With the blasts of arctic air that have recently surged across North Texas, biting deep into consumers’ pocketbooks when heating systems are continuously ramped up to answer temperatures from the teens to the 30s, United Cooperative Services is encouraging members and the general public to be even more vigilant in determining ways to control their energy usage—holding onto precious energy dollars.

“When we encounter the weather we’ve seen recently, members ask if the cooperative raised rates,” said United CEO Cameron Smallwood. “It’s not that rates have gone up. It’s that usage has surged as we transition from traditionally low-usage periods in October and November to the harsh, low temperatures from December through February. During these types of weather scenarios, we strongly encourage our members to reach out to us and take advantage of our free home energy audits and all of the resources and rebates United provides to help hold down energy costs.”

To demonstrate how weather affects usage, the electric cooperative looked at United employee and member Robert Bernhoft’s usage from Dec. 11-31, 2017. During this 20-day usage period, the temperatures see-sawed up from mild to below freezing. When temperatures were chilly on Dec. 31, and the high reached only about 30 degrees, the Bernhoft house used 234 kWh of electricity. Compare that day with Dec. 21, when the high temperature reached 78 degrees—and Bernhoft’s heating system didn’t need to cycle on as long or frequently—and his usage was a modest 59 kWh.

“Heating and cooling are responsible for the largest part of a typical electric bill, which makes sense because weather is the No. 1 driver of energy consumption,” Bernhoft said. “It should also be noted that I have R-38 attic and R-19 wall insulation, but when it gets as cold as it did at the end of December, your heating system will run.”

Regardless of whether someone is at home or away during the day, weather dictates energy consumption.

“Even when you lower your thermostat to 60 degrees as you walk out the door to work in the morning, if it’s 30, 40 or even 50 degrees outside, it’s going to affect the ambient air in your home and trigger the heater to turn on,” Bernhoft said.

Use the tips below to ensure your household is using energy wisely.

Ensure attic insulation levels are sufficient and add more, if necessary. United recommends an insulation value of R-38 (United provides rebates on some qualifying attic insulation upgrades). Weatherize the home, including caulking around windows and sealing with weather-stripping around doors. Ensure duct work is adequately sealed at joints and intersections with appropriate tape or mastic. Avoid using electric space heaters, which are energy hogs and can substantially increase electric bills. Ensure the fireplace flue is closed when not in use. An open flue sucks heat out of the home. Utilize programmable thermostats to lower the home temperature when not at home and set it no higher than 68 degrees when occupying the home. Water heaters should be set to 120 degrees and if the unit is in a garage or another unconditioned space, utilize an insulated water heater blanket (United members may obtain one during a free energy audit while supplies last). Check and or change furnace filters monthly. Close drapes at night. “United is committed to helping its members waste less energy and control their energy costs,” Smallwood said. “During these frigid times, we encourage all of our members to be vigilant in managing their energy use to control their electric bills.”