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How Winter Weather Affects Your Texas Electric Bill

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If you've received a high electricity bill in the last few months, you're not alone. Even in Texas, people run their furnaces constantly or supplement them with space heaters to stay warm. All the same, many people look at their bill and wonder: How could I have used that much electricity?

One of the first things people suspect is that there is something wrong with their electric meter or that it was read incorrectly. So, let's take a quick look at the process.

Your local utility company, whether it's Oncor, Centerpoint, AEP, or TNMP, reads your meter. They send the meter read information to ERCOT for tracking purposes. ERCOT then sends the data to Bounce Energy to be included in your bill.

You can request a meter re-read by your local utility company, but please keep in mind that you will be billed up to $80 for a meter re-read if the meter is found to be functioning normally. So, before you make that request, it's a good idea to understand how your meter works. Here's how to read your own Texas electric meter to double check the recent meter reading.

There are two types of residential meters currently being used in Texas: older, dial-type analog meters and newer, digital AMS Smart Meters.

In Texas, the new AMS (Advance Meter System) uses Digital (Smart) Meters that automatically read and send usage information to your local utility every 15 minutes. These Automatic Meter Read meters are referred to as AMR. In general, digital meters have a display and read like the mileage odometer in your car.

The older Dial type meters use dials that represent one digit in the total number of kilowatt-hours you've used since the last time your meter was read. For a typical dial type meters, the hands of the dials move in the same direction as the counting order of the numbers from 0 to 9. Keep in mind that the first, third and fifth dials are numbered clockwise, while the second and fourth dials are numbered counterclockwise.

To read your dial meter, start on the right and move to the left. Write down the number that each hand just passed. So, if a hand is directly on a number, look at the dial to its immediate right. If that dial's hand has just passed zero, write down the number that the dial to its left is pointing to. If the dial to the right has not passed zero yet, write down the last number that the dial on the left has passed.

Now let's take your meter-read number and figure out how much electricity you've used since your last electricity bill:

  • Look at last month's electric bill to find the recorded reading.
  • Subtract last month's reading from the number you just took off your meter.
  • The result is the total number of kilowatt-hours you've used since your last reading.

Your meter is read once a month. Because of weekends, holidays or the length of the month, the total days between each meter reading usually varies. This is why it's possible for your monthly usage to increase or decrease from the previous billing period even though your average daily use remains the same.

Most Important of All: How Much Are You Paying Per kWh?

To be frank, the quickest way to lower your electric bill might mean shopping around for a better deal. Residents in a seniors community in Fort Worth had their eyes opened when columnist Dave Lieber of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram found that many are paying as much as 15 cents per kilowatt-hour. Some of the best places to shop for rates are Texas Electricity Ratings (includes Consumer Reviews),, and

Let's Look at the Costs

If you have electric furnace or baseboard heat or used space heaters, maybe you did use all that energy to keep your home warm.

If you have an electric furnace, the heating elements typically use 5,000 watts each. They heat up sequentially so as not to overload your electrical system. One heating element uses the equivalent of eighty 60 watt light bulbs turned on at the same time. With a daily temperature under 40 degrees, that can add $6.00 a day to your bill. After running at least 12 hours each day for 25 days, it can add $150 extra for the whole month.

Do you use a space heater? Space heaters consume enormous amounts of energy --up to 1500 watts (the equivalent of 26 light bulbs). A single space heater running 12 hours a day will add $2.00 a day to your bill. Over those 25 days of temperatures last month - that's $50 in additional heating costs for one space heater. If you have 3 heaters running you could add $150 to your bill. If you live in Dallas or West Texas where it's been even colder, your bills would be even higher.

Is you have an electric hot water heater and it's not insulated, then it's working harder to heat water. If it's 40 degrees or lower in your garage or attic, then your heater uses more energy to keep your water warmed to 120 degrees. Again this could add another dollar per day to your bill. - Another $25 dollars added to your bill.

So what can you do now?

First, make sure you're not paying too much for your electricity. If you are, then check out the money-saving and innovative plans at Bounce Energy. New customers get rewarded just for switching!

To save more money on energy, also consider the following tips..

  • For central heating systems, run your thermostat at 70 degrees. Every degree above 70 degrees increases your bill by 10%. By installing a programmable thermostat to lower the heat in your home when you're at work and while you're asleep, you can save even more.
  • Run space heaters only when you need them. Turn them off when you are asleep or away from your home.
  • Get a water heater insulation jacket - about $40 at Home Depot
  • Weatherproof and insulate your home. Old houses with single pane windows are notorious for being drafty. Simply caulk, air seal and weatherproofing old windows to make a big difference.
For more tips, check out our Do It Yourself Energy Efficiency Projects: Your Home's Thermal Envelope series.

If you have any questions about your bill, contact Bounce Energy's Customer Service. If you feel more comfortable speaking to us directly, our customer service representatives are standing by to help you. We are committed to making your customer service experience excellent, easy, and fast. Whether you need to pay your bill or place an order, we've made it easy to manage your account online.

No one likes to get unexpectedly high bills during this time of the year. Arming yourself with the knowledge of "why", you can manage your bills and in many cases make your home more energy efficient year round. And those are the type of savings that really pay off.

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