The meter's running

While many people understand that fiddling with the thermostat can alter their Water, Gas & Light bill, they may be surprised to know that there are other, less common factors that determine that number at the end of their statement

/ Colby Gallagher

While many people understand that the more severe weather can alter their Water, Gas & Light bill, they may be surprised to know that the mild seasons can too.

"We've built in 5% to increase our revenue by 5% over the next fiscal year, but that is very dependent on weather. Our revenues swing very high, up and down, due to the kind of weather that we're having," said WG&L Finance Director John Vansant III.

If WG&L doesn't bring in enough monthly revenue, that 5% increase will be added on to recover the difference over the next twelve months, and that's not the only way weather can drain your account.

The average monthly temperature and where you have your thermostat can also decide what number you'll see at the bottom of your bill. For example, if an air conditioner has been set to 75 all May and June, the bill can still rise dramatically over the course of one month because the numbers outside went up.

"If it's 90 degrees outside and the humidity is 100%, the heat index is going to be higher so it's going to work harder and run longer to keep it at 78 inside," said Customer Relations and Marketing Assistant Mari Wright.

However, customers aren't the only ones feeling the bills piling up. WG&L officials say they, too have felt the pain in the pocket.

"Our electricity has gone up over the last three or four years over $20 million dollars a year so you're looking at almost a 30% increase in the cost that we have to pay for the electricity," said Vansant.

Stricter environmental standards have cost the nuclear, coal and gas fire plants Water Gas and Light receives their services from, causing a trickledown effect. Though increases have been frequent during the tough economy, officials say there are steps they've built into their bill to help people make sure the spike can't be attributed to something else.

"You could look at your bill from June and say, 'Why did my water bill go up? Why is it so much higher?' and you look at your May bill and you used more water. Well, if you're not watering your grass, you know that you didn't do anything unusual, maybe you've got a leak," said Wright.

WG&L employees say the graph on every bill is put there to help familiarize customers with their usage pattern. If a particular month is off, that could point to a thermostat issue or leak.

In order to make sure your bill doesn't rise as quickly as the temperatures outside, keep a close eye on the numbers and a tight grip on the switch.

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