Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

While we're seeing warmer temperatures this week,it's been one of the coldest winters in recent memory.And that's translating into some of the highest utility bills as well.It's got customers crying foul,and Entergy trying to explain.

Customer Dyvita Archer was not happy when sheopened her Entergy bill.

'My mouth dropped.WhenI opened up this one, something wasn't right for me. This is way too high,' said Archer, who lives in a house smaller than 1,000 square feet in Orleans Parish.

This newcomer to New Orleans,says it's nearly $400, which is double last month's bill andmuch higher than bills in her last home in Virginia.

'Even on the worst ice (days),I can remember whenI went to bed and it was about13 degrees andI had my heat on about 74,I still got my bill and it was never above $150,' remembers Archer.

When we asked viewerson Facebook about recent power costs, by the hundreds theytoo were having sticker shock,especially about the fuel adjustment charge. Entergy New Orleans says that isthe price itpays for the coal, or nuclear or hydropower to make the electricity.

'That's what we pay. And our regulator, is the (New Orleans) City Council, allows us recover that cost and pass it on to the customer. So, we make no profit.But we always look for the cheapest, least expensive fuel that we can, because we know that it gets passed on to the customer,' explained Toni Green-Brown, acustomer service representative for Entergy New Orleans.

Entergy says its business and residential rates for electricity are lower than the national average.

'In Orleans Parish right now for example, the fuel cost is actually lower than it wasthis time last year.The largest difference in what they are seeing on their bill is tied to usage, and usage is tied to weather, and the weather has been extremely cold for a long period of time,' said Green-Brown.

Dyvita kept her heater on 68, and saysnow sheneeds to re-figure her budget, for the city she first met during the French Quarter Festival.

'Ido love the city and the culture and the festivities and everything that goes on,you know.It does, you know, wear on you with decision making,you know, if my bills are going to be this high,' said Archer.

Rates in Jefferson Parish are slightly lower than in Orleans.

The parishes are operated by different Entergy companies withdifferent cost structures, power demands, and government regulations that set the rates.

For tips on how to save money:

The air conditioning and heater can be half of your bill. A change in a thermostat degree can add or lower your bill by 3 percent. Wrap your electric water heater with an inexpensive blanket especially made for that use. You can also flip the switch on your ceiling fan to reverse the direction. Entergy will also allow you to space your bills out so you pay a similar rate each month, rather than a very high on some months and a much lower one other months.

Break Down of costs from Entergy:

1. Entergy residential rates per kilowatt-hour are lower than the national average:

Entergy Louisiana Average 10.2cents/kWh

Entergy New Orleans Average 10.6cents/kWh

U.S. Average 12.2cents/kWh (source = U.S. Department of Energy)

In addition, Entergy New Orleans' commercial rates are below the national average:

Entergy New Orleans Average 9.1cents/kWh

U.S. Average 10.3cents/kWh (source = U.S. Department of Energy)

2. Entergy New Orleans' electric fuel adjustment per kilowatt-hour is lower than this time last year:

Feb. 2013 = 4.5cents/kWh

Feb. 2014 = 4.2cents/kWh

3. Entergy New Orleans saw a 24 percent increase in the number of heating degree days from November 2012 to November 2013, and a 62 percent increase in the number of heating degree days from December 2012 to December 2013. We don't yet have the percentage increases for January and February.

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