LOCUST, N.C. — The angry voices of local mom’s reached the ears of Consumer Investigative Reporter Bill McGinty, who took concerns to Duke Power.
During a storm and in the days after, we can’t say enough good things about the speedy around-the-clock work done by the power company. But when you open a power bill and are shocked at the amount you owe, you might suddenly have a less favorable opinion.
"So our average price since moving in is about $260 to $290," Alexis Hughes said. "But each December and January we notice it spiking and fluctuations to $390 and as high as 491.”
Hughes and other moms in her neighborhood say they noticed power bills spiking with no explanation. They say they have reduced usage and become more energy efficient, but still see spikes.
"We’ve had energy audits done on our home and we seem to check out,” Hughes said.
McGinty took their bills to the power company, which is investigating the issue. At the same time, the power company showed McGinty how to track usage so you’re not surprised by a spike on your bill.
First, when comparing your bills, look at the left corner of the bill and compare the average kilowatt per day per year. Tracking the same day year to year and the same month year to year will give you a more accurate look of the power you use -- or an indication of a problem.
It’s a bad idea to just focus on the dollar amount owed.
"The dollar sign is going to reflect taxes, changes in the rate and it’s got fuel costs in it," a Duke spokesperson said.
You can also sign up and track power usage through an account. You can track by the hour each day where you’ll be able to see spikes -- like laundry time. Laundry time is actually the single biggest energy drain in your house.
Here’s how to track your usage: Log in your account at duke-energy.com. Once logged in, click on the menu. Then under usage and savings, click on your usage analysis. Customers with a smart meter can view their usage and compare the average temperature for the day, by billing cycle, week, day or even by the hour.
Duke Power offers these tips: Customers can identify energy consuming behaviors by checking their Daily Energy Usage online. Then take action:
- Energy efficiency is the simplest way to reduce usage. Reducing the thermostat temperature in the winter and increasing it in the summer can help significantly. The closer your indoor temp is to the outdoor temp, the less energy will be required to run your heating and cooling systems. Other smaller steps are helpful too, like using LED bulbs and leaving the blinds open on sunny days.
- You can sign up for a home energy audit. Duke Energy’s Home Energy House Call program is FREE for homeowners who live in single-family dwellings. This means no condos sharing walls with people can actually impact your energy usage too. If not properly insulated, your heat or air conditioning could be escaping through the walls, ceilings or floor.
- You can sign up for Usage Alerts to receive a text when you’ve used 50 percent of what you’ve budgeted for the month. Knowing you’re reaching your limit could help you modify usage behaviors inside your home.
- If you want more predictability, you can sign up for their Equal Payment Plan. It averages your bills over 11 months, and you pay that amount each month for 11 months, then settle up in the 12th month. You’ll either get a bill or credit for the difference of what you paid and actually used.
Back out in the neighborhood, moms are still skeptical. One mom says she is already watching the bottom line, and wants a good look at her meter.
Duke Energy did go out and investigate the meters to make sure they are working right. Typically there is a charge, but if they find the error on their part, the charge is waived.