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Troubleshooting a High Electric Bill

Several factors influence why your electric bill may vary from month to month.  Cold weather in the winter (heating) and hot weather in the summer (cooling) can cause fluctuations in power usage.  Having extra visitors in your home often increases a bill since the family is using more hot water for laundry, baths, and dishes, and doing more cooking and baking than usual.  Leaving lights turned on, equipment in need of maintenance, and plugging in block or space heaters can use extra power too.  If you notice that your power bill is higher than normal, the following tips might help you identify the cause.   

True Electric Bill First, check to be sure this is a true high electric bill. Are there charges for other products or services? Have any additional fees, such as deposits, contract minimums, connection/disconnection fees or returned check fees been added?  Are any past-due amounts from a previous bill also included in the total?

Accurate History Next, review the kilowatt hour (kWh) history on your account for the last 13 months. You have access to this information by logging in to Smart Hub at https://rrelectric.smarthub.coop/.  Or, if you need help with this, please call the office.  With this information, you can compare your most recent month to that same month one year ago. Weather fluctuations may be a factor in any major differences, but kilowatt hour usage is a good place to start your search.

Days of Use Check the number of days that are billed for your electric use. This varies from bill to bill due to the number of days in a month, and one billing cycle may be a bit shorter or a bit longer than another. A billing cycle can include 28 – 31 days.

Compare Winter to Summer Check the kilowatt hour total by month. From the history, are the winter months higher, indicating some form of electric heat or higher hot water heater use? Do the summer months indicate air conditioning or pumping water? Were temperatures higher or lower than normal during the period?
List Appliances Make a list of appliances in your home. This list is important because all appliances DO NOT use the same amount of electricity, so sometimes we don't realize how much electricity we are actually using. Did you recently purchase a new appliance or receive one as a gift?

Your Electric Meter Doesn’t Go on Vacation If you leave your home for an extended period of time for business or vacation, remember that any appliance you leave plugged in or connected will continue to use electricity even while you are gone.  Your water heater, freezer, refrigerator, HVAC system, landscape irrigation, well pump, etc. keep running. Most of us note that the TV and lights were not on, but we forget about the items left plugged in.

Lifestyle No two households use energy the same way, so comparing your energy bill to your neighbor's is like comparing apples to oranges. It is best to compare your current use to your past use. That is a more accurate record. Has the size of your household increased or did someone stay at home more?  Have you added a new hot tub in your back yard? Have you had guests stay for an extended period? Do you have hobbies that include the use of power tools, ovens, shop heating, and other electrical tools or appliances?

Lighting, Refrigeration, Appliances and Cooking Lighting, refrigeration, cooking and appliances account for more than half of the total energy use in the normal household. The location of refrigerators and freezers is very important. Never place a refrigerator or freezer in direct sunlight or in unconditioned space such as a breezeway, garage or out-building. The refrigerator or freezer will have to work harder to overcome excessive heat during warmer months. Make sure that your refrigerators and freezers have adequate ventilation.

Equipment Maintenance If an appliance is more than 15 years old, the efficiency of that appliance may be decreasing significantly and requiring more energy to do its job. It is important to clean or replace the condenser, coils or filters on some appliances regularly. You may need to replace the appliance itself.

Seasons The additional heating or cooling load will cause an increase in electric use. Heating and cooling your home averages around 44 percent of your total energy use. Using space heaters, fireplaces, livestock heaters or vehicle block heaters in the winter can dramatically increase your energy consumption. Running a dehumidifier or watering lawns, gardens and animals in the summer months will increase your energy use.

Construction or Remodeling Sometimes room additions are completed without proper sizing of HVAC for additional heating and cooling loads.

Field Visits If after studying all the above information, you still feel there may be a deeper problem, we are happy to further assist you. We can help determine if a field visit is necessary to identify any energy efficiency opportunities or even check the meter.  While a faulty meter is rarely the cause of a higher bill, a meter check can be done.  The co-op can check your meter once every two years free of charge, if requested.

Energy Efficient Windows and Doors, Appliances and Insulation If you plan to replace windows or doors with more energy efficient ones, or plan to add insulation to your home, please contact our office at (208) 645-2211 before you begin your project.  Do you plan to purchase high-efficiency clothes washer and dryer?  We may be able to assist you with a conservation rebate, which could partially defray the costs of your purchases.

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