$1,000 Westar bill: Busy heater... or bad meter?

Published On: Feb 24 2014 05:54:25 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 24 2014 06:22:55 PM CST

Westar bills cover Geri Loehr's dining room table. She keeps going over the numbers but says she comes to the same conclusion, she's being overcharged.

"We don't have much choice. You either pay it or you'll be left in the dark," Loehr said.

Loehr says her energy bill more than doubled starting last September. That's when her husband left a note on the meter, asking the meter reader to ring their bell next time he came by. 

"He knocked on the door and we went to look at the meter," Loehr said.

Loehr says the Westar worker told her he'd never seen a meter move so fast. So Loehr called a Westar customer representative, who told the Loehrs to have an electrician come out and check for an energy leak.

"We had an electrician come by. We isolated everything to see what was using up all the energy," Loehr said.

Loehr says the electrician couldn't find a leak and told her the problem was with the meter. On January a crew came by to replace the meter. Loehr says her next bill was much lower and in the range she's used to paying.

"There was a huge drop in energy used, it looked more like what we're used to," Loehr said.

But Loeher still owes more than $1,000 for the previous months with higher cost.

"I really believed when we finally figured out what was causing this, Westar would be happy to sit down and make this right. To my total shock, that's the day they stopped talking," Loehr said.

Loehr says Westar blames the bill increase on a water heater in the garage. Loehr says Westar's report indicate the water heater was the cause of the energy leak, draining more than a thousand dollars worth of energy in a few months.

Loehr said that explanation didn't make sense. So she called the manufacturer to get some answers. 

"The owner said that a 30 amp hot water heater couldn't do what Westar says it did. He said in the event that for some strange reason it started on its own it would burn out and break in three to four hours," Loehr said.

Loehr says the numbers don't add up and to her it's clear the problem was with the old meter, not the heater.

"I said to the Westar employee that if we'd gotten rid of the water heater and the problem resolved itself then I would agree with them. But I told her in fact the little hot water heater is still out there and the meter was changed and the problem was fixed," Loehr said.

We reached out to Westar Monday afternoon. A representative says they cannot comment on this specific case until the Loehrs give them permission. At the time this article was published, the Loehrs say Westar had not given them a call.

The Loehrs plan on taking their complaint to the Kansas Corporation Commission.