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Have You Gotten Your Electric Bill Yet??

If your house was anything like mine, on the coldest nights, both of the HVAC units in my house ran almost constantly. As a result, I’m the proud owner of a $390 electric bill (Over 1 1/2x my regular bill).

This is not uncommon as I’ve heard similar stories from neighbors and friends. As a Church Hill resident who has owned a couple of homes and familiar with many more are heat pumps the culprit?

One thing about heat pumps in general, when they’re heating a home, is they’re pulling heat from the outside air to heat the refrigerant and then release that heat into your house. This refrigerant is supercooled so generally much colder than outside air BUT as the temperature drops so does the amount of heat that can be pulled in.

While heat pumps are extremely efficient for more mild winters, like we normally have in Richmond, they’re not great for extremely cold temperatures. If it is unusually cold, and we have a cold snap like the beginning of January, you will find that in order to heat your house your Auxiliary heat will be kicking in which for many is electric. Those auxiliary heat strips are NOT efficient and they will increase your heating bill dramatically.

One solution that many new homes are built with is a gas backup to your heat pump instead of electric. This is called a dual fuel system. Gas furnaces get much hotter and are more efficient at heating homes during extreme cold. Something to consider if you’re buying a house or you have to redo your existing system. A lot of newer homes will have two HVAC systems with the downstairs heat pump having a gas backup and the upstairs a regular heat pump with electric auxiliary.

Save Money & Plan Ahead: Make sure and plan ahead for increases in your utility bills during the height of summer and winter. Also, make sure that you set your thermostat a little lower. 65 or 68 can make a big difference in your utility bill compared to 70 or 72. Also, invest in insulation and energy efficiency! Not only will you save money, in the long run, you will also make your house infinitely more comfortable.

Stay warm out there and if you have any suggestions or thoughts please let us know.

A few resources:

RREA – Richmond Region Energy Alliance – You can schedule a free home inspection ($40 donation recommended). They’ll make recommendations like improved insulation, new windows, encapsulating the crawl space, etc. to help you understand how to heat and cool your home more efficiently.

Dominion Energy Assistance – Dominion Virginia Power has a number of programs to assist families that might have trouble paying for their electric bills.

Dominion Energy Saving Tips

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Heads up: Planned Power Outage Church Hill North

Jacob C.


Jeannie Casey Saxton 01/24/2018 at 7:11 AM


Joe Poston 01/24/2018 at 7:49 AM

I’m expecting more like $500. We shall see.

Joe Poston
Joe Poston 01/24/2018 at 3:23 PM

Turned out to be “only” $295-ish. Not bad considering my Nest app seemed to think I was a bad person who hates the environment.

Charlie Barnes 01/24/2018 at 7:49 AM


Michael Grabow
Michael Grabow 01/24/2018 at 7:51 AM

“…are heat pumps the culprit?”

We normally keep ours set around 65, but dropped it a little lower when it was struggling to get above 58/59. There were a couple of mornings where we woke up with it at 54 and the auxiliary heat was on more than I’d ever seen it before. I was thankful the bill was only $175.

dontmincewords 01/24/2018 at 7:53 AM

I’m taking garlic, potassium, and magnesium to avoid a heart attack when my bill comes in.

Gale Bowles Giegerich 01/24/2018 at 7:57 AM

But remember. You were nice and warm.

L 01/24/2018 at 8:04 AM

Dominion also has a program that will average your bill over the course of the year and let you pay the average amount, or something similar. I don’t think you save any money (they reassess every year or so and credit/adjust as needed, I think), but it does sound like it might help folks on a tight budget stave off late fees

Queen of Church Hill 01/24/2018 at 9:09 AM

Dominion offers “budget billing” where they take the average of your last twelve months and you pay the same every month. The next year, they will adjust your bill accordingly. I’ve been doing it for years to avoid these high winter bills. Also, I have the benefit of knowing how much my electric bill will be every month. You can get an estimate on their website before signing up.

Erika Forsack
Erika Forsack 01/24/2018 at 9:16 AM

I’m having so much anxiety

MP 01/24/2018 at 9:49 AM

Also, if you don’t want crazy bills like that, you really have to tolerate some cold. Setting the thermostat at 62 keeps the bills from getting crazy. Wear lots of layers inside and get a heavy comforter for the bed. You will survive – it doesn’t need to be 72 degrees inside year round.

