FreeState members will be receiving their March electric billing statement for February usage this week.
FreeState members could see increases in the March bill due to increased energy use during the record-breaking cold snap in mid-February. Individual members' energy usage and costs will be higher than average due to the extreme cold weather.
Members will likely see higher bills due to higher usage.
Here are a few things to consider about energy usage in extreme temperatures:
- The more difference between the outside temperature and the thermostat setting inside, the harder your heating system works and the more energy it will use, even if the thermostat stays the same temperature.
- The impact of increased energy use on electric bills can be substantial as temperatures dropped to historic lows.
- FreeState members recorded a 24% increase in energy usage in February 2021.
Members may see increased usage in two areas. They kept homes warm and plugging in extra items that are not in use until extreme temperatures make them necessary.
Keeping the house warm
Building insulation, home size, thermostat set point, furnace size, and other factors can change the following examples – these are general examples.
- A 10,000-watt full-electric furnace has to run nine hours per day to keep a home at 68 degrees when the temperature outside is 40 degrees. This unit would use approximately 90 kWh for that day.
- That same furnace on a -1 degree day may need to run the entire day to try and hold the home's temperature at 68 degrees. This would cause usage to go up to 240 kWh—a significant increase of 166% between those two days.
- A 400-watt propane furnace blower has to run nine hours per day to keep a home at 68 degrees when the temperature outside is 40 degrees. This unit would use approximately 4 kWh for that day.
- That same furnace on a -1 degree day may need to run the entire day to try and hold the home's temperature at 68 degrees. This would cause usage to go up to 10 kWh—a 150% increase between those two days.
- A heat pump, an all-electric home, uses an average of 77 kWh per day when the temperature outside is 40 degrees.
- During the polar vortex, that same unit would increase to 145 kWh per day—a 90% increase in usage.
Also, homes may have plugged in additional items running during the cold snap. For example:
- A 1,500-watt space heater would use approximately 36 kWh per day.
- A 250-watt heat lamp to keep chickens or other animals warm would add about 6 kWh per day.
- A 750-watt block heater would add about 18 kWh per day.
- If you stayed home during that week, usage could have gone up just by being home all day or having kids home from school.
- If members conserved energy when FreeState asked, they might have helped save a few dollars on their bill by merely controlling usage.
While the March bill may look similar to a summer bill, we want to remind members that electric bills could increase over the next four to six months due to this winter weather event. FreeState does not yet know all the costs associated with February's winter storm, and it is still unclear what the financial impact will be on our members.
FreeState continues to work behind the scenes with our power suppliers and staff to communicate with members and find solutions that can assist members. The board of trustees is also working to evaluate the situation and solutions as they work with management to maintain the cooperative's commitment to providing affordable power to our friends and neighbors.
And while we don't yet know all the impacts of this historic winter weather event, please know our members are the priority. This is a continually evolving situation.
Please know FreeState is focused on solutions to mitigate the direct impact of any increased wholesale energy costs. As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, any costs associated with wholesale power purchase pass to members. Still, we are determined to implement solutions that help minimize future electric bills' financial impact on our members.
As we learn more in the coming days and weeks, we will continue to communicate updates directly to our members via our website, Facebook page, emails, and other communication channels.
Members can also call our office at 800-794-1989 or email to speak with a member service representative.