Duke Energy customer sees her monthly bill reach $600, for 800-square-foot home

Duke Energy customer sees her monthly bill reach $600, for 800-square-foot home
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 4:16 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Southeastern North Carolina summers can be brutal, with temperatures climbing into the 90s and above, air conditioning becomes a must for homeowners and renters --- and as air conditioning units work harder, power bills are going to go up.

But for Whitley Hill, her power bills have been steadily climbing for almost a year, reaching more than $600, which is more than twice the amount of her previous bills.

Hill and her family live in a smaller, double-wide, mobile home, and after living there for five years, she knows about how much energy she uses, and how much her bills will cost every month.

“I live in a tiny, less than 800-square-foot trailer with my five kids. There’s just no way. They had an electrician come out here when our ends, there’s nothing wrong with anything, any of the wiring anything. We got, I had to take a loan out because we were going to be disconnected. So now my credits on the line, I took a loan out paid them $2,000, and ever since I paid that $2,000 down, also this bill is even higher,” Hill said.

According to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hill’s monthly electricity usage is almost half of the average residential energy usage --- every year.

“In 2020, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,715 kilowatt-hours (kWh), an average of about 893 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual electricity consumption at 14,407 kWh per residential customer, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,446 kWh per residential customer,” according to the EIA.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks couldn’t speak to specifics about Hill’s situation, but he also confirmed the average residential power bill isn’t nearly as high as what she’s seeing.

“On average, a benchmark for about a 2,000-square-foot home would be about 1,100 to 1,200 kilowatt hours per month. That’s a typical, average home, but of course, you can have bigger homes that use the same amount because they’re highly efficient, or smaller homes that are very inefficient, that may use significantly more,” Brooks said.

There are many factors that go into power bills, and in the summer, cooling your home is most likely the biggest use of energy.

“When the temperature outside is 78, and you set it for 74, it doesn’t take much to keep the house comfortable and cool. But when the temperature is 90, 95, 100, like we’re going to see this week, getting that temperature down into the 70s takes a lot of work from your air conditioning unit. And that’s going to be the primary culprit in driving up your your energy costs, especially if your home is not well insulated, or you have a lot of leaking around doors and windows,” he said.

Still, even in a mobile home that might not be efficiently insulated, the bills seem unusual, especially considering Hill’s neighbors are not seeing the same spike. Paying $250 a month for power isn’t unusual for Hill in the summer, she said, but the doubling of her bills is taking a major toll on her family.

“I’m a month behind on my rent because my landlord said, Look, just get them paid … so you don’t get disconnected … He’s even been there for me, it’s that bad, every dime that comes in our house is going to do electric,” she said.

It’s to the point that the stress of the bills are now taking a toll on her physically.

“I have five children, and it’s killing me. It’s taking from them, it’s taking from us. We wanted to buy a home, we can’t buy a home because now I have a $2,000 loan open and a hard inquiry on my credit. I wake up, I can’t sleep, it’s making me sick. I pay my bills on time. It’s making me literally sick … I have friends who live in huge houses with inground pools and hot tubs and their bills are not even close,” she said.

For now, until she figures out what the source of the excess power is, she’s stuck with the bills, and says she just wants her payments to go back to normal.

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