Cold weather begets record energy use

Bill Colvard -

An unpleasant surprise could be waiting in the mailbox when this month’s power bills are delivered.

The recent, and so far unnamed, stretch of brutally cold weather, has eclipsed the Polar Vortex of 2014 and the Arctic Blast of February 2015, at least in terms of electricity used by Duke Energy customers, according to Jimmy Flythe, director of government and community relations for the company.

Duke Energy Carolinas customers set a new all-time peak record for energy usage on Friday, Jan. 5, when 21,623 megawatt-hours were consumed in the hour ending at 8 a.m. surpassing a record of 21,101 megawatt-hours set on Feb. 20, 2015, during that year’s Arctic Blast, which in turn bested a record set during the previous year’s Polar Vortex.

Flythe said the majority of energy use goes for heating and cooling, causing increases of 20 percent to 25 percent during the Polar Vortex of 2014 and the Arctic Blast of February 2015.

“These frigid temperatures are abnormal,” said Adam Martin, manager of public relations for Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation, citing a statistic from television station WXII that, as of 8 a.m. Monday, temperatures had been below freezing for 200 consecutive hours.

Martin stated that the co-operative did not disconnect power to any customers using its Easy Power plan, a pay-as you-go plan, during the extended period of sub-freezing temperatures, even if customers did not have enough money in the account to cover the electric usage.

Easy Power allows customers to get electricity without paying a cash deposit, but they must maintain a credit balance on their account, which is settled each day at noon, Monday through Friday. At that time, customers must have a credit balance or power is automatically disconnected.

“Folks should give us a call when they have a situation,” said Martin, saying he realized everyone is not always able to make a payment. “We work with folks even if they aren’t able to bring their balance above zero,” offering a 50/50 arrangement where 50 percent of payments go toward paying off arrears and the other 50 percent goes toward paying for current usage.

Flythe said that Duke Energy customers should also call so the utility could work with them if they have difficulty paying t heir bill. “We certainly encourage people to call us if they are having a problem.”

Flythe also stated that Duke Energy has a Share the Warmth program to help out people in need. The partner agency for the program in Mount Airy is The Salvation Army.

“People will eventually have to pay for the energy they’ve used,” said Flythe, but added the utility offers a payment plan and an equal payment plan to level out seasonal spikes in energy costs.

Flythe suggested customers reduce their thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when at home, and to bump the thermostat down a degree or two when leaving home, operate ceiling fans in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room, and to change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.

Other suggestions include having your HVAC system checked regularly, leaving drapes or blinds open during sunny winter days to allow the sun’s rays to warm the house, but close them at night to help insulate your home, and replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.

Duke Energy also offers qualified customers rebates to help offset the cost of replacing older HVAC units with more energy efficient ones.

Martin suggested that members of Surry-Yadkin electrical Corp. who were looking for ways to manage their energy use should use the resources at, a website of Touchstone Energy, national co-brand of the co-op.

Membership in ElecTel Cooperative Federal Credit Union (, a benefit formerly available only to Surry-Yadkin employees, is now open to members, according to Martin, and he suggested that members who have an energy-use issue might benefit from the credit union’s energy-efficiency loan program if they need to replace insulation or update their HVAC system.

Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.