Thermostat

Americans, Texans and Guadalupe County residents are rising to the challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most people are self isolating, educators are providing online instruction for students and employees work from home whenever possible to help change the trajectory of positive test results for the disease. The time at home can mean increased use of electronic devices, more lights turned on in homes and thermostats adjusted for comfort throughout the day when in the past there was usually an eight-hour reprieve.

In short, it can all mean a run on electric bills, city of Seguin Public information Officer Jennifer Sourdellia said.

“With more people at home during this time, we do expect usage to increase. There’s a tendency that when people stay home more, they do use more electricity,” she said. “However, there are many ways to conserve energy and save money on utilities.”

The city provided a list of helpful tips to try to minimize increased costs for power.

They included keeping

thermostats set at 78 degrees on warmer days, using ceiling fans and closing shades to keep the soaring outdoor temperatures from creeping inside.

Turn off lights, take shorter showers, unplug devices not in use and air dry laundry outside are a few other tips the city provided.

According to the city, fixing energy settings on laptop computers can save money.  Additionally, if the choice is available between using a laptop or a desktop computer, choose the laptop. Laptops typically are designed to be more energy-efficient than their desktop counterparts, using as much as 80% less energy while operating, Sourdellia said.

The tips, of course, aren’t specific to the city of Seguin. The Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative provides its members with power and cost-saving information.

So far, GVEC hasn’t seen increases in customers’ usage, said Tammy Thompson, GVEC senior executive manager of business and brand development.

“Both on the statewide and local levels, overall usage levels have stayed steady the past couple of weeks,” she said. “What has changed is the time of day we are seeing peak usage.”

Typically during this time of year, peak usage times are 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., which usually is when most people start and end their days, Thompson said. In recent weeks, morning peaks have been lower while evening peaks are stronger, she said.

It makes sense with more people working and schooling on different schedules, Thompson said.

“It is important to note, there are many factors that drive overall usage from weather temperatures, to lifestyle choices, to the amount of people and prolonged time at home, age and efficiency of appliances, amount of insulation, etc.,” she said. “Every home is different and will react differently based on those variables.”

Air conditioning and heating contributes to about 50% of most electric bills, followed by water heating at about 20% and appliances and electronics making up the remainder of the costs, Thompson said.

GVEC recommends setting thermostats at 68 degrees on cooler days or as close to it as possible and still have it be tolerable. Setting water heaters at 120 degrees and using less hot water during showers can also be beneficial.

Cooking on barbecue pits outside instead of using ovens and drawing curtains on warmer days to keep indoor temperatures lower were a couple other suggestions the cooperative provided.

Both power providers are working with customers to help navigate difficult times during the pandemic. GVEC has suspended disconnects and late fees due to non-payment through April 17 and will re-assessed for future steps, Thompson said.

“We are willing to work with any of our members to meet their specific needs on a case-by-case basis through payment arrangements and providing resources where possible,” she said.

Members are encouraged to dial 800-223-4832 with questions. There is also a SmartHub app available to help monitor daily usage, weather patterns and projected costs.

Officials and residents of Guadalupe County for weeks have dealt with trying to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory disease that can lead to severe symptoms including fever, cough, breathing trouble and pneumonia. While the disease has spread across the globe and, in some cases, proven fatal, most people affected show mild symptoms.

The city of Seguin has taken steps in response to concerns of COVID-19 to ensure customers have uninterrupted service, Assistant City Manager Rick Cortes said.

“As such, in the interest of the health and safety of the public, the city of Seguin has established parameters ensuring uninterrupted services during this unprecedented event,” he said.

Customer that are unable to pay their utility bills due to current economic conditions must contact Utility Billing at 830-401-2460, Cortes said. Customers can be placed on a deferred payment plan to ensure they receive uninterrupted utility services as they work with utility representatives to develop a long-term plan that meets their financial needs, he said.

City electricity customers who have deferred utility payments due to this event will not result in any late fees or penalties, Cortes said.

Limited income customers and medically vulnerable customers may qualify to receive assistance through the Community Council of South Central Texas. Contact information for CCSCT is 830-379-3022. Other assistance may be found at Salvation Army at 830-401-4872 or Family Life at 830-379-1997.

“For anyone with concerns, we are willing to work with customers who have an inability to pay their utility bill during this pandemic,” Cortes said. “We encourage customers with concerns to contact our Utility Billing Department for assistance.”

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com .

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