Electric bills vary with the seasons, driven by weather and consumer use patterns. How much weather affects your electric bills depends on many factors, including your home’s original construction materials, insulation, and air leaks. Personal comfort plays a role too, as does the difference between the thermostat setting inside and temperatures outdoors.
    
“When a house stays at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but the outdoor temperature varies from minus 20 degrees in winter to more than 100 degrees on a muggy summer’s day, demand for heating and cooling can be significant. Cooled air leaving a home essentially wastes the money spent to cool it. The same is true for air a homeowner has paid to warm.
    
R-value offers a way of measuring insulation’s effectiveness (a higher R-value indicates more effective insulation). For example, on a 28-degree day, heat loss from a residence system set at 68 degrees could hit 2,464 Btu per hour even through an 80 ft. x 10 ft. exterior wall packed with R-13 insulation. Reverse that situation on a scorching day—100 degrees outside—and heat gain indoors will still reach 2,464 BTU per hour.
    
To save money, set your thermostat five degrees closer (higher in summer, lower in winter) to the outdoor temperature—this simple change could result in a savings of 90 watts per hour of electricity—about 197 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in three months.  
    
Contact the Energy Advisors at Access Energy Cooperative for your free energy audit to help you find other ways you could improve your home for efficiency. These specialists can save you hundreds of dollars by uncovering energy waste and making recommendations to improve energy efficiency.
    
In the meantime, adjust the thermostat. Keep blinds and drapes on the sunny side of your home closed in summer and open in winter during the day. Find mysteriously “hot” or “cold” spots in the house and solve them by installing gasket seals around outlets and weather stripping along doors and windows, replacing old windows, and upgrading insulation. When practical, adjust landscaping to provide shade for your property in summer and sunlight in winter. And visit our website at www.accessenergycoop.com for more energy saving ideas.
Sources: Kris Wendtland, NRECA; Jim Herritage, CEM, Energy Auditors, Inc.; Residential Energy: Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi.

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