6

In recent months, my electricity bill has been steadily going up, from 20% to 40% to, now, 100%. It's doubled.

I don't see any appliance running continuously except several ceiling fans. All my appliances are regular, meaning what one would find at home, such as fridges, cooktop, water heater, oven, lights, etc. There is a pool pump I turn on and off daily.

Where should I start to tackle the problem? I have divided this problem into two categories: house appliance problem and meter problem. I'd like to see if this is appliance problem first and deal with the meter separately. The meter is read monthly on the 20th. So, the bill jump is real, not estimated.

11
  • 3
    Shut off one circuit breaker at a time and track the meter for 24 hours to narrow it down.
    – isherwood
    Sep 27, 2019 at 1:59
  • 11
    Also check to see if your neighbor with the electric car is tapping into your deck outlet at night. :D
    – isherwood
    Sep 27, 2019 at 2:00
  • 12
    Has the usage doubled as well? Or only the bill? Sep 27, 2019 at 2:06
  • 11
    Where are you located on this planet?
    – Kris
    Sep 27, 2019 at 2:07
  • 7
    How many kWh did you use on each of these bills? Do you have air conditioning or electric heating? Sep 27, 2019 at 2:18

4 Answers 4

16

This happened to me numerous years ago - my bill went from $135 one month to $300 or so the next month. Just by pure luck in trying to determine what was wrong, I went into my attic and found that a air vent had come loose and was happily streaming cold air straight into the 100+ degree attic. I fixed that, and the next bill was back to normal.

2
  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. XXXXXXXXXXXXX And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to contribute here. Sep 27, 2019 at 15:31
  • 2
    My HVAC started getting more expensive last winter, and then when I switched over the AC I noticed that a couple of vents didn't seem to be flowing as much. Several holes in the flexible ducting were keeping the crawlspace well conditioned. After 20 years the material had become brittle and was cracking open.
    – Phil G
    Sep 27, 2019 at 15:56
12

You need to take a close look at your electricity rates and how it works with your electric bill. Start by reviewing the last 6 months' bills. First, read the bill carefully. Then, compare the number of kilowatt-hours used with how much the bill amount is.

Special rate plans

If the kilowatt-hours stay proportional to the total bill, then you are using more electricity.

If the bill goes up a lot more than the kilowatt-hours, then you are on some sort of "rate plan" that punishes peak usage. That is done because peak usage is the most expensive for the power company to produce: they have to spin up power plants that don't get used all year except for this. (And the bank wants the mortgage paid all year).

Additional usage

The #1 reason for usage to go up "in the last few months" (read: summer) is air conditioning usage. Air conditioners are big users of electricity, and they run quite a lot.

If that does not explain it, look for problems that would cause energy use. If your water heater is electric, you may have a hot water leak.

You can read up on methods for using your electric meter as a load rate measuring device. That will let you observe rate of electricity use when various appliances are operating. You can also shut off loads at the breaker panel for testing, to see the effect it has.

If you want to really automate it, you can get products like the "Sense". They involve equipment that sits in your service panel and collects data about usage of many appliances. You can then generate reports showing which equipment is using how much power.

2
  • 3
    Although it seems unlikely, there's also a possibility of an electrical problem. I was recently talking to an electrician that was investigating this kind of issue and he found a problem with current leaking to ground. If that's the problem, the danger is a bigger concern than the extra cost.
    – JimmyJames
    Sep 27, 2019 at 15:54
  • +1 for Sense reference. I've been considering exactly such a device to monitor-then-tweak my consumption profile.
    – bishop
    Sep 27, 2019 at 17:49
9

The electric sourcing utility that you are attached to may have increased your electrical usage rate so you might have to factor that into any cost investigation that you do.

The key starting place is to investigate the kilowatt-hour consumption that you have made in the last few months since your total bill has been going up. You need to evaluate this so that you have a baseline understanding of what you are paying per kilowatt-hour of usage. In addition this consumption data should help to correlate to the total bill increases and your average usage per day. You may also want to record readings from your electrical meter on a daily basis for 10 days or so. This will give you additional current state usage data.

Once you understand the usage per day it is time for you to start experimenting with turning off various appliances for a day or two and monitor how your power meter readings change as a result. This will lead to gaining an understanding as to what appliances are the ones contributing the most to the daily consumption.

For some appliances that you would not want to turn off for one or two days you can acquire an electrical monitoring meter, such as the popular "Kill A Watt" unit. These plug into the circuit between the appliance cord and the mating outlet. They can measure the voltage, amperage of current flow and compute the kilowatt-hour usage by the particular appliance plugged into the monitoring device.

1
  • 1
    +1 for the "Kill A Watt" idea. But mine is hard to read, because the display is dark gray on light gray. I bought a competing product that is much easier to read. So I'd suggest an alternative to the leading brand.
    – donjuedo
    Sep 27, 2019 at 17:13
4

With the time of year being what it is, I have to ask - what about your air conditioning use? My electricity consumption rises about 60% in the summer, peaking in August. In the winter, my natural gas roughly doubles. This is because of heating and cooling costs.

Also, clogged air filters can really impact the energy efficiency of your AC. I clean mine weekly because I have a cat that never stops shedding. The same is true for the intake at the back of your fridge, although I'll admit it only gets cleaned annually at my house.

Icemakers can also be huge power hogs if you're using them all the time.

3
  • "Icemakers can also be huge power hogs if you're using them all the time" Really? Never heard that. Citation?
    – bishop
    Sep 27, 2019 at 17:50
  • A residential icemaker draws a max of 5 amps (based on Scottsman, one of the most well known brands) this means in a typical month it would use a little over 400 kWH. But thats only if the compressor is running 24/7, in reality the machine will make ice until it gets full then stop, then as you use the ice (or the ice melts) it will make new ice. Important to note, the ice reservoir is not cooled, only insulated, so ice is continually melting, so even if you aren't using ice, it will be making new ice. So, while it does run a lot, it wont be all the time, so usage should be less than 400kWH.
    – Glen Yates
    Sep 27, 2019 at 19:17
  • It's not the compressor for the heat pump, but the heating element for the dispenser motor, that is responsible for most of the power used by an ice maker. It's certainly not as bad as this article makes it sound, but it's far from negligible. BTW my electric use was 512kwH last month - 400kwH is certainly a large upper limit. science.time.com/2011/04/14/…
    – Nate
    Sep 28, 2019 at 1:51

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.