Bill Skills: Understanding your power bill

Bill Skills: Understanding your power bill

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Electric bills can be one of the biggest bills you get in a month an tend to be even higher in the heat of summer. We're delving into your power bill to make sure you understand your charges and are getting the most for your money.

"Especially as we enter the hotter and colder months of the year, we often get calls from our customers wondering why their bills are so high," Duke Energy Spokesperson Meredith Archie said of seasonal complaints.

She said customers sometimes don't understand why their bills spike, even though they haven't adjusted the temperature on their thermostat.

"Heating and cooling systems are often one of the main culprits for energy usage in our homes, so if you think about it you are working harder to keep your house the same temperature," Archie explained, encouraging customers to close their blinds in the heat of the day, regularly change their air filters, and run fans in their home to keep temperatures cool for less money. Running the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer at night when temperatures are cooler can also help you save.

Archie said Duke Energy offers customers free energy audits to help them pinpoint what is running up their power bill. They even provide a complimentary starter kit with weather stripping, LED light bulbs, and low flow shower heads to give consumers a jump start on conserving energy and money.

While HVAC systems, refrigerators and water heaters are more obvious energy hogs, there may be other "energy vampires" sucking energy in your homes you haven't even thought about.

"If you leave an appliance plugged in and you are not using it, it is still requiring energy. So we often encourage customers to unplug the things you are not using so you can save and conserve energy," Archie said.

Duke Energy suggests that if you experience a sudden spike in your energy bill, look at your power usage the same month from the previous year to get a relevant basis for comparison.

Also, consider the number of days in the billing cycle, since longer billing cycles may result in a higher bill even though average daily energy use is relatively flat.

While uncommon, Duke Energy says that a faulty meter can sometimes lead to billing errors, so that is worth asking about if you think you've been overbilled.

If you are having trouble managing monthly fluctuations in your bill, you can ask for an equal payment plan to keep your electric bill steady throughout the year. You'll pay a little more in the milder months, but not as much in the winter and summer.

Duke Energy plans to install smart meters in the Wilmington area in the summer of 2019. They allow customers to monitor energy use by the hour, which could help you determine if you are using excessive amounts of energy at certain times of the day.

While some customers may complain about power rates, those charges are regulated by the North Carolina Utility Commission. The commission oversees everything from the Basic Customer Charge, which covers the cost of billing and maintaining your electric meter, to the Fuel Rate, which covers the cost of fuel to run the power plant, to the REPS charge for expanding the use of solar and renewable energy in North Carolina.

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