Customers question soaring power bills

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) - Soaring power bills are sending customers into a frenzy. A lot of you have reached out to 7News and said you can't understand such drastic increases.

Elizabeth Marcellino was one of those people. She owns Liz's Income Tax Service in Woodruff. "Everybody is either on a fixed income or single parents and they're like we've got to hurry up and get our refunds back to pay our power bills so they won't get cut off," she said. "I've got a friend - their bill doubled. I have another friend - their bills went from $700 to over $1,000." Marcellino uses Duke Energy. She said her bill for December 20th to January 23rd is just under $352."My normal bill is $170 to $175," she said. "Even during the major tax season when we have all the heaters running, extra heaters running or we might have an air conditioning running plus all of our computers and TV's - we're having a lot more usage. My bill was only $227."Duke Energy tells 7News the cold weather is a major reason for higher bills. "January had some very cold stretches and we saw extremely high usage during these times," Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said in a statement. "During extreme cold spells, some customers will use portable electric heaters to help keep their bills lower. While they are good if you need supplemental heating, they are energy hogs, and, if left on 24/7 they can increase your bill by $100 EACH."Other Upstate utility customers have also contacted 7News with complaints about higher bills. "We have been receiving calls from folks who are experiencing large utility bills and that's to be expected," said David Hammond with Laurens Electric Cooperative. "A lot of people just don't understand how hard their unit has worked during this cold weather."Hammond said his own bill spiked, too.     "When you have 16 days of extremely cold weather, a lot of the heating and cooling systems - mine did the same thing, I could hear it at night - it's like it would never stop. It would just run and run and run," Hammond said. "I've lived in the same home for probably 15 or 20 years and I just had probably the highest utility bill I've experienced there."He says people need to take steps to save on energy costs like opening blinds during the day or lowering their thermostat. "The more efficient your home is, the less of a hit it will be for you with the cold weather," said Hammond, who added that the heating/cooling system accounts for 50 percent or more of a power bill. "A house that is tighter will keep in more hot air and keep it from going outside. You can take a flashlight when it's dark outside and go around windows, look for cracks in the house. If you're comfortable going underneath your own home, check your duct work. A lot of stuff is common sense, but we think about it now when we get high electric bills."Visit for more energy saving tips from Laurens Electric Cooperative. Here are energy efficiency tips from Duke Energy:
  • Reduce your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when home, and bump the thermostat down a degree or two when leaving home.
  • Operate ceiling fans in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room.
  • One of the easiest things customers can do to support heating efficiency is to change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Have the HVAC system checked regularly by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor to maintain efficiency and peak performance. Duke Energy offers qualified customers rebates to help offset the cost of replacing older HVAC units with more energy efficient ones.
  • Leave drapes or blinds open during sunny winter days to allow the sun's rays to warm the house, but close them at night to help insulate your home.
  • Replace standard bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs or light emitting diodes (LED). CFLs and LEDs are more efficient than regular bulbs, while giving off the same amount of light.
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