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Executive director Michael J. Sykes suggests some ways to keep your costs to a minimum.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Michael J. SykesElectric bills are generally higher during the winter months. This may be caused by a variety of factors, but the weather is typically the main culprit.

The colder it is outside, the more energy it takes to heat your home. Even if you don't touch your thermostat, your heating system must work longer to maintain the same temperature indoors when the weather outdoors is colder.

The average daily temperature in December was 8 degrees colder than it was in November. That means that if you kept your thermostat set to 70 every day of both months, your heating system had to work that much harder in December to make up for the 8-degree difference.

In the short term, you can help offset this difference by lowering the thermostat a few degrees in your house and bundling up in sweaters and blankets. If you have central heat, you can turn down your thermostat and use a space heater in the room you use the most. Please keep in mind that running one standard 1,500-watt space heater eight hours a day for 30 days will cost about $25 in energy charges.

(If you're curious how to calculate exact costs, take the number of watts an appliance uses — 1,500 in this case — and divide by 1,000 to get the number of kilowatts. Multiply that number — 1.5 in this case — by the number of hours used (8 hours per day x 30 days = 240 hours). Once you have that figure — 360 in this case — multiply by our energy cost of $0.0719 and you'll get your average monthly cost of using a particular appliance.)

Another factor may be the length of your billing cycle. Our billing cycles at Columbia River PUD can range from 28 days to 34 days. The good news is that when a billing cycle is a little longer one month, it's likely shorter the next.

If you've been in your home for at least 12 months, you're eligible to sign up for our Budget Pay program. With Budget Pay, you pay the same amount every month of the year. That amount is calculated based on your previous 12 months of usage and is adjusted each year in March. New Budget Pay plans are set up only in March.

Over the course of the pandemic and especially during the holidays, many people have spent more time at home. That can mean more cooking, more loads in the dishwasher, more computer usage, more TV watching, more lights on, etc. All these things add up.

With our SmartHub app, you can see how much electricity you're using every month, every day, and even every hour. With the click of a button, you can see your hourly electric costs. This can be a helpful tool in identifying where your electric costs are going.

If you'd like further help figuring out ways to save on your electric bill, let us know. We partner with Efficiency Services Group (ESG) to conduct free home energy evaluations. These evaluations may help determine how you can improve your home's efficiency.

You can request a home energy evaluation by going to crpud.net/evaluations, or by calling ESG at 888-883-9879. If you have any other questions about your bill, please give us a call at 503-397-0590 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Michael J. Sykes is executive director of the Columbia River People's Utility District.


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