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In winter's cold, heat pump users see utility bills soar

Two snow storms plus 200 straight hours below freezing added up to an average temperature in Fayetteville in January of just 39.7 degrees, pushing home heating systems to their limits. Now, many customers of PWC are seeing their bills and wondering if the utility got its math right.

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By
Gilbert Baez
, WRAL reporter
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Two snowstorms plus 200 straight hours below freezing added up to an average temperature in Fayetteville in January of just 39.7 degrees, pushing home heating systems to their limits. Now, many customers of PWC are seeing their bills and wondering if the utility got its math right.

Carolyn Justice-Hinson, PWC spokeswoman, said heat pumps are to blame.

"They're great most of the time of the year, but if it gets below freezing, it is not an efficient type of heat. It has to work twice as hard to keep your home warm," she said.

Twice as much work can mean higher electric bills. Some PWC customers told WRAL News they saw bills for January of up to $600. Others said they paid double what they paid for the same time a year ago.

Clarence Briggs, CEO of Advance Internet Technology, was among those who complained Monday night to City Hall.

"I've seen people put last year's bill up, this year's bill up, compare the two, and basically, the kilowatt-hour usage is the same. The price per kilowatt hasn't changed, yet this year's bill is several hundred dollars higher. That's, it's mystifying to me," he said.

Briggs says PWC overcharged his business, and that he's also monitored thousands of online complaints from Fayetteville residents with similar concerns.

PWC admitted to overcharging Briggs by about $145 for the four meters used to run his business on Ray Avenue. However, Justice-Hinson insists other bills are accurate.

"PWC bills are not wrong. Everyone has been billed accurately," she said.

She added that customers who think their bills are is wrong can contact PWC customer service at customer.service@faypwc.com or 910-483-1382 for a review.

The Salvation Army, which works with PWC to provide electricity assistance, said customers of Duke Energy and Lumbee River and South River electric membership corporations are also paying more.

Salvation Army records show the average utility bill in October and November was between $150 and $250. That number jumped to between $300 and $400 for December and January.

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