Xcel Energy shares energy-saving tips as colder weather looms
Crews prepared to provide safe, reliable and affordable service when temperatures drop
With temperatures forecasted to drop well below freezing in the coming days across many of our service areas, Xcel Energy is committed to providing customers with safe, reliable and affordable electricity and natural gas, while offering tips to help customers save energy and stay safe through the colder weather.
Across all of our service areas, we monitor and prepare for storms as they develop to minimize impacts to the grid. To ensure reliability even on the coldest days, Xcel Energy maintains a diverse energy mix of wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas and coal generation. The company also prepares for winter storms by having additional field crews at the ready to quickly and safely restore power in the event of an outage.
With colder weather, the price of wholesale natural gas can increase, driven by global supply and demand market forces. Natural gas is also used as fuel to generate electricity at natural gas plants, which affects electric bills in addition to natural gas bills. Xcel Energy passes the cost of fuel directly to customers without markup or profit.
The company takes many steps to minimize the impact of natural gas price fluctuations on customer bills, including purchasing and storing a portion of its expected natural gas needs for the winter heating season before winter, when prices are lower. In extremely cold weather, it uses peaking plants to provide natural gas to the system, decreasing the amount of natural gas that must be purchased from the market. For the company’s electric service, it uses a broad range of electricity sources to help minimize the effect of natural gas price increases on electric bills.
While wholesale natural gas prices have been significantly lower than last winter, winter heating can still account for about half of a typical customer’s monthly energy costs. Customers can reduce the impact of colder weather on their energy bills through steps such as:
- Lowering their thermostat to between 65 and 70 degrees while they are home, and 58 degrees when away from home. A programmable or smart thermostat can automatically lower the temperature based on daily routines.
- Opening drapes and blinds to maximize heat from direct sunlight during the day, and then closing them to retain heat when it is dark.
- Running ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to push warm air down from the ceiling.
- Ensuring exterior doors and windows are fully closed and latched shut. Using window sealing kits can be a low-cost way to further prevent heat loss.
- Keeping interior doors open to help circulate air more freely and maintain consistent heating levels.
- Changing out dirty furnace filters to promote better airflow and reduce the energy the furnace uses. Replacing the filter once a month during the winter can reduce heating costs by 5 to 15%.
- Improving the insulation of walls, crawl spaces, floors and heating ducts, which can save up to 10% on a home’s monthly energy bill.
Find more energy saving tips on our website or learn the programs, incentives and rebates customers can take advantage of when making energy efficiency upgrades to their homes and businesses. Xcel Energy encourages customers who are having trouble paying their energy bills to reach out to learn about payment plans or energy assistance programs.
How customers can prepare, stay safe in cold weather
- Keep natural gas meters clear to avoid a dangerous buildup of pressure in gas lines and prevent gas from leaking inside the home. Gently remove accumulated snow or ice by hand and clear a path to the meter for easy access in an emergency.
- Use space heaters carefully to prevent fires. Read all instructions and warning labels and verify that the heater is listed by a recognized testing laboratory. Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs and connections and avoid using those that have frayed, worn or damaged components. Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when leaving a room and when going to sleep.
- Maintain healthy air quality indoors by using a range hood for ventilation when cooking with an electric or natural gas appliance. Install detectors for carbon monoxide, which is odorless, colorless and tasteless, but very toxic. Move outside and call for medical help if experiencing symptoms such as headaches, nausea, ringing in the ears and lethargy.
- Stay away from downed or sagging power lines. Always assume an electric line, even one that is on the ground, is energized and dangerous. Never touch or move a downed power line; instead, leave the area and report it immediately by calling 1-800-895-1999.
- Handle food safely in the event of a power outage. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food safety is directly related to the temperature of the food. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain their temperatures if the power goes out. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for approximately two days and a half-full freezer approximately one day.
- Build a home emergency kit to use in the event of a power outage, with items such as:
- Xcel Energy phone numbers - 1-800-895-1999 for residential or 1-800-481-4700 for business
- Battery-powered radio or television
- Backup phone chargers
- A phone that does not require electricity
- Non-electric alarm clock
- Bottled water and nonperishable food
- Manual can opener
- First aid kit
- Extension cords (for partial outages)
- Manufacturer's instructions on how to manually open power-operated doors (e.g., garage doors)