2 stretches of freezing temps in Knoxville to blame for big spike in utility bills

Local News

Two snaps of frigid weather are causing a lot of homeowners in East Tennessee to take a second look at their utility bills. The Knoxville Utilities Board says when comparing bills from December 2017 to a customer’s most recent bill in 2018, they will see a spike anywhere between 36 to 58 percent.

KUB says it has to do with several days of temperatures never rising above freezing. While many homeowners understand the frigid air means their heating system is working harder, some are wondering what’s going on and what help is available.

“I was about to be in tears because I’ve never seen an electric bill that high,” said Kathryn Prestano.

This month’s bill is $248 and last month she says it was just over $111.

“How do you budget that on top of your normal expenses?” she asked.

KUB says usage is up across the system, whether customers use gas or electric to heat their homes, because of two cold snaps. The first happened around Christmas and then another in mid-January.

“Some of our customers may see one of those cold snaps on their bill, one might be one and a half, and some customers might see both of those cold snaps on the same bill,” said Stephanie Midgett with KUB.

KUB says HVAC systems do not run efficiently in subfreezing temps. Midgett adds that bills and usage are not estimated; meter readers are out collecting data. 

“There’s not a special rate in place just because it’s cold. The rate remains the same as it was in the fall,” she said.

Right now many families are turning to the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee for energy assistance in programs like LIHEAP.

“It’s based on family size, income, and some other factors, and our benefit amounts are based on those factors,” said Cecelia Waters, director of energy and community services at CAC.

She says those who don’t fit into those guidelines can use Project Help as another resource, though it’s best for families to call 211 to find the right option.

“That’s why we’re here. That’s why we have intake five days a week, that we’re seeing a max of 50 a day so that we’re able to serve those who have a need,” added Waters.

KUB stresses that everyone’s bill is different and where you live plays a big part. They ask you give them a call to talk about your options so they can point you to the right agencies in your county to approach for help. KUB adds they can work on plans for levelized billing.

There are a few things homeowners can do now to make their homes energy efficient, as a way to cut down on the next bill:

  • Keeping your thermostat at 68
  • Check for leaks around windows and doors
  • Turn the setting down on your hot water heater

If you’d like to reach out to the CAC for more information about LIHEAP or Project Help, you can call  (865) 637-6700 or visit their website by clicking here.

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