How does cold weather affect your bill?

It takes more energy to heat your home when the temperature drops.

The more difference there is between the temperature outside and the thermostat setting inside, the harder your heating system will work and the more energy it will use, even if you don’t turn the thermostat higher.

This is especially true for homes that don’t have enough insulation, homes with single-paned or aluminum-framed windows, and homes with a lot of air leaks around windows, doors, and plumbing & electrical boxes.

Ways to minimize your energy use during a cold snap: 

  1. Turn your thermostat down a few degrees. Each degree you lower it can save up to 2% on your heating bill. Set it even lower when you are away or asleep but be sure to keep your house at least 55 degrees at all times to prevent pipes from freezing and to avoid moisture problems.
  2. Use portable space heaters wisely. If you spend most of your time in one or two rooms, using space heaters to keep those rooms warmer, and turning your furnace down to let the rest of the house stay cooler, can help save energy. This works best if you can close off the rooms you are using, and if you only use one or two space heaters. A typical space heater uses 1,500 watts of electricity and an electric furnace uses 10 times that much. Read more about using space heaters efficiently.
  3. Get rid of drafts. If you feel cold air coming in, warm air is escaping. Keep windows and doors closed, and use caulk or weather stripping to seal leaks around windows, doors, and plumbing penetrations.
  4. Cover your windows. Tight fitting, insulated window coverings can help minimize heat loss through the windows. Keep curtains and blinds closed unless the sun is shining directly on the glass.
  5. Check your furnace filters to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced. Dirty or clogged filters make your furnace work harder, increasing energy usage.

  6. Check your insulation levels. If your home is poorly insulated, adding insulation will lower your energy bills. If you heat with electricity, ask us about rebates for insulation upgrades.
  7. Upgrade your heating system. If you heat your home with electric resistant heat (electric furnace, baseboards, plug-in heaters, etc.), consider upgrading to a much more efficient heat pump or ductless heat pump.

See More Tips for Saving Energy in Winter

Discover free and low-cost ways to reduce your energy use and cut your bill during winter months.

Learn answers to some common questions about winter electric bills.

Two ways to compare temperatures: Average temperature & degree days

Average temperature:

If your energy use is higher than you expect, it might be weather-related. Comparing the average temperature during the month to the same month last year is one quick way to tell if the increase is weather-related.

You can calculate the average temperature for your specific billing period on Weather Underground.

Month Average
Temperature
Average Temp for
Same month last year 
10-Year Average
for the Month
Jun 2018 62 63 62
May 2018 60 58 57
Apr 2018 51 49 50
Mar 2018 44 46 46
Feb 2018 40 40 42
Jan 2018 44 33 39
Dec 2017 37 35 38
Nov 2017 45 50 45
Oct 2017 51 54 53
Sep 2017 64 61 63
Aug 2017 71 70 69
Jul 2017 68 67 68
Jun 2017 63 63 62
May 2017 58 59 57
Apr 2017 49 55 50
Mar 2017 46 48 46
Feb 2017 40 47 42
Jan 2017 33 41 39
Dec 2016 35 41 38
Nov 2016 50 43 44
Oct 2016 54 57 53
Sep 2016 61 61 62
Aug 2016 70 70 68
July 2016 67 71 68
June 2016 63 68 61
May 2016 59 59 56
Apr 2016 55 50 50
Mar 2016 48 50 46
Feb 2016 47 48 42
Jan 2016 41 42 39

For example, the average temperature during November 2017 was 45 degrees, which is 5 degrees cooler than the average of 50 degrees in November 2016. This is likely to have resulted in a lower energy usage for you in November 2016 than in November 2017.

Degree days:

For a more precise look at how temperature affects your bill, you should use degree days.

A Degree Day (DD) is the difference between the average temperature for a day and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If the difference is positive (if it’s warmer than 65), it’s called a Cooling Degree Day. If the difference is negative (if it’s cooler than 65), it’s a Heating Degree Day.

In our area, we have more Heating Degree Days than Cooling Degree Days because the average temperature is below 65 more often than it is above 65.

Here’s an example: On November 28, 2016, the average temperature in Scappoose was 46 degrees. Taking 65 and subtracting 46, we get 19, so that day had 19 Heating Degree Days.

If you know the degree days in a month, you can compare it to other months to get a feel for how much warmer or colder it was. During months with a large number of heating degree days, you can expect your heating bills to be higher. 

Month Average
Temperature
Heating
Degree Days
Cooling
Degree Days
Jun 2018 62 124 32
May 2018 60 141 15
Apr 2018 51 405 0
Mar 2018 44 629 0
Feb 2018 40 674 0
Jan 2018 44 633 0
Dec 2017 37 835 0
Nov 2017 45 577 0
Oct 2017 51 399 0
Sep 2017 64 109 106
Aug 2017 71 5 208
Jul 2017 68 11 109
Jun 2017 63 104 63
May 2017 57 235 29
Apr 2017 49 468 0
Mar 2017 46 584 0
Feb 2017 40 685 0
Jan 2017 33 996 0
Dec 2016 35 937 0
Nov 2016 50 442 0
Oct 2016 54 326 0
Sep 2016 61 128 13
Aug 2016 70 21 173
July 2016 67 28 85
June 2016 63 122 70
May 2016 59 176 15
Apr 2016 55 306 6
Mar 2016 48 516 0
Feb 2016 47 519 0
Jan 2016 41 736 0

We’re here to help

If your bill is unexpectedly high, give us a call at (503) 397-0590 to discuss it. We can review your energy usage patterns and talk with you about payment arrangements that you might qualify for. We can also help you figure out if a home energy evaluation would be a good step to take.