Duke customer says his bills are way up after installation of smart meter

Ted Chavarria shows the install by Duke of new smart meters on his home, he's been told aren't communicating with Duke. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Ted Chavarria is afraid of the next bill coming from Duke Energy.

“By the time it's said and done, this bill may be $1,500 or $2,000,” said Charvarria. “They’re not going to give me any help.”

He said last fall Duke installed a new smart meter on his main home and one on a small one-bedroom home he also owns. The words “Not Sync” and “Not Reg” are flashing on both meters. Chavarria has no idea what the words mean, but he said a Duke customer representative told him the smart meters are not communicating with Duke.

Chavarria received a bill for $720 over a 90-day cycle billing period, according to the statement. He said he also paid bills during the fall, but that no bills came in October and November from Duke. He assumed the 90-day bill included the two months he didn’t receive a bill. But he said the billing is much higher than prior to the installation of the smart meter.

Duke spokeswoman Meghan Musgrave-Miles said the power company is looking into why the meter reader did not make it to the house in October and November, but she said the meters are accurately reading power usage for customers. She said, however, in Charvarria’s case, the meter is not communicating the usage to the main office and the network has to be further set up with other homes in his rural community in Polk County before the smart meters will send usage without someone from Duke coming to check it each month.

Chavarria said his bill for the one-bedroom house is way up compared to years and months past. The statement stated last year the cost per day for that house was $3.78 and this year it’s $12.89. He said bills for that unit typically ran around $130 a month.

“You tell me a one-bedroom house that's less than 700-square-feet that has been that same average price for the last 15 years has all of a sudden gained $300 a month. And this is their new smart meter reading this stuff?”

Chavarria said the communication by Duke and it’s customer service has been poor and no one has clarified what has been going on with his situation. It’s why he called News 13 for help.

“They said the only thing is they’re (smart meter) is not transponding. I said, 'Would that not constitute a problem with your meter?' 'Well, yes,' she said. I said, 'How about coming and checking again.' She said, 'Well it'll cost you $40.'”

“We recognize this experience caused frustration for the customer, and we are reaching out to them to discuss appropriate payment options and we apologize for the inconvenience,” said Musgrave-Miles. "The customer was told they would incur a $40 fee for a meter test because we had completed a meter test the previous month, but we will waive the fee. The technician left a door hanger for the customer on Jan. 10 indicating the meter test produced an accurate read. We have a stringent testing process for smart meters, and testing typically increases seasonally – per customer request - when energy usage spikes due to extreme low or high temperatures. Since smart meter testing has been implemented, we have not found any issues."

The Duke spokeswoman also said bills are significantly higher this winter compared to last because of the frigid weather.

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