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Columbia River PUD general manager Michael J. Sykes suggests some ways to save on your electric bill.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Michael J. SykesWinter is here. Typically, that means higher electric bills. Longer nights mean that both lights and heaters stay on longer. Holiday festivities usually mean more time using the oven to bake or cook meals. And, of course, we all love our Christmas lights.

All of these things can increase the amount of electricity you use. But the biggest driver of higher electric bills this time of year is the weather. The colder it is outside, the longer your heating system has to work to keep your house comfortable.

At Columbia River PUD, we're here to help you keep your costs down. We provide free home energy evaluations to find ways you can reduce your heating costs. There are a number of ways you might be losing precious heat to the outdoors:

• Your home may not have enough insulation.

• Single-pane or aluminum-framed windows let heat escape.

• Air may be leaking out around windows, doors, or plumbing and electrical boxes.

• Underfloor heating ductwork may be loose and leaky or poorly insulated.

Identifying these trouble spots can help you keep the heat you pay for inside your home. Our partners at Efficiency Services Group will work to find these and other issues. Best of all, it's a service we offer our customers for free.

Once you have an energy evaluation completed, you may be interested in taking advantage of one of our many rebate programs. Check our website or with Efficiency Services Group about our rebate options before upgrading your insulation, windows, or even your heating system.

There are plenty of other ways you can reduce your winter energy use. Here are a few simple tips:

• Turn your thermostat down a few degrees. Instead of turning up the heat, grab a sweatshirt or a blanket. Turn your heat down a few degrees when you leave the house or before you go to bed.

• Keep your curtains or blinds open if the sun is shining onto your windows. Otherwise, close them to add a layer of insulation.

• Check your furnace filter. If it's dirty, either clean it or replace it. Dirty or clogged filters make your furnace system work more, which increases your bill.

• Put your Christmas lights on a timer. If you have older, incandescent Christmas lights, consider upgrading to energy-efficient LEDs.

There may be other factors that contribute to high bills. Keeping a portable space heater on in your garage or RV could make a significant impact. Running a 1,500-watt portable heater eight hours a day for 30 days adds about $25 to your monthly bill. If you keep more than one on, that can add up quickly.

Finally, please remember that if you are struggling to pay your bill, we are here to help. Call our Customer Accounts Department at 503-397-0590 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out if you qualify for GLOW assistance.

Michael J. Sykes is general manager of the Columbia River People's Utility District.


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