How to save money on your electric bill during extreme temperatures

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – You may get an envelope with a more expensive than average electric bill in the mail if you haven't already, thanks to the freezing stretch of temperatures our area saw at the beginning of January.

Marketing Analyst Eddy Blackburn at Horry Electric said he has already started taking calls from concerned customers asking why their bill is so expensive. The short answer to that: your heater was working hard to warm your home.

Blackburn said if you have a heat pump in your home, which is the case for most homes in our area, you have the potential to save three to four percent on your electric bill for every degree that you set your thermostat below 70 degrees.

If you're a customer at Horry Electric, there's a way for you to log into your account online and monitor your energy usage and gauge how much your bill will be that way, so it's not always a huge surprise. With this resource, customers can take a look at their daily and hourly use and compare that to what the temperature is outside for any 24-hour period.

If you're a Santee Cooper customer, you may be able to enroll in their budget billing plan. This takes a look at the average annual usage and divides that by 12 months, so your payment could be an average rate every month, helping you know what to expect on your bill. If you end up paying more than what you owe at the end of the year, you can roll that amount over for a credit to the next year.

But, when it comes to budgeting last minute for something like this, not all hope is lost. Certified Financial Planner Christopher St. John said it's okay to dip into an emergency savings account for situations like an unexpected expensive bill.

If you don't have an emergency savings, he said it's never too late to start saving and put money aside for emergencies. If you're in absolute dire need, he advises borrowing from your 401k if you have one or using something like a credit card as a last resort.

"Emergency. You want to plan on a minimum of six months living expenses. If not, six to 12 months, just truly for emergency purposes. I don't think a credit card is an emergency purpose unless you have the cash there and you're just using the credit card to get the points and you're using the cash to pay the credit card off,” said St. John, “Having that cash there is not going to earn a lot of interest, but it's there in case you need it."

Our area experienced severely cold temperatures at the beginning of January. From Jan. 1 through Jan. 8, the temperature never reached above 40 degrees and was below freezing 90 percent of the time. Low temperatures for the same period were in the teens for five of the seven nights. Florence also reached its third coldest temperature ever recorded when it dropped to seven degrees. For most of the region, it was the longest and coldest stretch of weather ever recorded.

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