Step Two:Diagnosing Your Bill
Time estimate: 5 minutes
Think about the following to determine if one or more of these may apply to your bill:
- Were there colder than normal outdoor temperatures?
Before you say no...look at the average temperature under the "Electric Detail" section of your bill (see bill sample). Compare the average temperature for this bill to previous bills and the previous year.
You can also visit Weather Underground to view local temperatures and see the mean average temperature for a given month. If you experienced a high bill in a month with colder outdoor temperatures, it is likely your heating system had increased energy consumption which could account for your high bill.
If you have a ducted heat pump and the outside temp was below 35 degrees, it's possible your heat pump switched to a back-up furnace (also referred to as auxiliary, emergency, or e-heat), which can be costly if you have an electric furnace as your back-up heat. One way to avoid the fluctuations is to have a "smart" thermostat, which brings up the heat slowly and prevents the back-up heat from turning on.
- Did you use additional heaters? Did anyone in the household spend more time at home, which could have led to longer periods of heating?
Electric space heating, including resistance heat such as ceiling heat, baseboards, wall heaters, portable space heaters and electric furnaces are costly to operate. Portable space heaters, in addition to your primary source of heating, can really increase your energy consumption.
- At what temperature was your thermostat set? Is your thermostat accurate?
It's possible you may be keeping your home warmer than you realize, which could account for your high bill. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower. Each degree that you lower the thermostat can reduce your heating costs by three percent. Placing a thermometer near the thermostat can help determine the accuracy of the thermostat temperature setting.
- Are you living in a different home?
It's natural to want to compare electric bills to previous places you've lived, but it's important to consider that energy consumption can vary widely across different homes. For example, a previous residence may have been smaller, had a different primary source of heating, may have had different insulation levels, could be a very different shape, or might be facing a different direction.
- Did the number of occupants in your home change?
Were there any additional occupants? Did anyone from the household spend more time at home than usual? It's important to explore whether occupancy could have contributed to increased household activity, resulting in increased space heating, hot water consumption or water usage.
- Did you add anything to your home?
Have you added a new hot tub, an RV that wasn't plugged in previously, or a landscaping feature with a pump? Consider whether you plugged in additional appliances such as space heaters, a second refrigerator or freezer, or large aquarium.
- Have you checked to see if anything is malfunctioning or damaged?
Common malfunctions or failures include heat pumps that are operating in electric furnace mode, hot water leaks or malfunctioning electric water heaters, or damaged heating system duct work. Heat pump systems should receive regular maintenance at least every three to five years. Contact a contractor to address your specific situation.
Download PDF version of the Bill Self-Assessment.