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Why is Your Electricity Bill So High? Part 2

If you’ve made your way here after reading part one of our post on reasons your electricity bill might be so high, then you’re already familiar with how to determine if your bill is abnormal and figure out if you simply used more electricity or paid more for it than you did during your previous billing cycle.

For part two, we take a closer look at some other reasons why your electricity bill might be high, including changes to utility charges, changes to your electricity usage that you might not have considered and technical problems with your meter.

Did your utility charges increase?

Sometimes the public utility that delivers electricity to your home increases the amount it charges for delivery, which could be the reason for a sudden spike in your electricity bill. But there are also a lot of other utility charges that can go up, too. Just go through your bill line by line and see if any of these other charges have gone up. Some are related to the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity you use, such as sales taxes, so if you used more electricity on your new bill, some of these charges will likely reflect that.

For a full explanation of utility charges, visit your utility’s website. It should have a detailed breakdown and explanation of each charge and how it relates to the amount of electricity you use.

Are There Reasons You Used More Electricity That You Haven’t Considered?

Sometimes you can use more electricity without realizing it. If your electricity consumption is up, here are some things that you might not have considered that could cause you to use more electricity:

  • Has the weather been unseasonably warm or cold? Check last year’s bill during the same billing period. Don’t look at the price per kWh (because the price may have increased). Instead, look at the amount of kWh you used. If you used more electricity during the same period this year, it’s likely that the weather may have been unseasonably warm or cold and caused you to run your air conditioner or heater more to maintain the same level of comfort.
  • Did you have out of town guests? When you have more people in your house, especially for extended periods, the extra body heat actually makes your air conditioner work harder to maintain the same temperature.
  • Did you add appliances? If you bought any new appliances during the last billing cycle, you can probably attribute some of your increased electricity use to simply having more devices in the house that consume electricity.
  • Did you have any trouble with existing appliances? If you had some trouble with an appliance that uses a lot of electricity, like your air conditioner, for example, it’s likely that the appliance used more electricity than normal, which would drive up your electricity consumption from the previous billing cycle.
  • Is your usage based on an actual read or estimated usage? In some instances, utilities may estimate your usage for a particular billing period, rather than come out to actually read the meter. The estimates are normally based on things like historical usage or normal average usage for a particular month and would be clearly indicated as “estimate” rather than “actual” on your bill. If this is the case, the difference will be made up in a subsequent bill once your actual usage is read by the meter-reader.

Is there something wrong with your meter?

Like any piece of equipment, electricity meters can break or otherwise develop problems. If you suspect you might have a problem with your meter, you should consider performing the following checks:

  • To verify your meter is running properly, shut off all the breakers in your home’s breaker box. If the meter is still spinning or the electronic indicators are still ticking away, the meter might be broken. This is extremely rare, but not impossible. You should hire an electrician to check this out. If the electrician confirms your meter is broken, have the electrician sign a statement to that effect so you have proof when you work with the utility on reimbursement. For extra documentation, you can videotape the electrician’s explanation or take photographs.
  • If you live in a duplex or a multi-family dwelling and you shut off all the breakers but the meter still runs, chances are one of your neighbor’s circuits is wired into your meter. Hire an electrician to confirm the problem and fix it.

If you shut off all the breakers and your meter stops cold, you’re probably okay. However, if you’re convinced the meter is improperly recording your electricity use, you should consider checking to make sure you don’t have an electricity leak somewhere, which means one or more of your appliances or electronic devices is drawing power when it’s plugged in but turned off. This is usually due to a problem with your wiring. You can try to check this yourself by unplugging everything in the house and then plugging items back in one by one and checking your meter to see if it starts running, but you’re better off hiring an electrician to do this work for you.

Have You Exhausted All the Possibilities?

If you’ve followed our advice and exhausted all the possibilities for why your electricity use may have increased and you still think there’s been an overcharge, you can, as a last resort, contact your utility company and request a meter re-read or a further review of the month’s electricity use. However, some utility companies will charge you a fee if the re-read comes back normal, so be sure to ask what that amount is before they come out for a re-read.


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