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Cold Hard Weather

by Mar 03, 2017

Heating Degree Days- 43 percent increase from 2016; Average Low Temperatures- 11 degrees lower than average. These factors dramatically impact utility bills.

The snow has begun to melt away, but the impact is dramatic on customer bills. Klickitat PUD wants to provide customers some statistics and information to help understand the high bills and continue to urge energy conservation.  The next two graphs are from Accuweather, reflecting the monthly comparison of temperatures by day.  Key monthly statistics are provided at the bottom of each graph.

12-2016 temp graph

Heat loss is slowed down by a warm winter coat (good insulation).

Heat is lost through a building's envelope (exterior roof and walls) at a rate directly proportional to the difference in temperature between the inside and outside of your home.  In other words, the colder it is outside, the faster your precious heated air leaves.  Even a few degrees difference in sustained, colder temperatures can boost electricity use as heaters have to work harder to keep homes and businesses warm.  This is especially true for temperatures we are seeing this winter, because of the consistently low temperatures.  Going from 40 degrees to 30 degrees, heat loss might be 10%; whereas, going from 30 degrees to 20 degrees the heat loss might be 20%.  You can't stop heat from leaving your home, but you can slow it down.  Having a well-insulated home is like having a warm winter coat for your house.  The coat itself doesn't generate heat, but it slows down the loss of heat, so your home stays warmer longer. 

Energy Conservation Programs

Klickitat PUD has a dedicated Energy Conservation Specialist that is happy to discuss energy audits, rebates or the appliance tester available through KPUD.  Give Anita a call at 509-773-7622.  

01-2017 temp graph

Heat pumps run on expensive back-up heating elements.

As you can see the high temperatures for December and January have not been exactly high (December 38 degrees/ January 30 degrees). Many customers at Klickitat PUD have conventional heat pumps.  At round 37 degrees many heat pumps reach what is called the balance point.  At or near this temperature the heat pump isn't able to pull heat from the outside air and it has to rely on its expensive back-up heating elements. 

This means that you may not have changed the thermostat from 65 degrees, but your heat pump has to work constantly to maintain that temperature because it is so cold outside.  This increases usage for customers significantly, especially since it's a colder and longer winter than last year.  

December the average actual temperature was 3 degrees less than the normal, and in January the average actual temperature was 11 degrees less than normal.

2016 Degree Day Comp

Jan Degree Days

A negative percentage means the Comparison Year was more mild than the Base Year. A positive percentage means the Comparison Year was more severe than the Base Year. When the monthly degree days in either the base year or the comparison year are less than 30, a percentage comparison is not calculated. However, the Annual Total comparison percentages include all heating and cooling degree days.

Heating Degree Days

When it comes to energy usage, just looking at the high and low of outside air temperature doesn't tell the whole story.  It was established that a 65-degree indoor temperature is "adequate for human comfort".  It is a way to measure how much the outside temperature fluctuates and how much work your home heating/ cooling system has to do.  In theory, during a constant 65-degree day, a building will not require any heating or cooling to be comfortable.  The further your average daily temperature is away from 65 degrees; the longer you need to run your heating system to get an average level of comfort.  

Above is the weatherdatadepot.com 2015/ 2016 average degree day calculations for Goldendale.  In December a household that normally has the thermostat set at 65-degrees had to utilize their heating source 28% more than last December.  Below is a similar graph for January, which shows that your heating source was utilized 43% more than last year (January 2016), and 16% more than last month (December).   Hopefully this helps explain why energy usage was high in December, and even higher in January.  I don’t know about you, but we’re ready for spring.


Klickitat PUD is happy to work out payment plans to relieve temporary hardships and reduce the stress of higher than normal bills as a result of winter usage.  We also recommend the budget plan, which is best started in the spring.  This program estimates a customer's yearly bill based on past usage, and divides that amount into equal payments over 12 months.  This helps level-out high winter heating bills.