Your utility power bill, unlike a credit card bill, can sometimes feel like a huge mystery. It’s just a couple of numbers—the amount of power you’ve used in the prior 30 days and a price per kilowatt hour—so why exactly does it seem like it gets so high, and what can you do about it? Here are a few things to know about your utility bill.
Look Closely: Your Utility Bill Might Actually Answer Your Questions!
In order to figure out why your electric bill seems high, the first thing you need to do is figure out what's normal. If your bill has spiked recently, just look at your old bills and see how much your usage has gone up.
Look only at the amount of electricity you used in kilowatt hours (kWh). Have you consumed a lot more electricity over the past several months? If your kWh usage is similar but the cost is now higher, then the answer as to why your bill seems higher is right there on your bill. It’s possible that the price of electricity went up, which will account for the change in your bill. Your utility company also might have demand charges if you have a very large home or small business, or perhaps you're being charged for other city services besides electricity.
Remember, you will continue getting two bills—one for your solar usage and one from your utility.
During the Summer, Consumption Jumps Up!
Did you know that a home’s air conditioning unit can account for up to 48 percent of your monthly energy consumption? That percentage jumps even higher during the summer months!
Sunny summer days will give you a boost in your production. After all, that’s what solar is all about! Remember you’re still getting savings through your solar system, and this may offset part of your energy consumption, but homeowners often consume much more energy during the summer months because we need to stay cooler; that coolness comes during hours of lower production, like on those warm summer nights.
If there’s a noticeable difference in how many kWh you’re using in the summer months, running your air conditioning unit more often might be the cause of your higher electricity bill.
Is Balanced or “Budget” Billing a Good Idea?Are you on a balanced billing or budget billing program with your utility company? If the answer is plan. Balanced billing is generally promoted as a good service. But remember, balanced billing is based on your home’s prior year’s entire energy consumption including energy your solar system now provides.
Things You Can Do Around the House
Energy Vamps Are Bleeding Your Dry!
Just a couple of decades ago, everything that used electricity had an on/off button. That meant "off" really meant off, but today, it’s a lot more complicated. Devices are in a constantly ready-to-use mode. We call that “standby.” Almost 10 percent of your home’s electricity is used to power standby mode, and though these energy vampires might make some of your daily tasks a couple seconds faster every day, it's likely costing you major cash along the way.
Anything with a clock, such as microwave ovens and coffee makers need power to keep time while turned off. What’s the solution? Start saving yourself some energy today by connecting these devices to power strips and turning off the power strips when you’re not using them. That way, off REALLY means off as you’ve effectively disconnected the device from the power source.
Dinosaur Appliances Cost Your Greens
Does your appliance look awfully retro? We know not everyone can go out and buy new appliances. But the fact is that dinosaur appliances use so more energy than new energy-efficient models. For some perspective, Energy Star didn’t begin rating those appliances until after 1997.
What’s the solution? This one’s easy. Upgrade your appliances with new energy-efficient models. A new energy-efficient refrigerator, for example, uses about four times less electricity than an older model.
Run Through a Home Inventory
Stop and ask yourself. How frequently do you use your inkjet printer? Once a month? Once a year? Practically never? Remember that little red light on top is a reminder that it’s sipping down pricey power every second of every minute of every day. So what else can you unplug?
You can find more resources on energy efficiency from the Department of Energy.