Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I report a power outage? 

A: Please contact Utility Control at (252)636-4070 to report power outages, downed lines, street and area light problems, and water and sewer problems. 

Q: Can I pay my utility 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 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: 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 Utility Business Office located at 606 Fort Totten Drive on the corner of Broad Street and Fort Totten Drive (old First Citizens Bank building).

Q: Where does our power come from? Where does the money from electric bills go?

A: All of the City's power is purchased from the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA).  75.2% of the Electric Department's budget is allocated for the purchase of power from NCEMPA.  To find out more about NCEMPA & where money from electric bills goes, click here.

Q: Is there a way to measure the energy efficiency of my household appliances?

A: Try our Energy Depot for energy comparisons.  This is one way to determine whether you should upgrade to more energy efficient appliances for your home.

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 ensure access to all meters or make arrangements with meter reading personnel. 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 a meter reading can be obtained.

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.  The amount of energy needed to raise the temperature in the morning is more 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: 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: 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%

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.