Marna Oh Marna
Marna Oh Marna 01/24/2018 at 9:59 AM

I’m screwed harder than a whore in port with extra condoms.

BAF 01/24/2018 at 11:43 AM

Your bill is entirely dependent on the difference between the outside temperature and the inside temperature. Costs more to get to interior 65 on 0 degree day than a 35 degree day same as it take less energy to boil water that was already warm than water that is near freezing. Either lower the thermostat when the difference between inside and outside temps grows or pay more. Just math and physics.

Victoria Lynn Davis 01/24/2018 at 11:58 AM

I almost bitched Dominion out. Ridiculous!!

Zapp Morris
Zapp Morris 01/25/2018 at 1:05 AM

What exactly does Dominion have to do with your power consumption?

ChimboPark 01/24/2018 at 12:08 PM

Electric was $150 with another $75 for gas.

Having a gas furnace on the first floor and heat pump on second is helping but even still they constantly run and struggle to heat up the house.

Iesha Adu-Darko
Iesha Adu-Darko 01/24/2018 at 12:14 PM

$488.21 with it set at 68 downstairs and 70 upstairs ?

Amba Swanson
Amba Swanson 01/24/2018 at 12:18 PM

Oh geez

Annonymous 01/24/2018 at 1:08 PM

You newbies to CH are cute. Thinking buying an old house would be as energy efficient as buying new. This is a downfall of living in our neighborhood, welcome! You have to make sure to budget for it for sure but don’t get sticker shocked and angry because of your winter energy bills. The character of buying a home built PRIOR to Heat Pumps existing means they are not energy efficient. As stated above Dominion does a great job of allowing the bills to be spread out monthly. Also don’t get mad at dominion for pricing that is set by the state corporation commission and goes completely off of usage. Cold winter? Higher bills. Gas HPs help but foam insulation helps more. Raising your thermostat by 3 degrees can increase your bill by 10% so throw some layers on or expect to pay the price.

Lindsay Beach Whitmore
Lindsay Beach Whitmore 01/24/2018 at 1:18 PM

Ours was $316?

Lindsay Beach Whitmore
Lindsay Beach Whitmore 01/24/2018 at 1:19 PM

Mary Catherine seems like this will be the norm until it warms up. ?

Casey Watson
Casey Watson 01/24/2018 at 11:39 PM

Mine wouldve been $423! Im on budget billing now where I pay the same each month thankfully….

Ashley Tucker 01/24/2018 at 2:46 PM

These are unfortunately typical electric bills in the winter (for me at least).

Joe Poston 01/24/2018 at 3:23 PM

Turned out to be "only" $295-ish. Not bad considering my Nest app seemed to think I was a bad person who hates the environment.

crd 01/24/2018 at 5:40 PM

@8 I too have used budget billing for years. It is convenient and I know how much it will be.

Mark 01/24/2018 at 7:11 PM

$37. All gas though

MJR 01/24/2018 at 7:36 PM

$401. Thermostat was set to 61. But downstairs our actual temperature hovered between 54 and 58 as the heat pump couldn’t keep up during the deep cold spell.

Aaron James Sawyer 01/24/2018 at 9:00 PM

Mines huge too

Danielle Griffing 01/24/2018 at 9:46 PM

I like the budget bill option – saves me from sticker shock when the weather spikes

Kamehameha Yancey
Kamehameha Yancey 01/24/2018 at 10:47 PM

but dont get hoodwinked!!! i sure did!!!

Danielle Griffing
Danielle Griffing 01/25/2018 at 5:14 AM

How so?

Lauren Lexa Crapanzano 01/24/2018 at 10:38 PM

We got the Nest learning thermostat. It’s been huge is saving us money this winter. I would definitely suggest it!

