MADISON (WKOW)-- Just when Wisconsinites thought extremely cold temperatures were a thing of the past, a cold front comes our way as we enter the final days of February. The cold days of January seem so far away for many of us, but after a quick glance at the monthly utility bill, the frigid memories all come crashing back.
The demand for heat has meant a busy winter for local utility companies and an expensive one for their customers. Madison Gas and Electric says that in their 120-year history they've kept track of the days where the highest amount of natural gas was used. Eight of the top ten happened in January of this year. It just goes to show how cold this winter really has been.
"It just takes more energy to get your home to a comfortable temperature when the outside temperature is so much colder than normal," Alliant Energy Spokesperson Annemarie Newman says.
At Alliant Energy, usage is up 30% this January compared to January of last year. At Madison Gas and Electric it's the same situation. This higher usage can only mean one thing, a higher cost for customers.
"For bill impacts that means our customers are going to see their heating bills go up 25% higher than they were in January the previous year," Newman says.
For some customers the increase was much higher. A few owners of older homes in the area tell 27 News they saw an increase of 30-40% this January. Utility companies say they've also seen a rise in the number of carbon monoxide related calls with some homeowners running old and outdated furnaces nonstop.
"Natural gas appliances like your furnace or your water heater, if those are not functioning properly carbon monoxide poisoning is a danger," Newman says. "We encourage all customers to get your natural gas equipment checked."
The cold winter this year is also causing more families to seek energy assistance. Under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) 4,923 more families received aid this year when compared to last winter. The program overall paid an additional $14 million in heating assistance. The demand is so high they had to increase their call center hours. Since January 27th they've received 11,000 calls for help, which is well above normal.
Utility bills in February are also expected to be higher than they were last year. Utility companies say they don't have final numbers yet, because there are still a few days left on this month's billing period, but early numbers suggest higher than average usage.
For energy saving tips visit:
Alliant Energy- http://www.alliantenergy.com/SaveEnergyAndMoney/
Madison Gas and Electric- https://www.mge.com/saving-energy/home/tips/renters.htm
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