, farms and businesses in parts of Harnett, Cumberland, Sampson, Johnston and Bladen counties.