Electric bill seem too high? Here’s how to find out — and what to do

High electric bill? A cold winter may be to blame. Or a bad meter reading. Or a recent rate increase. You can check your meter or contact City Light.

Some Seattle City Light customers have been zapped with higher-than-normal electric bills, and many customers have been calling in with concerns, the utility says.

Rate increases and chilly weather have contributed to the recent sticker shock, while estimated and erroneous meter readings can always result in bloated bills.

This winter was Seattle’s coldest in more than 30 years, with 56 unusually cold days between December and February, according to the National Weather Service.

“That has a big impact on energy use by a lot of customers — 20 to 25 percent of our customers have electricity as the primary heat source for their homes,” said City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen. “When you go from some fairly mild winters into a sustained cold period, you push customers into significantly higher consumption.”

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Some customers may have used as much as 40 percent more energy to heat their homes this winter, compared with last winter, Thomsen said. Cold weather has the greatest impact on energy use by customers with poorly insulated homes, he said.

“There are a number of folks we’ve heard from (with large bills) where it’s just the cost of the electricity they’re using because it’s been much colder,” Thomsen said.

All City Light customers are paying at least slightly more for electricity this year because the utility’s rates increased 5 percent in January. The bump is part of the agency’s five-year strategic planthat was approved last year by the City Council.

In addition, City Light is currently using a 1.5 percent surcharge to replenish its $100 million rate-stabilization reserve account. The surcharge took effect last August.

At any time, estimated readings can lead to larger-than-normal bills. When…

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