MOUNT VERNON — For those consumers not on a budget payment plan, the bills for electrical service can — and do – fluctuate from month to month. The fluctuation can sometimes be considerable, especially if, in one of the months, usage was estimated by the power company rather than determined by an actual reading of the electric meter.
American Electric Power estimates usage about every other month. Carmen Prati-Miller, of AEP Ohio Corporate Communications, said bills are estimated for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons, she said, are lack of access due to a locked, fenced area, dogs in the yard, inclement weather (mostly in the winter) or vacations.
“Obviously,” she added, “many meters were estimated the past two weeks due to all available personnel working storm restoration.”
As Sumner said, electric bills are estimated based on customer usage history (if available) at their particular address. Prati-Miller said a combination of usage from the prior month, same month last year and a yearly average are used to come up with a monthly estimate.
If the estimate is under or over actual usage, the billing difference is made up the next time an actual reading is obtained. For example, a meter that was estimated too high one month will read lower than normal the following month.
Customers do have the option of reading their own meters and calling in the information if their meter was estimated, said Prati-Miller, and some do.
She said AEP is working to reduce the number of estimated bills. “We are beginning a new remote project in select areas that will allow us to achieve a 90 to 95 percent read range per month,” she said.
Given recent events, the News asked how extended power outages affect electric meters and whether there are any adverse effects when the power surges back on.
“Prolonged outages do not have any adverse affect on meters when power is restored,” said Prati-Miller. “Meters are designed to handle as much load as the location at which they are installed might demand so as to avoid any issues when power is restored. Not to say it can’t happen, but that would be a rare occurrence — more the exception, not the norm. “