Customers can take action to reduce heating bills, utilities in Kentucky say

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comFebruary 17, 2014 

An air-corditioning unit was covered in ice outside a town home.

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Even with the extreme weather the region has seen this winter, some Kentucky Utilities customers are sure their high electric bills must be wrong.

They're not.

KU spokesman Cliff Feltham said monthly consumption of electricity in January was the most in company history for any winter and the third-highest overall, behind months in the summers of 2007 and 2010.

After customers open those unusually high bills, they need to take a breath and take some action, utility officials say.

Feltham and Columbia Gas spokeswoman Lisa Smith said the worst thing a customer can do is ignore the bill.

"People think it is just going to go away, and it is not going to go away," Feltham said. "It's easy to feel powerless."

Said Smith: "If somebody does get a very large bill, the sooner they can call us, the better. Don't just not pay it."

KU and Columbia Gas will work to see whether payments can be made in installments or try to connect costumers with heating-assistance programs.

Consideration is given to customers who have medical needs that require electricity, such as oxygen tanks.

"As long as you work with us," Feltham said, "we will work with you."

Miller said there is no company standard — such as you can't turn off someone's heat if the average temperature falls below zero — but Columbia Gas would make every effort to keep the heat on in someone's home.

"It is taken on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Although it won't help with a large bill now, KU and Columbia Gas offer budget plans that allow customers to pay an average amount each month to avoid the highs and lows that come with extreme temperature swings.

They also offer conservation programs to help reduce consumption.

To learn more about those programs, go to LGE-KU.com/ee/default.asp or to ColumbiaGasKy.com and click on "Ways to Save."

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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