Heating bills skyrocket during recent winter storms

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – A lot of residents in Hampton Roads may be in for a big shock when opening heating bills this month — the recent winter weather will mean some big bills.

According to Dominion Virginia Power, usage surged during some of the bitter January days.

“We had new records set twice in January for the peak winter demand so our customers are definitely using more electricity,” said Dominion Virginia Power spokesperson Bonita Billingsley Harris.

Jan. 7, there were record low temperatures causing more people to bump up their thermostats. That day 19,730 megawatts were used between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

The other big electricity use day was Jan. 30, the day after snow blanketed Hampton Roads. That day 19,784 mega watts were used. In general, people have been running their furnaces and electricity more, which means higher heating bills in February.

“It also varies greatly on how much electricity you use,” said Billingsley Harris. “Some people are comfortable setting their thermostat at 68 degrees and putting on a sweater. Others want their heat blasting at 75 degrees.”

Virginia Natural Gas also saw an increase in usage last month.

“Last month we saw an increase in demand of about 31 percent, which means during those two weather events we had a lot more of our customers turning on their furnaces to heat their homes and businesses,” said Virginia Natural Gas spokesperson Duane Bourne.

Both Billingsley Harris and Bourne say there are some simple ways to reduce your power and energy bills.

“One of our key energy conservation tips is to set your thermostat at 68, because for every degree you lower your thermostat, you can save one to three percent on your bill,” said Billingsley Harris.

“I have young children, and the child safety plugs, if you stick those in your electric sockets on your exterior walls you can keep draft in that way also,” said Bourne.

They also suggest winterizing your home and making sure you check for drafty areas in your home.

Dominion recognizes that the higher-than-normal bills pose a challenge to some customers, and they offer several options to customers to help them pay their bills.

  • When you call 1-866-DOM-HELP (366-4357), energy advisors can work with customers on a case by case basis to set up bill payment plans.
  • Budget billing is one option that levels bills over a 12 month period giving customers more certainty about what their bill is going to be.  The average across 12 months is based upon previous usage from the year prior.  At the end of each 12 month period, the average is recalculated and any over payments or under payments are accounted for in the new monthly payment.
  • Dominion’s Energyshare program assists families facing financial challenges and have depleted all other sources of assistance.  This is subject to funding availability.  Dominion Virginia Power just donated $1 million to the program.

Customers can conserve on their Virginia Natural Gas bills by signing up their online, where they can analyze their energy use and compare past and present usage and bills. Virginia Natural Gas also has a Budget Payment plan that will average your bill over 12 months.

With warm weather still a ways off, the Virginia Department of Social Services is sending a reminder that applications for its Energy Assistance Program (EAP) are still being accepted — click here for more information.

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