Due to the frigid temperatures experienced this week across Texas and the local service area, the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) reached record peak demand for winter. The new record was set early morning on January 3, 2018, at 588 megawatts (MW), surpassing the previous peak hit on January 7, 2017, by 38.5 MW. This was in conjunction with the new winter statewide power usage record of 62,885 MW, also set on Wednesday morning as reported by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, who governs the flow of electric power across Texas. Record electricity demand results from heavy individual usage, which means that all utility customers across the state should be preparing to receive higher electric bills during February. The degree of fluctuation will be determined by temperatures for the remainder of the month, but practicing energy efficiency and monitoring usage can help.
According to GVEC, weather is the most significant factor affecting electricity usage. In Texas, hot and cold temperatures change continuously in both winter and summer, therefore causing usage to follow suit. Although bills tend to be higher every January and February due to typical winter weather, extreme low temperatures lingering for prolonged periods will have a much more significant impact on usage. Important points to note include:
1) Every home or business is different when it comes to lifestyle and levels of efficiency. Each will react differently to variables, which is why your bill is different than your neighbor’s each month.
2) During consecutive days and hours of extreme temperatures, we are inside more, increasing use of electronics, appliances, water heating, and heating sources for longer periods of time.
3) Even when you leave home or work, appliances, electronics, water heaters, and AC/heating continue to cycle, contributing to usage.
Although there are many variables to be considered, the highest contributor to increased usage is your heating source. GVEC says one of the most frequently asked questions is how usage can increase even if the thermostat has not been touched during temperature changes. Tammy Thompson, GVEC Executive Manager says, “Heating and cooling drive up to 50% of your monthly usage. Your AC/heating system is constantly working to make up the difference between the outside and inside temperatures. The bigger the difference, the harder the system must work.” Thompson follows, “For example, if a thermostat is set at 68 degrees when it is 28 degrees outside, the heating system must raise the temperature inside the home by 40 degrees. Then, it will continue to cycle to maintain that temperature. On a day where it is 60 degrees outside, and the thermostat is set at 68 degrees, it makes up the eight degree difference without having to cycle as much, even though the thermostat isn’t touched.”
GVEC is recommending that all members utilize the free SmartHub® mobile app, or log into the website version at gvec.smarthub.coop to monitor their daily usage in association with temperatures. Thompson adds, “We welcome questions. Communication is an important step to helping our members understand their usage, make efficiency adjustments where possible, and try to avoid larger than necessary monthly fluctuations on their bill. As a not-for-profit cooperative, that’s what we’re here for.” The Cooperative also has efficiency tips available to the public on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and at www.gvec.org.