HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Not only is a winter storm moving into the area, freezing temperatures are expected to stick around for a couple of days. That means some people will be cranking their heat and plugging in their space heaters.
The sun was shining Monday and people were enjoying a nice day at Big Spring Park. It's hard to tell them temperatures are about to drop.
"When it gets extremely cold like this, a lot of folks around here heat their homes with heat pumps," Director of Communications and Public Relations of Huntsville Utilities, Joe Gehrdes said. "Heat pumps are not as efficient in extreme cold."
Gehrdes says many people may see auxiliary heat or emergency heat come on their thermostat, which is raw electric heat.
"And it uses about ten times more electricity than your heat pump would if it were functioning properly," he continued. "That can put a strain on the system because what folks need to understand is that's not only happening at Huntsville utility service area. That's happening at Huntsville Utilities service area, that's happening all across the Tennessee Valley, and it's the Tennessee Valley Authority that provides us with our power."
He says moving the thermostat down isn't going to prevent this from happening.
"In these kinds of extreme cold temperatures, moving your thermostat down a couple of degrees may help momentarily, but ultimately, the temperature differential is so great that's it's only going to help a little bit," he added. "you're still going to see auxiliary heat coming on."
He recommends picking a comfortable temperature and leaving it there.
He isn't worried about auxiliary heat causing outages.
"All the right people will be keeping a very close eye on that, and we have not had big problems with demand-related outages ever," Gehrdes said.
To help save power he recommends making sure all windows are shut tight and weather stripping is in place. He also has a tip that has nothing to do with the thermostat.
"Be thinking about your pipes," he said. "It's going to be below freezing for an extended period of time, so we want to leave a faucet in your house dripping."
He says a stream about as thick as a pencil lead should be enough water moving to keep pipes from freezing, and doing this should only use about two gallons of water a night, which costs much less than a frozen or burst pipe.
Gehrdes says to call and let Huntsville Utilities know if you experience a power outage. He also asks for people to turn off their HVAC system if the power goes out and to wait to turn it back on until a few minutes after power is restored. He says this reduces strain to the system.