Frequently Asked Questions


Click below for questions related to the following topics:

Area/Street Lighting

Commercial/Residential New Construction

Billing/Utility Services

Utility Control


Q: How much will I save with a nighttime temperature setback in the winter?

A: If, on a regular basis, you turn your thermostat back five degrees for an eight-hour period at night, you will save approximately 11% on your total fuel bill. If your nighttime setback is 10 degrees, you will save about 15% on your bill. The exception would be a heat pump.

Q: Do I really save? Doesn't it just cost more to heat the house back up in the morning?

A: Yes, you do save. The amount of energy needed to raise the temperature in the morning is less than the amount needed to maintain the higher temperature for eight hours at night.

Q: Can I lower my heat pump thermostat at night for a savings?

A: Only if you have a programmable heat pump thermostat. If you don't have one, set your thermostat at the lowest possible temperature needed for comfort and leave it there both day and night. If you lower the thermostat five degrees at night, when you turn it back up in the morning, the electric heat strips (the back-up heating system) will come on and cost you energy dollars. The heat pump thermostat senses when there is a two to three degree difference between the thermostat setting and the inside temperature and automatically activates the heat strips to achieve the desired temperature.

Q: How often should I check furnace filters?

A: Filters should be checked monthly. A well-maintained and clean furnace can cut your energy expense by 10% or more.

Q: How does a heat pump work?

A: It's a simple machine that absorbs and moves heat to provide heating comfort in the winter and cooling comfort in the summer. It heats by taking heat that naturally exists outside, even in the winter, and pumping it inside. It cools by taking heat from the air inside your home and pumping it outside.

Q: Do space heaters save energy?

A: A space heater involves electrical resistance heat and is, therefore, expensive to operate. But it is cheaper to heat a small room with a space heater than to raise the temperature of the entire dwelling with the central system.

Q: Should I close off unused areas of the house?

A: It depends. In older or poorly insulated dwellings, if you have unused rooms and areas, keep them closed off. If you have ducted warm air, however, closing off more than 15% of the total floor area may interfere with air circulation patterns in your home and cause your heating system to operate improperly. In new energy efficient homes, it does not save energy to close off supply vents or rooms and may actually cause problems to the central HVAC system.

Q: Couldn't I save energy by using my fireplace along with the heating system in the winter?
A: No. If you're using the heating system, you are paying to heat your inside air. The fireplace uses inside conditioned air for combustion pulling the expensively heated air right up the chimney. If the fireplace does not have an outside air source, we recommend closing off that room and leaving the window closest to the fireplace slightly open. This allows air to be drawn through without using conditioned air from the rest of the house.

A fireplace is considered an energy waster because the damper must remain open for up to 24 hours after the fire dies down. The heat loss through the chimney during this period far exceeds what was gained when the fire was burning. Your chimney's job is to suck large volumes of air out of your house, and it does so even when the damper is closed.

Q: What about insulation?

A: Proper insulation will help reduce heating and cooling costs because insulation prevents air from escaping.


Q: What are the major areas of heat loss?

A: Air infiltration areas

  • Floors, walls, and ceilings 31%
  • Wall outlets 2%
  • Duct systems 15%
  • Exterior windows 10%
  • Fireplace 14%
  • Range vents/fans 4%
  • Exterior doors 11%
  • Plumbing penetrations 13%



Courtesy of

Q:How much insulation is needed?

A: Floors - R-19

Heat doesn't just rise; it goes from a warm surface to a cold surface so it is beneficial to insulate floors with fiberglass. Carpeting adds an R-value of 1.3.

* Ceilings - R-38

Insulate attic access doors with weather-stripping. (Attic access doors are often located right above the thermostat.)

* Walls - R-19

If an older home does not have wall insulation, do not insulate unless a total renovation is planned. Blown-in insulation is not always cost-effective for older homes with no wall insulation.

* Windows

Storm windows add little R-value. Their benefit comes from reducing air infiltration.

  • Caulk anywhere two different materials meet such as brick and wood siding.
  • Weather-strip things that can move such as doors.

Q: What about water heaters?

A: Water heaters represent 15-20% of the total energy bill.

Q: What is the recommended temperature setting for my hot water heater?

A: Water heaters are now pre-set at 120 degrees, which is our recommended setting. A typical 52-gallon tank averages 500 gallons a week. By lowering the temperature from 150 degrees to 120 degrees, you save $160 a year.

Q:Does my water heater need an insulating jacket?

A: It depends. Most new water heaters use foam insulation; no more is necessary. But if the water heater is warm to the touch, add a jacket. An insulating jacket used on a water heater that is located in an unheated area has a payback period of around six months.

Q: Will I save money by turning off my electric water heater for periods of time?

A: If your electric water heater is not on for more than two hours in a 24-hour period, you can save money. You should not use the water heater’s breaker as a daily switch. It is a safety device; install a separate disconnect switch if you plan on turning off your electric water heater regularly.

For more information on the City of New Bern’s Load Management Program Click Here

Area/Street Lighting

Q: How much does it cost to have an area light installed at my property?

A: Residential lighting rates:

1. 150w high pressure sodium area light $18.74/mo.

2. 400w metal halide directional flood light $33.15/mo.

3. 1000w metal halide directional flood light $44.60/mo.

