January’s bitter cold is heating up many Gastonia residents’ utility bills. Residential customers’ bills have increased an average of 8.4 percent compared with January 2017, and City officials say bills for some all-electric homes are double what they were in November or December.
“Some customers are surprised by their latest bills and tell us they didn’t change anything about their electric use in the past month,” says City Customer Service Manager Chuck Davis. “But their heat probably ran a lot more, so they used more electricity.”
According to ElectriCities of North Carolina, Gastonia’s average temperatures through January 17 were 32 percent colder than the same period in January of last year. All-electric homes are likely to see the biggest bill increases. But electricity also powers furnace fans in homes and businesses that use other types of heat. Davis notes that utility bills are affected by the building’s amount of insulation, the energy efficiency of the heating system, the thermostat setting and the customer’s use of space heaters.
The City does provide payment options for customers who want to pay their bills but didn’t budget for January’s cold snap. Susan Kluttz, Gastonia’s revenue administrator, says it’s important for customers to act quickly. “Anyone concerned about paying their bills should contact Customer Service prior to the due date on their bill,” Kluttz says. “After an account has been disconnected for non-payment, options for customers are more limited and more complicated.”
The City also can refer customers to other government and nonprofit organizations that offer assistance with utility bills.
The City of Gastonia owns and operates its own municipal electric system. Customers with utility bill questions should call 704-866-6714 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Gastonia customer service representatives currently are taking hundreds of calls each day, and Davis says the number of customers calling about high utility bills has increased in the past week.
Two Rivers Utilities says customers who let faucets drip to avoid frozen pipes should not see a significant impact on their water bills. But customers whose water pipes burst because of the cold may see much bigger bills. Kluttz says the City has a leak adjustment policy that may adjust some charges after the customer submits proof that their pipes have been repaired.
Customers who are registered for Gastonia’s Online Customer Service can view their bill amounts and see their consumption history for the past 13 months, which can show trends and help customers see if their electricity use correlates to cold weather in late December and early January.