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Winter break’s end may mean a break from higher energy usage   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Energy Efficiency

Post by Dan Kolbet

The end of winter break might mean an end to higher energy usage for your home. Here’s a story one of my colleagues told me last winter (an Avista employee, mind you).

He arrived home during winter vacation after work. The house was lit up like a beacon in the night – not because of holiday decorations, but because every light in the house was on. The door from the garage to the house wasn’t closed tight and the winter chill was blowing in.

Upon entering the house, he finds his kids (home for winter vacation) in full-relax mode – sprawled out by the gas fireplace or room’s heat source in shorts and T-Shirts. You’ve probably seen this yourself. One kid has the TV on and every overhead light and lamp on in one room, but isn’t watching the TV. A handheld videogame, mobile phone or even a book is occupying his attention.

My co-worker continues to walk through the house, flipping off lights as he goes and encouraging his family members to put warm clothes on, rather than summer attire. He adjusts the thermostat back down to a reasonable temperature and starts dinner.

Sound familiar?

The fixes are easy and as this little story tell us, can be done quickly. But what about the rest of the day when you’re not around to police your home’s energy usage? Try as you might, the simple lessons about keeping your sweater on and hands off the thermostat, doesn’t always stick. That’s winter vacation for you.

Another culprit of higher winter energy usage around the holiday season is house guests. Gotta love ‘em, but you’ve certainly got less control over their use of your hot water (showers, baths, more dishes and clothes to wash), trips outside bringing in cold air through the open door and of course the battle over the thermostat.

Even short stays can use a great deal of energy. You’ve got lights up for decorations. The oven is on for hours of cooking or reheating your family’s favorite entrees and snacks. And there are those dishes to be washed and outside doors left open.

So, what’s the magical solution? Sorry, it’s no secret, just commonsense. Winter will always bring higher energy usage. Your systems work harder to work effectively when it’s colder. Even when you keep the thermostat at 68; that 68 degrees is harder to achieve when it’s freezing outside. It’s dark early in the day, so lights need to be on longer. More people in the house means more energy is being used.

The commonsense part comes with knowing where the energy is going and who is using it. You’re unlikely to avoid increased energy usage with guests – but you can try, just be subtle. In the case of the kids home from college, relate the costs to them – you’d be surprised about how much they already know about budgeting.

When it comes to budgeting, Avista has you covered. While the peaks of energy use for you might happen in the winter, it doesn’t have to take a bite out of your holiday budget. By signing up for Comfort Level Billing you can smooth out the highs and lows of your energy usage into one level, monthly payment and we don’t charge you interest to hold the balance. If your credit ever goes over a certain amount, we’ll send you a check back. It’s as easy as that.

Keeping your family on the energy straight-and-narrow is an ongoing battle, but budgeting and knowing the costs will help you win in the end. 

Click here for more energy efficiency tips.
Posted by  System Account  on  1/4/2010
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