What is causing my bill to be so high?

Spikes are generally because of elevated kWh use due to heating and cooling during extremely hot or cold weather. However, there can be other factors that might contribute, such as a continuously running pool or water well pump, HVAC unit compressor problems, or some other issue like a heat strip continuously running.

The major drivers for an electric bill (on average) are heating and cooling, which accounts for about 44% of a residential bill. Lighting and appliances account for 33%. Water heating is the next highest contributor at 18%. The remainder is refrigeration. It’s interesting to note that in the 1980’s, heating and cooling accounted for 56% of a typical household bill. Now, appliances and electronics usage has increased significantly, accounting for the savings that would have been accrued with more efficient HVAC systems.

The major cause of a surprising bill spike is almost always because something at the location is consuming electricity. In addition to extreme heat or cold, there can be other causes such as a defective device like a broken thermostat, freezer, or an appliance cycling off and on. It could also be a defective water heater coil, a Freon leak in the HVAC unit, the improper use of a heat pump’s heat strips, or the frequent use of a space heater. Those are just some of the causes.

Why is my bill so high when I haven’t done anything differently?

A major contributor that could have an unexpected impact on energy usage is seasonal temperatures. While you may not have changed the setting on your thermostat, hotter and colder outside temperatures require your HVAC unit to operate longer to maintain a constant temperature inside.

Can my electric meter be wrong and can the accuracy of it be tested at my location?

WCEC requires all meters to test at an accuracy rate of 99.5% to 100.5% and they are always tested before they are installed. Electric meters are extremely reliable, but we can test your meter. If you suspect something is wrong and ask for a test, we perform this test at your location. We will check both light and full loads while testing the calibration. Someone in your household can be present during this if you wish.

How and how often is my electric meter read?

WCEC has used electronic meters since the mid 1990’s. These meters send readings back to the office approximately every 27 hours. Using Automated Meter Readers (AMR) has many benefits, including eliminating possible human errors in the billing process.

Are WCEC monthly bills estimated?

No. WCEC bills members for their actual usage, not estimated usage. This is done on a 27 to 31 day billing cycle. Every bill is calculated based on actual readings of the electricity consumed.

Why is my neighbor’s electric bill lower than mine?

Electric bills are as individual as users and their habits and habitats. Bills are based on how many kWh a member has used. Every household, even if they are comparable in size, has different equipment, usage patterns, schedules, and such. Energy saving measures like shades and window coverings, fans, and electronic thermostats can play a key factor in energy use. Other items such as levels of insulation, types of roofing materials, underpinning on manufactured homes, and type and size of HVAC units and water heaters also play a role. Landscaping can also contribute to energy use or savings, as can the way a house is situated on a property.

I used my fireplace for warmth so why did my usage rise?

While you have depended on your fireplace for your main heat source, unless you have completely turned off your HVAC unit, it will still run when the temperature drops below your thermostat setting. So consider the distance between your fire source and your thermostat. If the source of heat is not able to reach the thermostat, then your unit will run. Also, while the flue is open to let the smoke escape, the air that your HVAC system, has heated also escapes as the fire wanes. This commonly occurs at night as the fire dies down and the flue can’t be closed due to the fire smoldering.

I was away from my home and my electric bill is higher than I expected?

If you leave your home for an extended period of time for business or vacation, any appliances that are left plugged in will continue to use electricity, even while you are gone. Major appliances like your water heater, freezer, refrigerator, HVAC system and well pump will continue to use kWh. Depending on how long you plan to be away, you may consider turning some of these off. Additionally, electronics such DVRs, computers, televisions, coffee makers, and other items remain on standby when not unplugged. If it has a glowing light, it’s using electricity whether it is on or not. So unplugging these items will offer savings.

I don’t understand how my bill could have gotten so high. Can someone help me?

At WCEC we provide free energy audits to members. During peak times, when we get the most high bill complaints, there is a backlog. But we’ll create a ticket and someone will make an appointment within a couple of weeks. Usually an appointment can be made with a two to three week time-frame.

Should I add solar panels to generate my own power to reduce my utility bill?

Solar energy only makes economic sense after all other efficiency measures have been addressed, such as air-sealing, mechanical upgrades like an efficient HVAC unit, and tightening and sealing to reduce lost energy through air leaks. Then members should carefully study the cost and potential paybacks based on the size of the unit, the investment required, and the amount of time it would take to pay off the investment.

Should I replace my heating unit with a heat pump?

Heat pumps are one of the most energy-efficient heating and cooling products today and can save significantly on heating and cooling cost. They are generally a little more expensive than conventional units, and require specific operations knowledge. But when operated properly, they can offer worthwhile savings. If you have a resistance heat unit, once it’s time to replace it, good consideration should be given to a heat pump for energy savings.