Energy Saving Tips

Winter Electricity Bill

A few conscious energy choices can make a big difference in your winter electricity bill.

Winter bill shock header
 
Home winter preperation

Home winter preparation tips and projects

These simple home improvement tasks can keep your heating system from working harder than it needs to and keep you from spending more than you want to on winter electricity bills.

 
  • Protect outside faucets. Shut off exterior faucets, and drain water from outdoor pipes to prevent them from bursting.
  • Flush the hot water heater tank. Check the temperature and pressure relief valve to ensure it is working properly.
  • Get a Nest programmable thermostat. This can help you reduce energy usage by up to 15% without lifting a finger.1
  • Weatherstrip exterior doors and windows. With a couple hours' work, you can seal out the cold and save up to 10% on total energy costs.2
  • Install an electric water heater timer. Prevent your water heater from running when you don’t need it.
  • Get a hot water heater jacket. Older hot water heaters, or those with an R-value less than 24, could benefit from additional insulation to prevent them from losing heat.
  • Install insulation. Better regulate your home’s temperature and reduce heating costs with proper insulation. Assuming your attic already has 3-4 inches of insulation, we recommend using R-38.
  • Get an annual Heater Tune-Up. Make sure your furnace or heat pump is clean and in good working order, so that it can run as efficiently as it should.
  • Have your chimney inspected. Be sure to also keep the chimney damper closed when it is not in use.

Stay warm without spending more

Here are a few things you can do immediately to reduce energy consumption and still stay comfortable. Best of all, they’re free.

Stay warm without spending more
 
  • Layer up. Reach for a sweater or blanket before reaching for the thermostat. Weather-appropriate clothes help reduce the demand for heat.
  • Let the sun in. Open blinds and shades during the day and remove any solar screens so the sun can warm your home.
  • On vs. auto. Ensure the fan on your thermostat is set to “auto” not “on” to prevent it from running 24/7.
  • Check your thermostat settings. For every degree above 68°, you can expect a 3% to 5% increase in your heating costs.
  • Put your thermostat on vacation mode. Drop your thermostat to 50° if you’ll be gone for a few days or more. This is warm enough to prevent your pipes from freezing, without wasting energy.3
  • Cozy up with an electric blanket. Plug in your blanket instead of turning on the heater and stay warm for around 25 cents a day.4
  • Set your water heater to 120°. This is hot enough to be sanitary while saving you up to $60 a year on your heating bill.5

Common causes of high winter bills

Two of the most common questions we hear during unseasonably cold weather are, “Why is my electricity bill higher?” and “What can I do to lower it?” The short answer is that the colder it is outside, the harder and longer your heater works to maintain the number on the thermostat. Considering heating and cooling costs account for nearly 50% of your electricity bill, increased heater usage will lead to higher-than-normal winter bills — if energy efficiency measures aren’t taken.6

Let’s take a closer look at the role your heater plays, as well as at a few simple but often overlooked causes of higher winter bills.

Longer billing cycles

Longer billing cycles

Billing cycles start and end when your TDSP (utility company) reads your meter, which is typically every 28 to 30 days. During the holidays, an additional 1 to 3 days may pass before your meter is read, creating longer billing cycles in December and January.

Electric vs. natural gas

Electric vs. natural gas

Many people with gas-powered furnaces enjoy lower electricity bills in the winter. But if you have an electric furnace, the colder season can be tough on your wallet. Electric furnaces are generally more expensive to operate than gas furnaces for two reasons: (1) electric furnaces produce less heat in the same amount of time as gas furnaces and (2) electricity typically costs more than gas in the market.

Wondering whether you have an electric or natural gas heater? Ask yourself:

  • Does your home use a fuel source other than electricity, such as gas? Do you pay your electricity bill plus another fuel bill?
  • Are your large appliances, such as your stove or water heater, gas or electric?
  • Does your clothes dryer have a conventional plug and wall outlet, or is the plug bigger than normal? Gas dryers typically have normal-looking plugs, and electric dryers usually have bigger plugs to accommodate larger voltage.
Fidgeting with your thermostat

Fidgeting with your thermostat

As ideal as it would be, cranking your thermostat up 10 degrees on a cold winter’s night won’t make your house warm up any faster. Instead, it makes your heater work harder to reach your desired temperature, costing more money.

Additionally, constantly changing the temperature by a few degrees causes the heater to go into a costly and inefficient cycle of starting and stopping.

The solution? Get a programmable thermostat like the ones offered by Nest. A programmable thermostat learns your schedule and temperature preferences. It adjusts automatically when you’re away to save energy, and adjusts again before you arrive home so you walk into a warm, cozy house.

 

Free energy-saving tools for Reliant customers

We offer several free energy-efficiency tools designed to help our customers save even more.

Average Billing

Sign up for average billing to start receiving a more consistent bill throughout the year. With average billing, your bill is calculated based on the last 12 months of usage at your address.

 
AccountAlerts

Sign up for AccountAlerts, which can notify you when your costs exceed a certain amount or when your daily usage spikes by 25%.

 
Reliant app

Download the Reliant App so that you can check your balance, see your usage, get alerts and manage your account wherever you are.

 

Financial assistance

If you need assistance with your bill, call 1-866-RELIANT to talk about payment plans and options available to you. We can help.

For help with future bills, try one of these options:

  • Call 1-888-EEXPERT, where Reliant energy experts can answer questions about how to economize your home energy usage.
  • Consider different payment options, like average billing. Call 1-866-RELIANT to see if you're eligible. With average billing, your bill is calculated based on the last 12 months of usage at your address, so your bills stay more consistent throughout the year.
  • Dial 211 to learn about additional assistance available in your community.
 
1Based on independent studies by Energy Trust of Oregon and Vectren of actual Nest Thermostat devices. Thermostat compatible with most HVAC systems. Check the compatibility of your system at nest.com/works/reliant before purchasing Nest thermostat(s). A limited warranty is only provided by Nest, and except for that limited warranty, Reliant and Nest make no warranties. Reliant is not affiliated with Nest or the products and services it markets. Nest®, Nest Learning Thermostat™ and the Nest logo are trademarks or service marks of Nest Labs, Inc.

2The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you can save up to 10% on total energy costs (gas and electric) by weatherstripping windows and doors in your home, but your actual savings will depend on how well-sealed your home was in the first place, whether you seal all doors and all windows and other factors and conditions specific to your home. 

3https://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/take-vacation-your-energy-bill 

4https://home.howstuffworks.com/question91.htm 

5https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/services/do-it-yourself-energy-savings-projects/savings-project-lower-water-heating 

6https://energy.gov/public-services/homes/heating-cooling