KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some utility companies in East Tennessee estimate customer power usage. It's done several times a year and it's written on the bill.
However, Knoxville Utilities Board customer Jamie Byrum called 6 On Your Side because her estimated usage soared seven times higher than her previous bill.
Jamie and her husband are just getting by financially and they were worried. She wanted to know how her estimated bill could be so high when she keeps the temperature in her home so low?
Jamie says she and her husband conserve as much electricity as possible in the mobile home they have rented since their marriage last summer.
The temperature was 62 degrees in the trailer on the day 6 On Your Side visited. It was about 55 degrees outside.
Jamie used duct-taped plastic to cover an exhaust fan and keep cold air out. "We stuck this up so the heat would stay in here, so it's colder in the back rooms," she explained.
When it was really cold outside, she and her husband bundled up with a blanket while watching TV.
They've done everything they can think of to keep their power bill from soaring.
For the first five months, KUB bills reflected their efforts. "In November, it was $61.16," Jamie said. "Then in January, it was $86.63."
But their latest bill was a whooper. "In February it jumped up to $738.13. I about had a heart attack. I had to look at it and make sure it was in my name," Jamie said.
She immediately called KUB's customer service number. "They do estimates. When they did the estimate, it jumped up that much."
KUB estimates each customer's electric bill twice a year. No one comes out and reads the meter. It's a practice the company has done for years. It's meant to save utility companies money.
However, the Byrums were unable to pay their bill so they received a final notice last week. The total had gone up to $955.
The notice said KUB would turn off the couple's power on the 28th of the month if they didn't pay the bill.
KUB service advisor Dennis Bernard got involved, checking the young couple's bill. He says that as scheduled, the meter was estimated in December. But it was estimated again in January because it snowed the day a meter reader was supposed to check the meter.
"So due to weather conditions, they did a projection too, based on the prior months," Bernard said. "Then in February when we went back out to read it, that's when it caught up."
As Bernard explained, the couple's December and January bills of $61.16 and $86.63 respectively were projected numbers.
"We had no history for them at this location to establish it by," Byrum added. That means the latest bill is the catch up for the two previous projected months.
Since the visit by 6 On Your Side, KUB has talked with Jamie and her husband. The utility is going to help.
"Whatever it takes, we're not out to bankrupt anybody or starve anybody or have them do without. We're going to work with this family and get them straightened out," Bernard said.
Utility companies do not estimate customer bills two months in a row. KUB made an exception with the Byrum's bill so the utility is willing to work with the couple.
If you have a consumer issue call our 6 On Your Side Hotline at (865) 633-5974.