With January heating bills showing up in mailboxes soon, East Tennesseans may want to prepare themselves for an unpleasant surprise.
In Oak Ridge, City Electric Director Jack Suggs says bills for those residents who use electric sources like heat pumps could jump 30 to 40 percent from their December bills. And December bills were substantially higher than November’s. “People do need to be bracing themselves a little bit for sticker shock,” Suggs tells WUOT News, “and they need to be thinking about putting a little extra aside.”
For some residents, it means more than saving a little extra money. “There are members of our community who are going to have a tough time meeting these bills,” says Suggs. “They need help to deal with these extreme costs.”
Suggs says the city can’t simply give electricity away to families that struggle, but it does participate in a cooperative program to help them out. Project Safe (Special Assistance Fund for Energy) allows more fortunate consumers to add to their own bills, with the extra money going to Aid To Distressed Families of Anderson County. “Nobody wants our neighbors to be in the cold and dark,” he says.
Suggs suggests homeowners can reduce their heating bills by making small changes. For instance, he recommends sealing windows and doors, keeping the inside temperature at a reasonable level and limiting use of electric space heaters. “We don’t want people sitting at home freezing to death or having their pipes burst, that’s ridiculous,” Suggs says, “but if they can do sensible things, they can help themselves.”
According to the National Weather Service, average overnight lows for January in Knoxville are more than seven degrees colder than the historic average for the month.