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Higher than normal power bills

If your power bill is higher than normal, you're not alone.
Gulf Power says residential customers bought fifty percent more electricity in January than they did the year before.

Some of those customers told Channel Three's Laura Hussey they tried to conserve, but the cold got  the best of them.

Laura Hussey: "By now you've received one or maybe two power bills that include some of these very cold days. A lot of people told me knowing in your mind it could be higher is one thing seeing it can still be a shock"
There were some good things about the days of freezing temperatures.
It's not often you can turn your front yard into an ice sculpture.
But it's less enjoyable when the bill comes in.

Michelle Connelly: "Well I knew with the cold temps that we were going to have it be a lot higher than normal, but it's still sticker shock when you open it (laughs)"

Michelle Connelly says her power bill was thirty to forty percent higher than normal, despite efforts to conserve.

Michelle: "I try to keep it on 67-68, but if you're home, and the kids are all home, everybody kind of walking around cold, you maybe bump it up a little bit"

Jean Marquez and her family thought they had the house well sealed after remodeling.

But the cold still drove up their bill.
Jean Marquez: "Oh it was really high. Yes, it was up there"
With a one-story house, Margie Dumler says she kept her bill manageable by drawing the curtains.

She thinks she broke the trend.
Margie: "Now I haven't see the one yet from the worst weather, so we'll see"

Gulf Power has programs to ease the sting, like budget billing that evens out monthly payments.

There's also project share, a partnership with the Salvation Army that provides emergency help for people in financial hardship.

And Okaloosa County has LIHEAP, providing one-time assistance for people who meet income guidelines.
Laura Hussey: "A Gulf Power spokesman says when it's cold outside, we tend to spend more time inside. So usage goes up on your other appliances, not just your heater."