Winter taking a toll on utilities, customers
By Adam Groff
When the temperature drops, both utility companies and customers feel frostbitten in terms of service and power costs.
With winter storms taking their toll across the South, Northeast, and Midwest, negative temperatures are causing utilities nightmares for paying customers and the power companies that serve them.
Here are just a few ways harsh winter weather creates problems for utility companies and you, the customer:
As natural gas prices skyrocket and oil costs increase by the barrel, utility companies have no choice but to raise rates. This creates an issue for paying customers, especially when winter weather calls for 24-hour home heating via propane furnaces and electric heat.
Pushed air propane furnaces are the main form of heating for homes across the Northeast and Midwest. But, according to a New York Timesreport, propane resources are dwindling due to overuse. This translates to unaffordable rate hikes for customers in winter weather regions.
Over usage and winter weather complications like icy power lines cause power outages, which are a major issue for utility companies and their customers. Sometimes these outages affect hundreds of customers, but oftentimes they affect thousands.
When outages sweep winter weather regions, it results in dangerous living conditions for customers and around-the-clock service calls for power companies.
These two factors combined translate to understaffed power companies and customers going for days without heat and electricity.
Cold weather rule
When temperatures drop to dangerous lows, regions across the Midwest and Northeast must evoke the cold weather rule. This rule prohibits local utility companies from disconnecting power to nonpaying customers during the winter.
Although this may seem like a necessary precaution, when harsh winter conditions roll around and costs increase, utility companies are left covering the bill.
So, when planning for utility costs in your monthly budget, utility companies encourage offsetting the increased rates by lowering your usage during milder seasons.
Customers and companies working together
Severe winter weather is everybody's problem, so it only makes sense that utility companies and customers work together to make it through the cold winter months.
Here are just some examples of how local power companies and customers can fight the winter weather together:
• Patience during outages - If your power goes out during a winter storm, chances are your local utility company already knows about it. The best courses of action after you've called to report the outage is to be patient. Increased service calls only slow down the utility companies in times of emergency.
• Cold weather checklist - Preparedness makes outages easier to deal with, so make sure you're prepared for a winter weather emergency. This includes having batteries, a portable cell phone charger, a battery-powered radio, extra blankets and winter clothes, kerosene heaters, space heaters, and firewood on hand while utility companies restore your power.
• Paying attention to winter weather warnings - From winter weather advisories to frost and freeze warnings to winter storm watches, forecasters are a great resource when it comes to inclement weather. Paying attention to incoming weather is the best way to avoid all kinds of problems that arise from severe weather conditions.
When harsh winter weather is in the forecast, there are plenty of ways for utility companies and their customers to avoid cold weather complications.
About the author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including finances, personal health, and home improvement.