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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • RMU advises public to prepare for cold weather

  • RMU warns customers that these cold temperatures are going to have an impact on their electric bill.
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  • Winter has definitely arrived in Phelps County with several blasts of arctic air during the month of December.
    “We have seen daily low temperatures below the freezing mark for most of December with the majority of the nights dipping below the average low temperature,” said Rodney Bourne, general manager for Rolla Municipal Utilities (RMU), adding that the forecast for the week of Jan. 5 could see low temperatures below zero.
    RMU warns customers that these cold temperatures are going to have an impact on their electric bill.
    “We’re advising customers to resist the temptation to push their thermostats above the recommended setting of 68 degrees,” said Bourne. “Increasing the set point on your thermostat might make you feel warm and toasty for the moment, but you’ll regret it when you get your next utility bill.”
    Robin Higley, customer service supervisor for RMU, said, “It’s going to be tough enough for customers who set their thermostat at 68 degrees and leave it there. With the outdoor temperatures as cold as they have been, heating systems are running longer than normal in order to keep the indoor temperature at 68.”
    A system running longer means more electricity is used.
    Here’s how it works — the amount of energy used, called consumption, by furnaces, heat pumps or baseboard heaters is directly related to how long they run.
    When the outside temperature is colder than normal, more heat is lost through the ceiling, walls, floors and openings such as windows and doors. The thermostat senses this extra heat loss and operates the furnace more often to keep up with the heat loss.
    The longer the unit operates, the higher the energy consumption, which results in a higher electric bill.
    “A spike of higher energy consumption due to colder weather can have a significant impact on your total bill, especially if extreme temperatures continue for several days” said Bourne.
    “The December bills are no doubt larger than the October or November bills,” said Higley, “but when you look at our historical trend, the increase in electric usage is consistent with the changes in temperature.”
    January bills will be more of the same.
    What you can do
    “For most people, their electric consumption comes as a surprise. You don’t know what your bill will be until it’s too late to make a change,” Bourne said. “The best thing a consumer can do is prepare their home and adjust their lifestyle to make the best out of a bad situation.”
    Set your thermostat — Energy experts often suggest setting the thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter, but cooler is cheaper. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it lower when the house is empty and program it to warm up just before people come home. At night, lower the thermostat and pile on the blankets.
    Page 2 of 2 - Insulate — These savings come in summer and winter. Many houses have 4 to 6 inches of insulation in the attic. You need about 12 inches or more to hold in heat in the winter and absorb radiant heat in the summer.
    Weatherize — Gaps along doors and window and other cracks and crevices allow heated (or cooled) air to escape. Sealing them can cut energy bills.
    Check heating and cooling ducts — In most homes with central heat and air conditioning, the ducts serve a dual purpose. Leaks cost you money all year long. If you can feel leaks between sections or where ducts connect with the air handler, seal them with metal tape.
    Bourne recommends visiting the RMU website at www.rollamunicipalutilites.org and dig through the Energy Conservation information for ways to get more out of the energy dollars customers spend.
    “There isn’t much we can do about the weather, but we all have to be responsible for how we use energy in our homes and businesses,” Bourne said.
    For questions on electric or water service, contact RMU at 573-364-1572.
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