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Nov 5, 2015 6:36 PM

NH1 News Investigates Power Problems: Fluctuating power bills costing Pelham family

PELHAM - Major power problems for one Pelham family.

Michelle Bedard and her family can't make heads or tails of what's happening with their electricity bill - saying one month it is high and another month it is shockingly low.

Bedard makes constant calls to Liberty Utilities. She’s called the Public Utilities Commission and has lawmakers involved.

But even with all that, Bedard still finds herself in limbo.

“I have tried everything I can possibly think of to make us as energy-efficient as possible,” Bedard said.

You can find Bedard outside her electric meter several times a day, even late at night.

She’s checking her meter and tracking how many kilowatts the family of eight has used.

The energy bills have been so high that the family has had to stop remodeling their house after they moved in.

Their power problems have been so bad they do not even use the second floor of the house anymore.

“There is nothing explaining a 1500 to 1600 kilowatt jump in one single month,” Bedard said.

So imagine Bedard’s surprise when her liberty utility bill, she says, started fluctuating wildly from month to month even though their daily routine, she claims, rarely changes.

We asked Bedard what it is in the house that her family is doing so differently from month to month.

Her answer? “Absolutely nothing.” Adding, “I expect there's going to be fluctuations.”

Bardard keeps logs of just about everything power-related with records dating back three years of every statement and her tracking results for every month from the last three years.

“We purchased an Energy Star dryer,” she said. And even with the energy-efficient dryer, washer, and refrigerator, it’s not helping.

So what’s partly to blame?

Bedard said it’s the electric meter installed in 2012.

“They installed a new meter on our home and that's when we saw our usage go up and up,” Bedard said.

John Shore, a spokesman for Liberty Utilities, says Bedard’s usage is very consistent, that they have tested her meter and it’s working properly and because of her high usage, they recommend she hire a professional energy auditor.

But for Bedard, that's simply not good enough.

“And I need answers,” she said. “Their billing is atrocious.”

This is the response from John Shore, a spokesman for Liberty Utilities, in its entirety:

Hi Paul,

We investigated Ms. Bedard’s account. Looking at her usage since 2012, she has high usage in winter and it goes down, but is still high in summer. Her usage has been very consistent since 2012. Upon her request, we conducted a test of her electric meter and determined that it is functioning properly.

Liberty Utilities purchased the NH assets of Nation Grid in July of 2012. From July of 2012 to July of 2014 National Grid continued to provide billing services for our customers. The bills during that time had the Liberty logo on them but they were provided by National Grid. In July of 2014 Liberty took over the billing. Ms. Bedard’s usage is very consistent under National Grid and throughout the transition to Liberty Utilities.

Some factors that affect electric usage are: Size of the home and number of occupants. There is a long list of individual factors that include types of lighting and how long it is being used. Electric dryers, electric water heaters, refrigerators, electric space heaters and de-humidifiers are typical high energy consuming appliances. The age and settings of the appliances affect consumption. Video gaming systems, televisions, computers, DVRs and other electronics can also consume a large amount of energy. In winter we typically use lights longer and tend to take longer showers, and do more indoor activities that involve electronics. If any of the above items are not functioning properly, it can also cause an increase in electricity consumption.

There are tools available that she can use to determine how much electricity her appliances are consuming. There is a device called a Kil-o-watt which can be plugged into a wall and the appliance is then plugged into the device. The device will give a read-out of what the appliance is consuming. Liberty has made this available at most local libraries in our service territory so customers can check these borrow for free. Otherwise they are available at home centers and hardware stores for between $20 and $40 dollars.

Because of her high usage, and the many factors that affect that usage we recommend she engage a professional energy auditor. We recommend that she apply for our Home Performance with Energy Star program. If she qualifies, she would be eligible for an energy audit by a professional that would assess her home and electric usage for $100. This type of audit would normally cost $450. And the $100 can go towards any measures taken that is recommended by the auditor. The program offers incentives for upgrading to energy efficient lighting, appliances, insulation and air sealing up to 50% of the cost of the measures up to $4,000.00. She can go to to see if she qualifies.

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