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Central Maine Power offers tips to keep power bill low during bitter cold this week

Reduce usage, check for drafts, and check heat pumps to make sure they're rated for extreme cold.

AUGUSTA, Maine — People will be cranking up their heat as many places across Maine see single-digit high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday.

To avoid a very high electricity bill, Central Maine Power offered some tips on keeping costs low during the cold stretch.

1. Reduce power usage: Turn off lights and space heaters when not in the room.

2. Check for drafty spots: electrical outlets, windows, and doors can all let cold air in. Seal them with weather stripping, or use shrink-wrap insulation over windows, which can be as cheap as $5 for a three-pack.

3. Heat pump owners: check the manufacturer’s rating. Some are less efficient and less cost-effective in frigid weather.

Efficiency Maine’s website says the high-efficiency units that qualify for Efficiency Maine rebates work well in cold weather

“Our modeling has shown that using 2018 energy prices; the transition point is somewhere between 5F and -15F. Switching back and forth exactly when the temperature crosses the transition point could save up to five percent on heating costs. 

“However, forgetting to switch back to the heat pump once the temperature climbs back above the transition point could end up costing more. Therefore, we generally recommend that you select a temperature set point on the heat pump that makes the room feel comfortable (usually several degrees higher than what you have used with your central heating system thermostat) and leave it at that setting throughout the winter.” the website stated.

“What we have typically found is that heat pumps are not as efficient in extreme cold weather. In days like today and tomorrow when the highs are in the single digits, you are better off using your main heat source, whether that’s propane or gas or a woodstove or something else,” Linda Ball, vice president of customer service for Central Maine Power said. “We do typically find out if you’re using a heat pump in that extreme cold weather, it’s going to be expensive. I think we all need to be comfortable in this cold weather, but we have to do it in a way that manages our budget.”

Customers can cut energy usage for heating from 20 percent to 50 percent by combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, CMP said in a news release. 

“We often see increased electricity usage with cold temperatures like what is expected this week,” Ball said.

CMP offers other tools and resources to help people stay on top of their usage and costs:

  • Usage Alerts is a free service that sends customers weekly updates on their usage and alerts when a significant use change occurs. Customers can also set a dollar or kilowatt-hour target for their monthly usage.
  • Energy Manager is a free program powered by Smart Meters that lets customers see exactly how much electricity they are using and when they are using it.
  • The Energy Calculator helps customers estimate how much it costs to run various appliances.
  • Local Community Action Agencies can help with enrollment in the Home Energy Assistance Program, which can qualify customers for CMP programs like the Electricity Lifeline Program and the Arrearage Management Program.
  • MaineHousing’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program may provide additional help for qualified customers.

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