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February was the coldest in Whatcom in 70 years, and we’ve got power bills to prove it

How to save on your home heating bill

Puget Sound Energy offers tips on how to save on your home heating bill.
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Puget Sound Energy offers tips on how to save on your home heating bill.

Whatcom County residents heating their homes during the protracted cold snap can expect an unhappy surprise when they open their gas and electricity bills.

This February was the coldest in Whatcom County in 70 years because of lowland snow, frigid temperatures and bitterly cold winds, according to previous Bellingham Herald articles.

That has translated into a spike in power bills.

Puget Sound Energy customers have seen bills that were much higher than normal — some twice as much, according to Andrew Padula, spokesman for Puget Sound Energy.

PSE said your heating system has to work harder, meaning it uses more energy, to heat your home when temperatures dip into the 30s or below.

The cold weather likely will translate into higher bills for Cascade Natural Gas customers in February as well, according to Mark Hanson, the utility’s spokesman.

Hanson didn’t say how much more on, adding that the utility hasn’t heard from customers about specific bills.

But he did say that natural gas consumption by the average residential customer was 17 percent more than normal for February.

PSE has been reminding customers that their electricity and gas bills could be higher than normal because of the record-low temps.

The higher bills will be even more shocking to customers who had gotten used to cheaper energy bills because temperatures were above average in November, December and January.

Moving forward, PSE recommended these steps to help lower your bills:

Lower your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees when you’re sleeping or away.

Put inexpensive pipe insulation on hot water pipes that are exposed.

Set the thermostat for your water heater to 120 degrees, or on the low setting.

If your home is leaking energy, which translates into higher bills, weather stripping and door sweeps can help seal up those gaps. Can’t get to it right away? Roll up a bath towel, push it up against the bottom of a door and hold it in place with a weight.

Do you really need that second refrigerator or freezer in the garage or basement? If they’re older, they can increase your power bill by more than $100 a year.

If you’re struggling to pay your bill, PSE offers some help, including to low-income customers. Find them online at pse.com.

Cascade Natural Gas offers some assistance to low-income households as well. Details, and energy saving tips, are at cngc.com.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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