Despite daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s at the end of this week, the Athens area is about to be blasted with a wave of winter cold.

AUB advises that a cold snap this weekend and next week will have a direct impact on energy bills in the coming weeks.  But homeowners can take steps to help moderate the full affect.

“We’ll be in the twenties overnight on Sunday with chilly days and cold nights for the rest of January,” said AUB’s Amy McDonald.

“We’ll probably be at around 24 to 26 degrees early Monday morning with the temperature staying near freezing throughout the day. This presents issues across many fronts for our business and our customers,” she said.

The incoming cold front will mean higher consumption of electricity, natural gas, wood, and any other energy source you use to heat your home, and that can translate into higher energy bills that often have substantial shock value.

“This cold spell will make your AUB bill higher if you heat with power or natural gas. We can all expect it.  When it is 15 or 20 degrees outside and we want our home to be 70 degrees inside, it’s pretty clear what that requires.  Higher levels of energy use, which means a higher bill,” McDonald said.

“The first really cold wave always produces a lot of ‘there is no way!’ phone calls to the utility,” McDonald said.

“We understand that completely because all of us feel the same way when we get our first wintertime shocker of a bill,” she said.

Depending on where you are in AUB’s meter reading cycle, this weekend’s cold weather may not show up on a bill for a few weeks, but AUB cautions that none of us can avoid the increased energy use to stay warm.

Bitter cold also can strain AUB’s systems that distribute power, natural gas, and water to area communities.

“When everyone is cranking up the heat simultaneously and the demand on our power and natural gas systems peak, we have to be ready.  We have to have ample capacity available for that moment when demand is highest.  Most every day of the year have more capacity than we need.  But if our system were not built to handle that single instantaneous peak customer demand of the season, we’d have brown-outs or outages, pilot lights would go out.  So, you want that capacity available year-round and we ensure you have it,” McDonald said.

AUB gas crews also are preparing now for the extreme cold.  Weather this cold, strains gas system pressures.  If pressure falls too low in a neighborhood, nearby pilot lights can go out.

“Our crews are checking and prepping the system now, checking valves and configurations, to ensure that pressures remain adequate to keep everyone in service,” she said.

While it may be impossible to avoid all of the effects of the cold on your energy use and costs, homeowners can take steps to help moderate the full impact of heating needs.

Ensure that your heating system is tuned up for optimal efficiency and that you clean or replace air filters.  Target a wintertime thermostat setting of 68 degrees.  Check all windows, doors and other openings to see if repairs, insulation or weather stripping may help keep cold air out and warm air in.

And, winter weather does more than drive up heating bills.  AUB’s water distribution system and home water systems can bear the brunt of freezing temperatures.


“Our region has seen the effects of hard freezes in the past few winters on water pipes both in the ground and under homes,” McDonald said.

“If your home’s water pipes freeze and burst not only can you be out of water, you can incur costly cleanup and repair bills from water damage,” McDonald said.  “Unfortunately, we see it every winter.”

AUB suggests that you inspect your home and consider these simple steps now, before the next deep freeze.

To keep your pipes from freezing:

-Identify the location of the main water valve and the valve on your water heater. (Learning the location of these valves may come in handy during an emergency.)

-If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, shut off the main incoming water supply valves that feed piping inside your home.

-Disconnect all gardening hoses and install insulating covers on all outside faucets.

 -Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees, even if you're leaving the house for an extended period of time.

 -Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate.

 -Wrap pipes near exterior walls, in basements and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape.

 -Allow an interior faucet to run slightly, preferably with lukewarm water.