4. Charge for wooden pole $2.93/mo.

5. Underground service charge $4.90/mo.

Q: What is required to get a residential area light installed on my property?

A: The City of New Bern requires a signed three-year contract for overhead service and a five-year one for underground service. Click Here for printable contract. This file opens with Acrobat Reader. If you do not have Reader, click link below to download free copy.

Q: Are there any up-front costs to have a security light installed?

A: No. After the contract is signed and the light is installed, the light rental fees will be added to your next bill.

Q: Can I have an area light installed on my own pole?

A: No. The City of New Bern requires that security lights be installed on our poles.

Q: Why am I being charged for a street light on my bill?

A: If you live in a subdivision outside the City limits but served by the City of New Bern, there is a monthly charge for each resident in the subdivision for street lighting.

Q: What type of lighting is available for commercial customers?
A: 1. A 150w high pressure sodium cobra head light for $18.74/month. These can be installed either on a wood pole for pole for $ 2.93/month or on a green fiberglass pole for $6.94/month (or opt to pay the difference between the cost of a fiberglass and wood pole and then pay the additional $2.93/month charge).

2. A 150w high pressure sodium colonial style light for $18.74/month.

These lights are installed on a 16' black fiberglass pole for $6.94/month.

3. A 400 w metal halide flood light for $33.15/month.

4. A 1000w metal halide flood light for $44.60/month.

Commercial/Residential New Construction

Q: What do I have to do to get new underground electric service to my residential/commercial building?

A: We have a list of requirements for both residential and commercial services.

For Underground Service Requirements, Click Here

Q: Is there a cost to convert my overhead service to underground?

A: Yes. There is a standard fee of $385 for the conversion. There is also currently a cost per foot of $2.40 to cover the cost of our underground conduit and wire.

Billing/Utility Services

Q: Why has my utility bill increased so much?

A: The higher utility charges are usually the result of increased usage of either electricity or water. The heating and cooling system in a home is the largest user of electricity.

Most electric usage increases can be traced to changes in weather conditions. Sometimes a heating or cooling system is turned on during mild weather. There could be periods of colder or hotter weather that occur during the night or during the day while the customer is away from home and a thermostat is still active. In addition, extremes in weather conditions significantly impact monthly utility charges. The temperature that you set your heat or cooling system on plays a big part in the amount of energy used.

The next largest user of energy is the water heater. Be sure the elements are working properly and the temperature setting is around 125 degrees.


After the water heater comes the electric dryer and stove. Check these to ensure that dryer vents are not clogged and heating elements are operating correctly.


Q: Why does my bill say “estimated” on it? Don’t the meter readers read my usage every month?

A: Our meter readers will always read your meter unless there is an obstacle of some kind preventing them from doing so (e.g. locked gates, dogs, etc.). It is the customer’s responsibility to insure access to all meters or make arrangements with meter reading personnel.

Q: How is my bill estimated?

A: Your bill is estimated using a comparison of last year’s billing to the charges for the current year’s previous three months. Any difference in usage will settle up on the next month’s billing when an actual meter reading can be obtained.

Q: Can I pay my bill over the phone?

A: The City of New Bern does not take payments over the phone at this time. We do have a service through OPC that you can call at 1-800-272-9829 to pay your bill plus a small additional fee. Click here to pay online with the same service.

Q: What is the last day I have to pay my bill without having my services disconnected?

A: There is a 2.5% late penalty for payments received after the due date.  A $30.00 delinquent account processing fee will be charged for bills that remain unpaid after the 10th day following the due date.  The account is subject to disconnection of services at this point.

Q: Why doesn’t the City of New Bern give a notice before shuttingoff the power?

A: Payments are due by the due date listed on the bill.  If the bill remains unpaid after the 10th day following the due date, door hangers are left giving customers with good payment history an extra notice so they may contact the office and make a payment.

Q: Can I look at my bill online?

A: No. We do not currently offer online bills.

Q: Can I get a copy of my bill for the last 12 months? Is there a charge for that service?

A: We provide that courtesy to our customers at no charge. The only thing we need to know is whether you would prefer to come to the office or have it mailed.

Utility Control

Q: My bill is due on the weekend; will my lights be cut off before Monday?

A: No. It would be in the customer’s best interests, however, to make arrangements for payment the Monday after the due date.

Q: Where do I pay my electric bill?

A: Bills are paid at the Customer Service office located at 606 Fort Totten Drive on the corner of Broad Street and Fort Totten Drive (old First Citizens Bank building).

Q: Will the City cut down a tree for me?

A: If the trunk of a tree is within 15' of our primary (high voltage lines), we will cut it down. If the limbs are within that 15' zone, we will trim the limbs back to the “safe zone.” A customer can request that a tree be removed instead of trimmed if within the 15' zone. Trees will not be cut down if they are within 15' of a secondary (120V, 240V, 480V, etc.) line. Limbs may be trimmed if they pose a danger of shorting out the electric service.

Q: Is this where I report a power outage?

A: Yes. Please contact Utility Control at (252) 636-4070 to report power outages, downed lines, street and area light problems, and water and sewer problems after 5 p.m. and on holidays and weekends.

<< return to top of page

City of New Bern
PO Box 1129
New Bern, NC 28563-1129
Electric Dept. Main # (252) 636-4070
Citywide Phone Directory