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Cold Weather & High Energy Use

Seeing higher than normal bills during the winter? One of the questions we keep hearing from members is why their bills are so high when they haven’t changed their thermostat or their energy habits.


Heat pumps work by pulling outside air into the unit and extracting any existing warmth from the air (called ambient air) and transferring that warmth into the inside of your home. The colder the air outside, the less warmth there is, so the harder the heat pump has to work to reach your thermostat setting. When outside temperatures are below freezing, your heat pump runs more frequently and uses something called auxillary/emergency heat to reach the setting on your thermostat. Even if you have your thermostat set on 68, there is a good chance your heat pump will have to work harder to reach 68 degrees inside your home (this varies from house to house based on factors like insulation, air infiltration, and age of heat pump). This causes the heat pump to run continuously and use auxillary heat, which adds up quickly since heating/cooling accounts for approximately 50% of your monthly bill.

photo of thermostate indicating system use of emergency heat setting

Remember, Heat Pumps are very efficient; however, even with lowered thermostat settings and other energy-saving measures, people need to be aware the increased amount of work placed on all heating systems during extremely cold weather will require more electricity. To avoid “sticker shock” when winter heating bills arrive, you can pay on your electric account anytime you like; you don’t have to wait until the bill arrives in the mail or your email inbox.



  • Set your thermostat to 68°F (or lower if comfortable) when people are home and lowering the setting a few degrees when they are away.
  • If you have to raise the temperature on your thermostat, only raise it 1 or 2 degrees at a time, depending upon your thermostat. Anything above that will cause the auxiliary heat to come on.
  • Keep drapes and shades open on sunny winter days to allow the sun’s rays to warm your home during the day. Close them at night to keep the heat inside.
  • Run ceiling paddle fans on low (when you are home) and reverse the rotation to blow air up in winter. This keeps warm air circulating without cooling you.
  • Keep registers and vents clear to allow air to flow freely.
  • Change your air filters. A clogged filter makes the heating system work even harder.
  • Set your water heater temperature no higher than 120°F.
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