With a drop in temperature expected this month, there are ways to manage spikes in FortisBC energy bills. Photo: FortisBC

With a drop in temperature expected this month, there are ways to manage spikes in FortisBC energy bills. Photo: FortisBC

Kootenay homeowners advised to prepare for spikes in energy use

With a La Niña temperature cycle forecast for this winter and the coldest part of the year typically occurring in January, FortisBC is reminding customers that now is an important time to pay attention to energy use to reduce seasonal spikes, especially with people spending more time in their homes as a result of COVID-19 safety measures.

“Because the majority of energy used in B.C. at this time of year is for heating, our customers tend to experience their highest energy bills after periods of colder winter temperatures,” said Michelle Carman, director, customer service, FortisBC. “That means any heat loss is an opportunity for energy savings, so steps taken to detect and reduce heat loss could help you stay more comfortable while also saving some money on your energy bill.”

FortisBC’s energy use records show that last winter’s peak use for both its natural gas and electricity services occurred on Jan. 14.

According to Environment Canada, temperatures dropped below -10 C across B.C. that day, and lower than -30 C in places like Prince George. As a result, natural gas use was up more than 75 per cent across the province as compared to an average January day.

Electric use was also up by four per cent over the coldest week from the previous year.

In fact, FortisBC historically sees demand for natural gas, the most commonly used energy for space heating, triple in the winter compared to the summer months.

On average, customers who use electricity for home heating increase their use by approximately 80 per cent in the winter months.

Energy use is unique to each household and can vary by factors like region, household size, the energy efficiency of the home and daily habits.

To help customers better understand their unique situation, FortisBC recently added My Energy Use, an online enhancement that natural gas customers can use to monitor their energy use, set and track goals and customize action plans.

Electricity customers can also monitor their energy use hourly, daily and weekly to identify patterns of high use and find opportunities to save.

There are a number of low cost and no cost ways to lower energy use in homes, including:

• sealing gaps and cracks around windows and doors to prevent heat loss,

• turning down the heat in unused rooms can also save on space heating,

• cleaning furnace filters and vacuuming out baseboard heaters to help ensure the heating system is working as efficiently as possible, and

• installing a programmable thermostat.

For customers who want to invest in larger energy-efficient upgrades, rebates are available year-long on selected high-efficiency home heating systems, window and door upgrades and connected thermostats.

Income-qualified customers may be eligible for a no-cost energy assessment of their home, and furnace or insulation upgrades on behalf of FortisBC.

Taking advantage of billing options is another way to avoid seasonal spikes.

Residential customers with up-to-date accounts can sign up for equal payment plans so that bills are averaged across the year and result in a predictable monthly amount regardless of the season.

FortisBC encourages anyone with concerns about their energy bills to contact their customer service team for one-on-one support. FortisBC natural gas customers can call 1-888-224-2710 and FortisBC electricity customers can call 1-866-436-7847.

To learn more about how seasonal weather can affect bills and ways to reduce this, visit fortisbc.com/winteruse.

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