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Cold weather can bring higher energy bills in Pacific Northwest

(File/SBG photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Cold weather means higher energy bills for Pacific Northwest families, but Pacific Power has tips for conserving energy and managing costs during winter.

The colder it gets outside, the more energy it takes to keep your house warm. No one can change that basic equation, but there are steps you can take to keep energy bills from giving you the chills, the utility says.

"You may not change your thermostat, but when temperatures fall, the difference in temperature between the outside and the inside grows, and so can your energy usage," said Barb Coughlin, Pacific Power's vice president for customer service. "Being smart about your heating can go a long way towards keeping your energy bill low."

Here are tips you can use today to battle cold weather:

* Set your thermostat as low as comfortable, aim for 68 degrees. When you are asleep or out of the house, lower the temperature by another 10 degrees and this will reduce your energy usage by about 10 percent.

* Use space heaters sparingly and safely. Running a 1,500 watt portable heater 8 hours a day for 30 days can add an extra $30 to a monthly power bill in winter.

* Close drapes and blinds. Closed drapes and blinds can help your house stay better insulated and reduce energy use.

* Avoid the temptation to bump up the thermostat when it gets colder. That won't get you to your desired temperature faster, you will just make your furnace run longer and use more energy.

* Improve your home's heating and cooling systems by cleaning or replacing furnace filters and scheduling routine system maintenance to help air flow through the system more efficiently. Move furniture that is blocking intakes or heat registers.

You can save even more energy by taking a longer range view of your energy use. In Oregon, Pacific Power teams up with Energy Trust of Oregon to offer energy efficiency consultation and cash incentives to upgrade your home and save energy and money. Visit bewattsmart.com or call the Energy Trust toll free at 1-866-368-7878 to learn more about qualifications and services.

Another step is manage winter bills is to switch to Equal Pay. Under Equal Pay, energy costs are averaged out over the year so bills are "more predictable and manageable," the utility says. Customers can enroll in Equal Pay online at pacificpower.net/equalpay, via the Pacific Power mobile app, or by phone at 1-888-221-7070.

"The sooner you call, the better for Equal Pay," said Coughlin. "If you wait until the higher bills have already come, your average will have gone up, too. This program also helps if you have high cooling costs in the summer."

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