Joe Dunn 01/24/2018 at 10:43 PM

It is what it is. It was cold outside for a good while. Even though I set it to 68 the heat pump was working overtime, especially if you have two heat pumps. The bill going to be high and Dominion is at no fault

Kamehameha Yancey 01/24/2018 at 10:46 PM


Jacob C. 01/25/2018 at 3:36 AM

The one point I will make is that yes, many homes in Church Hill are very old, yes, that means they weren’t built with the same energy efficiency standards. However, there is work that can be done like encapsulating your crawl space, making sure your attic is insultated, making sure you have good windows or storm windows, that makes a HUGE difference. It’s also a good tip for future home buyers that those are things you should be looking for or plan on doing.

Kathi Sanders 01/25/2018 at 9:10 AM

Jacob is right in the recommendation. Have a professional check your insulation in your attic and crawl space. Unfortunately many of the renovations done in this area are not up to code. Don’t ask me how they pass inspections – our house did, but we had huge spots of missing insulation in our attic area and below grade insulation in the crawl space. We had more insulation installed in the crawl space and added a moisture barrier and insulation blown into the attic space. It made a big difference.

Natalie Smith
Natalie Smith 01/25/2018 at 9:40 AM

How about the water bill? After leaving the faucet open dripping water so the pipes won’t freeze? Have anybody received their bill? I’m always confused with the water bill, does everyone pays the same? Is it a set price or it varies? Thank you!

Church Hill People
Church Hill People's News 01/25/2018 at 11:53 AM

Good idea!

crd 01/25/2018 at 10:30 AM

@37 Code does not require you to insulate your house, it’s just common sense to do so.

ChimboPark 01/25/2018 at 11:32 AM

Also I’ve been using the Ecobee Thermostat which is similar to Nest. It helps to be able to drop the temp while we sleep and are away. Saved us almost $100 this month alone.

Church Hill People's News 01/25/2018 at 11:53 AM

Good idea!

JessOfRVA 01/25/2018 at 1:37 PM

Yeeaaah $156 for my tiny apartment. I suspect it’s going to be much worse next month.

L 01/26/2018 at 6:40 PM

@ CRD/38 and 36/Kathi Sanders – There are actually different codes for new construction and maintenance/rehabilitation. I think new construction has minimum insulation requirements, while there may not be any for a rehab OR it may depend on how much of the structure and which portions are replaced. I suspect a lot of rehabbers get away with not insulating and updating things by claiming that things like insulation were beyond the scope of their renovation work or finding other loopholes.

Marcus 01/27/2018 at 8:34 PM

My bill went up and I think Dominion is scamming everyone, my bill is usually around 70 bucks at most I am the only person living in my home.
I use oil to heat and gas for my hot water all LED light bulbs and energy star appliances.
All of a sudden my bill is around 200 bucks.
I called Dominion Energy and the associate told me that it’s normal for this time of year for a 3,000 square foot home to use this much energy, when I asked for someone to come out, they told me that they would check my meter and the report concluded that my meter was recording my usage … thanks Dominion I could tell you that.
I called the company and asked the company why the sudden increase, the associate told me that they could not tell me but told me according to the current reading my usage is down 30 watts from January and then used the example of a microwave clock as a source of major energy usage … I contacted CBS6 hopefully this will get some coverage.

When I first bought my home and was not living in it I would turn off the power from the breaker box and it would not be on for weeks and they were still charging me 60 bucks. I do not believe that they actually check the meters.

Kathi Sanders 01/28/2018 at 10:30 AM

#43/L – That may be but we hired a home inspector when we bought our house and paid him a substantial fee. I expected him to catch things like poor or missing insulation and bring it to our attention. Part of my complaint is that if you stuck your head in our attic, it looked fine. If you bothered to actually climb up and go in, you could see that there was not adequate insulation, just the appearance of insulation. It was an obvious attempt to deceive.

MJR 01/29/2018 at 8:14 AM

@45 – yeah, my home inspector flagged dozens of small things with windows and gfci outlets and such but was ignorant to the issues that will cost me tens of thousands of dollars for my crawlspace, attic and siding. Things that now that I better understand old houses and crawlspaces seem obvious and in plain view. They weren’t hidden. So I don’t see any excuse for an experienced inspector who looks at hundreds of homes each year not flagging them.

It is as if he intentionally wanted to compile a list of small repairs to make it look like he was doing his job but didn’t want to flag any major things that could possibly put the realtor’s commission in jeopardy…


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