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13News Now Investigates: Family questions cost to heat mobile home

The family believes they are living an energy-efficient lifestyle, so how is the energy bill for their mobile home $360?

HAMPTON, Va. — A Hampton man was hit with back-to-back high energy bills and says he can’t get answers as to why.

Thomas Hooks and his family try to live an energy-efficient lifestyle in their modest mobile home. They keep the lights off most of the day, their appliances are brand new and their thermostat stays turned off.

In fact, Hooks said their HVAC unit broke months ago. The family stayed warm this winter using four small space heaters when needed.

"We make sure what we buy is energy efficient, and right now it's not, something is going on," he said.

Hooks contacted 13News Now with questions about his recent bills from Dominion Energy. The latest charge was $360.70 from the family's January statement. 

The family is on a plan to try and pay down their total account balance of $2,105.04. So, their total amount due for January was actually $443.76. The family was billed $449.38 for the month of December.

"Every penny counts and I'm telling you, $450 to keep your lights on every month... Can't do it. Nobody can do it," he said. 

A closer look at his statement confirms their kilowatts per hour (kWh) usage doubled from 1730 in November to 3492 in December, and 3394 in January. 

But with their HVAC unit broken and disconnected, Hooks can't figure out why he was billed for such high usage. He claims nothing changed in their home between November and December. 

"We called Dominion, and we want someone to come out and check the meter, all they said was, 'Get the app and check your kilowatts.' Well we know what our kilowatts are. After that, I called you because 13News gets everything done and looks at everything," Hooks said.

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13News Now has been in contact with Dominion Energy since Monday, when reporters first began looking into the situation.

A spokesperson said the culprit could be the small space heaters that Hooks used in lieu of their broken HVAC unit. 

But just to be sure, Dominion sent a crew to the Hooks' home Thursday to take a closer look.

In the meantime, Hooks isn't sure how much longer they can afford to live what they thought was an energy-efficient lifestyle.

"It's almost choosing, you know, 'Do I pay my power bill and not feed my kids? Or do I pay my power bill and not get them new clothes because it's about to be spring and everything?'" he said. "It just goes through your head, what are you going to do?" 

13News Now will update this story once we hear from Dominion Energy about Thursday's audit at the Hooks home.

Click here for more information about Dominion Energy's billing assistance programs.

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