Mike Smith said his heating bill for the month of January was much higher than usual.
“It was $566 dollars, and before it was around $300,” the junior international business major said. “There were three of us living here over break, but we always keep it at the same temperature, so it was never moved up or down.”
Because of extremely low temperatures in the middle of January, many students had similar experiences.
“[The bill] went up by about $100,” senior English major Sarah Heimsoth said. “We turned down the thermostat over break or if everyone’s going to be gone for the weekend.”
“When customers use more natural gas because of the extreme cold temperatures, they will see higher than normal bills,” Stan Ogden, vice president for Customer Service and Public Relations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities, said in a Jan. 21 press release.
And it was cold.
Overnight temperatures during the week of Jan. 11 were as low as 20–below, while daytime temperatures hovered close to 5–below, according to the National Weather Service in Lincoln.
Overnight low temperatures came close to the record of 22–below, set in 1979.
In fact, Ameren set a new record for natural gas usage on Jan. 15.
The new record of 13.6 million therms, the unit to measure natural gas usage, was set by 840,000 homes. That much natural gas would be enough to heat about 3 million homes on the average winter day, according to the press release.
In Springfield, the city set a new all-time high for energy consumption during the winter.
Ameren also reports that it saw an increase in natural gas usage of 13 percent during January as compared to the same time period last year.
If there are more bitterly cold days in February, those who pay for their heating bills will see some relief, as natural gas will cost Ameren about 9 percent less than last month.
Ameren Illinois has a Web site devoted to helping people keep their utility bills lower, www.actonenergy.com.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to lower the thermostat just a few degrees. Every degree lower can mean a 2 or 3 percent decrease in overall heating bills.
A programmable thermostat is another cost-effective measure, the site says. Setting it to lower the temperature when people in the house aren’t there or are sleeping, and that can cut your heating bill as well.
On bright, sunny days, open all the curtains in the house. This will allow the sun to aid in heating your home.