What’s behind the spike in Hoosier utility bills?

"We’re all in the same boat"
Posted at 7:26 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 11:56:13-05

INDIANAPOLIS – Many people around Central Indiana say they are in shock after seeing their utility bills spike in the month of January. Some even say they did not use any more energy than they did in previous months.

“This has to be wrong,” Pamela Ferguson said. She is a Duke Energy customer and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Bloomington. “This apartment is so small, I can sit here right on my couch and see the whole thing,” she said.

Ferguson added January’s bill was the highest bill she has seen in the five years living in her senior community. A bill, she normally said is a $40-$60 bill is now up to $100. “I can pay it because I’m getting energy assistance, but my energy assistance is almost gone. I live on $1,161 a month disability,” Ferguson said.

IPL customer Jennifer Hooper added, “I’m like oh look it’s going to cut down because Christmas is over and then I see this and I’m like what is going on.” Hooper lives in a two bedroom, 900 square foot apartment on the Southside of Indianapolis. Her bill last month was $122, which is an increase from her typical $70-$80.

The single mother who works part time while also going to school said Tuesday she wants answers. “So it’s like how am I gonna get it? How am I gonna pay it?” Hooper questioned about her bill.

These women aren’t alone. Hundreds share in the same concern detailed through comments on this post on the WRTV Facebook page. It is important to note it is not entirely clear which energy company these folks have, but the sentiment remains the same.

“It’s just kind of sad we’re all in the same boat and we don’t have answers,” Hooper said.

Lew Middleton with Duke Energy said the “single biggest factor” for higher bills is the weather. “It happens in the winter, it happens when we have hot summers, as well. It just sort of takes people by surprise every year,” Middleton said.

He also said other factors include a differing number of days in a billing cycle and the new normal of working from home during the pandemic. As for payment, Middleton said it is still due. However, he urges anyone with questions to reach out to Duke Energy’s customer service line.

“I can also tell you that we have a number of programs available to customers to help them make the number of payments a little bit easier.”

Duke Energy released this list of ideas to help save money on energy bills:

  • Reduce your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting. If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specifically designed for use with heat pumps.
  • Leave drapes or blinds open during sunny winter days to allow the sun to warm the house. Close them at night to help insulate your home.
  • Have the heating and air conditioning system checked regularly to maintain performance. Duke Energy offers qualified customers rebates to help offset the cost of replacing older HVAC units with more energy-efficient ones.
  • Replace standard incandescent bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LED). LEDs are more efficient while giving off the same amount of light.
  • Operate ceiling fans in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room.
  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees to help you reduce your monthly water heating bills.

Brandi Davis-Handy with IPL released this statement:

Weather is the biggest reason a customer’s bill fluctuates from month-to-month.​ About 47% of energy usage in the winter comes from heating your home.

  • 23% of usage is from water heating/usage (electric)
  • 21% from appliances
  • 9% from lighting

In addition, this winter more people are working and learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors combined can cause a rise in bills.
IPL customers are encouraged to:

  • Program or reduce your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when home. Remember, the lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss.
  • Change your air filter regularly. Changing air filters regularly is one of the easiest things you can do to support heating efficiency throughout your home.
  • Let the sunshine do the work. Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home.
  • Sign up for Budget Billing. When the weather is unpredictably high or low, your IPL bill doesn’t have to be. This billing option establishes more predictable payments throughout the year.

Customers having trouble making payments should contact IPL to enroll in an extended payment plan by visiting or by calling 317.261.8222.