Shoals customers suffer winter power bill sticker shock - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Shoals customers suffer winter power bill sticker shock

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Some customers report bills hundreds of dollars higher than normal after the cold snap. Some customers report bills hundreds of dollars higher than normal after the cold snap.

With the wave of brutal winter weather behind us, some folks in the Shoals are left wondering if the arctic temperatures or new meters are to blame for higher bills. Residents in Sheffield have seen a drastic increase in their utility bills to the tune of hundreds of dollars.

Tommy Burcham said he typically spends $200-300 per month, but this time his power bill topped $700.

Burcham has lived in the same Sheffield home for over a decade, and has never had a power bill this high. "What went wrong? Because I know I haven't been there; I'm gone during the day, my wife's gone during the day. The only thing that runs is the heater and they're on thermostat."

Last year, he said he replaced his gas heat with space-saver heaters that he keeps on 70 degrees.

"Got to checking, they put a new meter on," Burcham said. "I guess when they put the new meter on, they read it wrong, the meter is wrong, or there's something wrong with the new meters."

He talked to his neighbors, who also got new electric meters – all their bills went up, some by as much as $250.

Burcham said he's not sure what to do if the price of his utilities continues to rise.

Sheffield Utilities General Manager Steve Hargrove said bills for January went up across the board due to usage of approximately 46-48% higher rate. He said the higher bills have nothing to do with the meters themselves.

Hargrove said the plan to go with digital meters was already in place when the temperatures dropped to record lows. He said the new meters will be more efficient and eventually save money. "The new meters allow us to read them remotely on drive-by to save a lot of cost and from a safety standpoint," he said.

But, just how do you prevent your bill from reaching above average prices when the temperatures plummet?

"Just a couple of degrees' drop, from 68 to 66, could mean a difference in five to ten percent off the power bill," Hargrove said. "If a person sets their thermostat on 68 and the temperatures outside fall in the teens like they did, your units are going to run twice as much."

Hargrove said he understands the stress caused by higher bills. He encourages customers to contact their offices as soon as they can to talk about the help that's available.

For Burcham, he said after 14 years, a bill like this is unacceptable.

Sheffield Utilities customers can learn more about their options at their website. You can also learn more about assistance options from 211 Connects Alabama.

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    Wednesday, February 19 2014 4:41 PM EST2014-02-19 21:41:54 GMT
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