ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — An increase in customer electric bills is inevitable, due to a usage increase, after the winter storms that hit Arkansas back-to-back.
Temperatures ranged from a high of 30 degrees to a low of minus 1, between February 9 – 20.
Severe winter storms are not novel to the Natural State. There were ice storms in 2000 and 2009, and a 2018 polar vortex.
However, the most recent polar vortex with its bitter cold air led to egregiously low temperatures across the state.
“When average temperatures are this low, residents and businesses alike must consume more electricity to keep the inside of dwellings warm. As a result, higher electric bills are anticipated,” said Carroll Electric Cooperative Corporation Vice President Cory Smith.
“How much higher?”
That depends. Some homes and businesses rely completely on electricity for heating, others could have supplemental heat such as natural gas, propane, and wood-burning fireplaces, according to a Carroll Electric statement.
“Carroll Electric has four different billing cycles, and at some point, every customer’s bill will reflect the increased electricity usage that occurred during the middle of February,” said Smith. “Some customers have already started to see this impact on recent bills.”
The Cooperative understands paying a higher bill in full may be difficult for some customers and there is a bit of a solution — flexible payment terms when these situations happen.
“Generally speaking, the Cooperative will split the balance customers cannot afford over two or three monthly installments, but is willing to work with customers who need more time,” said Smith.
Founded in 1937, Carroll Electric is headquartered in Berryville, Arkansas. As of June 2019, it has 250,000 customers and services in 11 counties in Arkansas and Missouri. The non-profit electric utility cooperative maintains 1,487 miles of line, according to its website.
“We recognize that customers are concerned about higher bills during winter and summer months, especially with the impact of COVID-19,” said Paul Pratt, SWEPCO director of Customer Services and Marketing. “If you’re struggling to pay electric bills during the pandemic, it’s important to reach out to SWEPCO so we can work together to find a solution.”
Customers need to make sure they don’t get scammed, during times like these. For example, someone calling and demanding payment or threatening to shut-off power for non-payment.
“If someone has a question about their bill, or the call they received is legitimate. Call the number on the bill and we can walk through the situation,” said AEP/SWEPCO Principal Communications Consultant Peter Main. “This winter is so extreme … it is a challenging time for customers.”
WINTER ENERGY-SAVING TIPS FROM SWEPCO
Lower your thermostat setting – For economy, start by setting the thermostat at 68 degrees, as comfort permits. Adjust it lower at night or when you’re not at home. Or consider lowering it a degree each week as you acclimate to colder weather. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a one-degree reduction maintained for eight hours can reduce a home’s energy bill by one percent. Also, check into programmable thermostats, which allow you to adjust settings for when you’re at home, away or sleeping.
- Keep filters clean – Change your filters regularly. Dirty filters cause your heating equipment to work harder and use more electricity. Disposable filters should be checked each month and replaced when dirty (typically every one to three months). Permanent filters should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s directions.
• Close the gaps – Weatherstrip or caulk around doors, windows and other parts of the house to prevent air leaks. From the interior, with the door closed, if you see light, you should repair or replace the weatherstripping. Keep doors and windows closed to prevent heat from escaping.
• Have your HVAC system inspected – Ideally, the entire heating and cooling system should be inspected and serviced each year to operate at maximum efficiency.
• Inspect the attic – Heat rising through the ceiling into the attic is another major source of heat loss. It’s recommended that attic insulation be 10 to 12 inches deep. Check the insulation around ducts and make sure it is wrapped securely. Look for obvious air leaks around duct joints and seal as needed. Over time, ducts located in the attic that are not properly sealed can leak as much as 25 percent of heated air into the unconditioned space.
• Check the fireplace – When the fireplace is not in use, be sure the damper is tightly closed. Glass fireplace doors are also good for additional savings.
• Reverse your fans – Set your ceiling fans to the clockwise direction – the opposite from summertime setting. This will help move warm air from near the ceiling into the rest of the room, without creating a wind-chill effect.
• Let the sunshine in – Open curtains or blinds on the sunny side of the house and allow sunshine to help warm the room. On the shady side of the home, keeping shades closed will help keep the warmth inside.
Ozarks Electric was incorporated in 1938, it serves almost 7,000 miles of line and more than 70,000 members. The company serves eight counties in two states.
- ARKANSAS: Washington, Benton, Madison, and Franklin, Crawford
- OKLAHOMA: Cherokee, Adair, and Delaware
“This  was a bad storm because it was so cold, but compared to the 2009 ice storm … everyone was out of power. So, it’s completely different storms,” said Ozarks Electric Cooperative Manager of Marketing and Communications Erin Rogers.
If you need to make payment plans call Ozarks Electric 479-521-2900.
Ozarks Electric put out a ‘scammer alert’ on Monday, February 22.
“We’ve received some reports of scammers spoofing our phone number to call members and threaten a suspension of their Social Security number. We will never call and threaten you with this kind of action, and do not have the ability to suspend your Social Security number. If you receive one of these calls, please hang up immediately.”Ozarks Electric Facebook page
There is also Arkansas Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps with home energy bills.
On February 10, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an Executive Order (EO-21-02) in anticipation of the winter storm declared a state of emergency. He allocated $100,000 to the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, “to defray both program and administrative costs.”