As the State of Texas recovers from a historic winter storm that left millions without electricity, residents are now concerned they could see higher electric bills following rolling blackouts.
“Do rolling blackouts cause higher electric bills? The short answer is maybe,” said Lamar Electric Cooperative online. “If your heating unit operated more hours because of the rolling blackouts, then yes your usage and bill would be higher.”
The company said most home heaters will normally run continuously during severely cold weather and blackout time would reduce the amount of run time. There are a lot of variables, including the efficiency of the heating unit and how well the home is insulated.
“Over the past 5 days, the outside temperature in our area has been as low as minus 3 degrees and less than 20 degrees a lot of the time. When the temperature drops under 32 degrees the air-to-air heat pump (the type of heat pump most of you have) can get very little heat out of the outside air and effectively quits heating. Either the heat pump thermostat automatically shifts to auxiliary (AUX) heat or you manually change it to AUX.”
“Auxiliary heat is simple resistance strip heat, similar to what you find in baseboard strip heaters in some mobile homes. Electric Strip heat looks sort of like the insides of your toaster or electric broiler oven and is the most expensive and inefficient way of heating. If the entire winter temperature were to be like the past few days, you would be better off without a heat pump and using some other form of heat.”
They further explained that many central heat/air units have two sets of AUX strip heat and it is common for one to be 4,000 watts and the second 5,000 watts.
“That means when both strips are operating they consume 9,000 watts, or 9 kWh for every hour they operate. Assuming you used 9 kWh per hour for 24 hours; the heat strips themselves (not counting the fan) will add 216 (9 x 24 = 216) kWh to your bill for that day, or $20.39 (216 x 9.442 cents).”
For those trying to conserve electricity, Lamar Electric Cooperative recommends setting your thermostat to 68 or lower.