CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — Many Charleston-area residents may have received last month’s electric bill and were shocked by the price.
Some bills more than doubled within the last month, and many power customers reached out to Count on 2 investigators for help.
Elisha Koivisto was one of them. She lives in a town home on James Island, but she’s originally from the North East.
Koivisto thought she was doing everything right to save energy during January’s winter storm and very low temperatures. She said the thermostat maintains 65 degrees, and she also closes the blinds and drapes to keep drafts away.
Still, her bill was much higher than normal. About $340 compared to around $170 the month before.
With two kids and a husband in medical school, Koivisto is unsure how she’ll pay the bill.
“It’s like a car payment. This is more than a car payment,” she said.
Social media posts show some bills upwards of $600-$800 dollars. Many of them, like Koivisto, are South Carolina Electric and Gas customers.
“We are coming off what is probably the coldest start to a new year for the Lowcountry in decades,” said Paul Fischer, Public Affairs Specialist with SCE&G.
Fischer explained heat pumps are likely what is causing the higher bills.
“A heat pump is very prevalent across the Lowcountry,” said Fischer. He said heat pumps are mainly used in warm weather climates.
“A heat pump is great for around 50 degree average temperatures,” he said.
Fischer said when the temperatures dip into the 40s and below, the heat pump switches into auxiliary or emergency heat mode. That makes it use 2 to 3 times more energy than normal.
“So, you’re looking at a double or triple in terms of energy usage which of course is going to double or triple that bill,” said Fischer.
Even if you left your thermostat on the recommended 68 degrees, that heat pump was likely still working in that intense mode for several days.
This is a look at how your bill is affected by the settings on your thermostat. Each degree above 68 degrees means your bill may be about 7 percent higher.
Other factors about your home also play a role in the winter bills, like your home’s age, heating system’s age, and the possibility of cracks in windows and doors.
Now, many are facing the harsh reality of not being able to pay the high bill. Fischer says you have options, but you need to call the customer service number on your bill, or 1 800 251 7234.
“We have a number of payment options available,” Fischer said. Customers also can defer payment to a later date or over a period of dates.
You can also schedule a Home Energy Check Up with SCE&G. This will help prepare your home for the next dramatic change in temperature.