Holiday lights, freezing temps drive up January power costs


Complaints about heating and electric bills a common sight on social media in the new year – 

By Patricia Beech – 

If the post office hasn’t yet delivered your monthly electric bill, brace yourself.
Several local AEP and REA customers have posted complaints on social media about extreme jumps in their January statements, despite several days of record-breaking, spring-like weather in December.
Jessica Palomino, a student at Ohio University, was shocked when she opened her January AEP bill and it was four times higher than usual.
She turned to Facebook.
“We’re hardly ever home, and we never run a lot of stuff,” she posted. “I can’t understand why it’s so high.”
Peebles native Kasey Hawkins works a full time job, and like Palomino, is rarely home. Her January electric bill was nearly four times higher than her last one.
“It was only $73 last month, and this month it’s $303, that’s a ridiculous increase from one month to the next,” she says, adding that there was no change in the amount of power she used.
“I work full time and I’m never home – there was no reason my electric bill should have been that high.”
So what’s driving up the cost of power, given that the temperature was well above average for nearly two weeks in December?
A study done by NASA found that the intensity of lighting across America increases 30-50 percent every year after Black Friday, and is clearly observable from outer space.
So, before going full-on Griswold during the holiday season, exterior illuminators might want to consider some energy saving alternatives.
According to, “the average price of electricity is 11.3 cents per kilo-watt hour, therefore, the type and size of holiday bulbs customers choose will influence their energy bills
All that Griswoldian illumination costs money.
According to, “the average price of electricity is 11.3 cents per kilo-watt hour, therefore, the type and size of holiday bulbs customers choose will influence their energy bills.” To save money, they recommend using LED lights, which are more efficient and economical than incandescents. In fact, the cost of powering incandescent bulbs can be up to 80 times greater than LED. For instance, a 100-count string of incandescent mini light requires 40 watts to run, while a 70 count of LED lights requires approximately 4.8 watts.
In addition to holiday lights, other factors influencing January utility bills are cold weather, extra billing days, and energy supply rates, according to American Electric Power (AEP).
Frigid temperatures outside mean it takes more energy to heat your home, even if you are keeping your thermostat at the same setting. Additionally, the amount of energy a customer uses can vary depending on how tightly their homes and windows are insulated.
In a Customer Service memorandum, AEP noted that cold weather doesn’t cause electric rates to increase.
“These rates are established months ahead of time and are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.”
The memo also noted that adjustments to electric rates occur throughout the year, and despite appearances to the contrary, January rates actually decreased slightly as a result.
Monthly utility bills are also effected by the number of billing days in a cycle, and billing cycles can change because of holidays, weather, and other operational regions.
Customers can see the number of days in their current billing cycle on the front page of their monthly statement under “Current Bill Summary”. More billing days means more power used, which translates to higher bills.
Energy supply rates, or charges from your energy supplier, also effects the amount of customers’ monthly statements. While deregulation allows Ohio customers to choose where they purchase energy, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee lower utility charges.
To keep electric bills low, AEP recommends that customers do the following: Turn off electric lights or appliances that you don’t need or aren’t using; Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible, including overhead doors on attached garages; Seal off unheated, unused rooms; Open the curtains on the sunny side of your house – if there’s no sun, close the blinds to keep the warm air in; Unless they’re equipped for home heating, use fireplaces sparingly and close the damper when not in use to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney; and insulate hot water pipes and set water heater temperature between 120 and 130 degrees.