People use a lot more electricity during cold snaps. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

People use a lot more electricity during cold snaps. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Cold snap could send electric bills soaring dramatically

The Snohomish PUD warns that March bills could be twice as high as normal — or even higher.

EVERETT — The recent winter storms brought more than just snow and ice to Snohomish County. Also expect higher-than-normal electrical bills.

Snohomish County Public Utility District warns that March bills could be twice as high as normal, or even more.

“We see this every year,” said Aaron Swaney, a PUD spokesman. “Just because of the colder temperatures, if you are electrically heating a home you are using a lot of energy. If you keep your home at 70 degrees, you are going to get a pretty big bill.”

The greater the difference between temperatures outside and inside, the harder furnaces have to work and the more energy is used, Swaney said.

And temperatures lately have often reached freezing levels.

In Everett, lows hovered in the teens for at least four straight days in the last two weeks, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. It was particularly cold between Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, with lows of 13.

That’s cold, even for February.

“It has been below normal every day since the third (of February),” said Gary Schneider, a meteorologist with the weather service.

In a typical year, February and March are the two months that PUD customers see their highest bills. January is close behind.

Often people are staying indoors more. Add the snowstorms, which kept people from going to work, and thermostats were turned up more hours than usual during the day.

The PUD offers a way for residential customers to plan for higher winter bills through its budget payment plan. The program is designed to equalize bills so customers pay roughly the same amount each month. The budget payment plan doesn’t reduce bills, but looks at a household’s past annual usage and divides it by 12.

“This takes away from the winter bill shock,” Swaney said.

The program is open to all residential customers with a zero balance, and households can enroll at any time of the year, according to the PUD’s website. Information can be found at www.snopud.com or by calling 425-783-1000.

PUD crews have been busy the past two days, working overnight Monday and Tuesday, as snow took down trees and power lines across the county.

The goal is to restore power to all customers by the end of the day Wednesday, Swaney said.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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