Ken Clark

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Warm Winter Saves Money

March 18, 2014; 1:37 PM ET

Over a large portion of the central and eastern U.S., people have been shelling out a lot more money than usual this winter for heating. This has been straining peoples' budgets. In the Southwest, and specifically California, the complete opposite has been the case.

The lack of rain and snow has been well documented in California this winter. Less talked about is how warm this winter has been. While the drought could cause people to pay more for water, produce and meat in the future, the warm winter has allowed a savings for most.

We can calculate how warm the weather has been by looking at what is called heating degree days. Heating degree days (HDD) is defined as the number of degrees the average temperature is below 65 F, the temperature at which buildings need to be heated. For instance, if the average temperature for today was 55 F, the HDD today would be 10.

The chart below shows the amount of HDD for various cities in California as calculated from July 1 to March 17. Column one is the actual HDD to date, the second column is the number of normal HDD to date, and the third column is the percent of normal HDD.

Take Downtown Los Angeles. The HDD to date is 506 but normal is 864. That calculates to only 57 percent of what is normal. Therefore if you usually spend $1,000 to heat your house over this period of time you would have only spent $570 this year, a savings of $430. And your savings could be greater, (or less) depending on what you usually set your thermostat.

The numbers above show huge savings for much of central and Southern California from the Central Coast to the San Joaquin Valley on south, with less savings from the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley. There have been several instances in Southern California where you might have had to put the air conditioner on, like this past weekend, it got so warm this winter.

This winter has certainly brought a lot of negatives to California, but the one bright note has been the warm weather.

As a side note, the weather the rest of this week will see little excitement. No rain is expected through the weekend in California, at least from storms or cold fronts. A deepening marine layer Friday and Saturday could cause areas of drizzle in southwestern California Friday night and Saturday morning. In the Northwest, some rain and snow will likely be tomorrow into Thursday, but nothing huge is likely, just lower-than-normal snow levels in the Cascades and east of the Cascades.

I am off for a little mini-vacation after Wednesday then will be back next Monday.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Kenwxman

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Ken Clark
Ken Clark's Western U.S. weather blog tackles daily weather events with commentary from one of the most experienced and trusted Western U.S. weather experts.