SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A handful of Sevier County Electric Systems customers are taking to social media to question why their bills are so much higher.
One Sevierville couple said their bill for the month of December is nearly $130 more than the month before, but that is something they say they experience every winter.
“It went from $245 to this month $363 and I haven’t done anything different, not a thing,” said Steven Olson of the bill he just got in the mail.
Olson said he’s even done some housework and improvements to try and solve the problem.
“I had new windows put in this place because they were drafty and that was three years ago,” Olson said. “The door, sliding door, is all brand new, updated, whatever level, and it hasn’t made an ounce of difference.”
Olson also said he also uses LED bulbs to help cut down on costs. All things he feels haven’t made the difference he is looking for.
“You get hit with an extra, like on this one, an extra $120 bucks,” he said. “On a fixed budget and everything, whether you are or aren’t, it’s still $120.”
Lucas Harkleroad, the Programs Administrator for Sevier County Electric Systems, explained why bills can be higher in the winter months compared to the summer months.
“It costs about 30% more on average to heat your home versus cool your home,” said Harkleroad. He also said some people’s bills may be higher in the winter because they are spending more time at home.
Harkleroad also said some people are dealing with a learning curve when they’ve added new equipment and appliances to their home throughout the pandemic, like the hot tub Olson added a year and a half ago.
“Your two big-ticket items that drive your energy bill; number one’s your heating and cooling, heat in this case,” he began. “Number two is your water heating.” He explained those two factors alone can represent about 60% of a person’s total consumption.
Olson felt that doesn’t add up in his case, asking what the reason would be for the annual winter months’ increase in the past, before his hot tub purchase.
“This time of the year, they usually jump about anywhere from $100 to $150 dollars,” said Olson of his bills in the winter.
Harkleroad said he wants SCES customers to know they’re there to help, explaining it benefits SCES too if the customers’ prices stay low.
“That actually benefits us and TVA because, during this time of year, when it’s extremely cold, that’s when the peak’s the highest for TVA and our system,” he explained.
Harkleroad said when customers call with questions about their bill, the first thing they will do is look at the customer’s billing history. He said after that they can look at their meters and usage while the customer is on the phone. He said they can also send out an inspector to help diagnose any problems at no cost.
Another option is a levelized billing system. One where customers can pay more throughout the year to offset the costs in the winter.
When asked about the power outages customers across Sevier County experienced at the beginning of the year due to winter weather. Harkleroad said customers will not be billed for the time the power was out at their homes.