SIKESTON -- While many people enjoyed the unusually warmer weather this month, they may also appreciate the fact it will probably save them a few dollars with their heating bills this winter.
"Our business, regardless of winter or summer, heavily relies on the weather," noted Lester Wright, business manager for Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilities. "In the summer, the warmer it is, the more kilowatt-hours we sell, and it's the same with a colder winter. And it can fluctuate very much from one year to the next."
Since temperatures last month have topped 70 and even 80 degrees, and the cold weather is just starting to appear halfway through the winter billing period, customers shouldn't see an effect on their heating bills until around Feb. 1, Wright said.
January's bill will be comprised of most of the month of November, and it won't hit customers until their meter is read in January for December, Wright said. The bill they receive Feb. 1 is for December use, he added.
"But who knows what the weather's going to be like. I wouldn't expect the first of January that customers would see any significant increase in their bill -- unless we have a really cold spell where it stays cold for awhile," Wright said. "If that doesn't happen, though, there shouldn't be any significant change on their bill."
According to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, for the season as a whole, and under normal weather assumptions, national residential consumption of heating fuels is expected to be slightly lower than it was during the 2002-2003 winter season. This is due to the fact that weather was colder than normal during the heating season last year.
When the cold weather does kick in and stay for a while, Wright offered standard tips to cut down on heating costs. Insulation is very important, he emphasized.
"The more weather-tight you can make your home, the better. Closing any air infiltration points around doors or windows and just making sure the house is insulated can help," Wright said.
Check your thermostat, too. Obviously, the higher it's set, the more the bill is going to be, Wright said. It's common sense-type things that people can do to keep their costs down, he said.
Sikeston BMU also offers a break in the winter rates for its residential customers with an energy charge of .0520 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 1,000 kwh; .0300 cents per kwh for the next 500 kwh; and .0230 cents per kwh for over 1,500 kwh. During the summer billing period, there is a set energy charge of .0520 center per kwh.
"We used to have two separate rates: one for residential heating with electricity and one for customers who don't heat with electricity," Wright said. "It made it hard to monitor, particularly when people were switching over to electric heat."
Seasonal rates are switched when reader metering occurs in October. Winter rates then take effect and are switched back to summer rates in May, Wright said.
During the summer billing period the average customer use is 1,296 kilowatt hours per month for the months of May, June, July, August and September, Wright noted. The remaining seven months are the winter billing months and average usage is 1,360 kilowatt hours per month.
One-third of SBMU's residential customers do use heat with electric, Wright pointed out. And, of course, not everybody has electric heat, Wright pointed out.
According to the American Gas Association, 70 percent of new homes nationally use gas. Energy Information Association reports the working natural gas storage, which finished the last winter season at record lows, has managed to recover about normal at the outset this season.
Steve Green, Atmos Energy Corp. public affairs manager for the Southeast region, was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Atmos Energy provides gas utilities for the majority of households in the area.