LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - This time of year, opening your monthly utility bill can be a frightening experience. One family in Prospect really got a scare when they claim their bill nearly doubled from December to January.
Gregory and Ashley Higgs initially called WAVE 3's Dawne Gee for help because they were positive the utility was at fault and they knew WAVE would go after them if something was shady. Ashley even asked if LG&E could control their meter because she felt like the high bill had to be some kind of rip off. After all, the Higgs had taken a lot of extraordinary measures to try and cut their heating bill down to size before calling Gee.
They closed off several rooms in the house they weren't using, sealed off their poorly insulated great room with vaulted ceilings, they turned off an inefficient furnace and bought a free standing wood burning stove. They even taped up their windows with plastic but there were still problems.
So we decided to investigate.
We called LG&E and requested an Energy Audit. LG&E officials walked through the house to see what the Higgs had already done to save energy and they were impressed.
"Now they've gone to the first level of energy efficiency on their own which is great," Keeling said. "That's what we're asking customers to do: look through your own house. Think about it. You know your own house better than anybody else. And try to do some things that will help your bill."
Although Ashley and Gregory had worked hard to save energy, the Energy Auditor found a number of problems that also could wreak havoc in your home.
Their windows were sealed up but not locked. This allowed a little bit of cold air to come through the window. Recessed lighting that is not insulated can be another energy loser. Cold air will spill in directly from the attic, causing your gas and light bill to go up.
If you have an attic fan, you have to block the vent off during the cold months or all that cold air will pour into the home, again running up your energy bill. Many attic fans are above the thermostat.
Energy Auditor Darryl Schulenburg says that can cause problems.
"You have cold air coming right down on to the thermostat," Schulenburg said. "It's going to influence that a great deal. It's also going to influence your bill. It's not the best place for it. "
The energy auditors also looked at the Higgs' unfinished, un-insulated basement.
Keeling informed the Higgs and the rest of us that basements can be a " If your pipes aren't insulated in the basement, you don't heat that basement or the vents that carry warm air in the basement and they're not insulated, then you're going to have heat escape and your going to be wasting it."
One more quick tip form the Energy Auditor, put your water heater on a timer.
Now that the Higgs know what else needs to be done, they can take more steps to save money. And now the Higgs no longer blame the higher bills on LG&E.
"LG&E wasn't out to get us," Gregory said. "We were getting ourselves but it's good to know that."
LG&E put the Higgs on the budget payment plan which spreads your winter heating cost over a 12 month period and levels out your monthly energy bills. That way it's easier to factor your energy cost into your budget.
You can sign up for that by completing a form on your utility bill or by going online. To schedule an energy audit of your own, call 1-800-356-5467. The cost of the audit is $25.