Why Is My Electric Bill So High?
Nov 23, 2020
by EmPower Solar
PSEG and CONED customers facing bill surprises in fall 2020!
“My bill is literally five times what it was last year.”
“Am I crazy, or did everyone’s electric bill more than double this month?!”
You’re not crazy, and you’re not alone! We’ve been hearing reports of enormous electric bills across the board, and we’re here to figure out why they’re so much higher than usual.
There are several reasons for higher than average electric bills this season.
Individually these reasons might not seem like much, but compounded together, they make a big difference! We’re here to help explain why your summer and fall bills are considerably higher than last year.
More Home Electric Use
You’ve probably already considered this, but your household is very likely home more often! We predicted this back in March, which you can read more about here.
According to PSEG LI, 40% of the reason for bill increases is due to weather, and this summer was particularly hot. For the third year in a row, we’ve seen unseasonably warm and humid weather, requiring AC units to crank overtime to keep up.
Estimated Readings Are The BIGGEST REASON FOR THE SPIKE IN FALL BILLS
Because of COVID, PSEG LI and ConEd were not actively sending meter readers to homes if the meter was not accessible outdoors. For these months, many bills were “estimated”. When they estimate your bill, they base it on the prior year’s energy habits. This year, since people were home more often and running ACs more frequently, the estimates were too conservative. When the meters were actually read in September or October, the estimates had to be adjusted, resulting in extremely high electric bills.
Diving into Estimated vs. Actual Meter Readings
At the root of this year’s bill increase is the fact that many people don’t get accurate monthly meter readings. As of November 2020, about 720,000 (or ⅔) of customers have a smart meter, according to PSEG LI. The rest of Long Island is still on older meters that don’t transmit information virtually, and need to be read manually.
Estimated readings are based off of the household’s usage in the same billing period the prior year. This means that, if you added a big load between last year and this year, or you were home more often, your 2020 estimated reading was likely too low.
Due to COVID, some customers with outdoor meters had many months of estimated readings in a row, and several summer storms also limited visits by meter readers in order to allow the electric company to focus on storm response. In-person meter reading resumed in September, but led to many customers getting true-ups of a few months or more.
A true-up bill is not typically anything to be concerned with, but because of the aforementioned circumstances, the reconciliations pushed bills beyond what is typical.
Here’s an example of a bill history of a Massapequa family where both heads of household began working remotely starting in March. You can see that they had their true-up bill in October after a few estimated months. This October, their bill was nearly three times what it was last year, and increased 110% from the month before. Without digging into the reason, these homeowners could have easily assumed something was wrong!
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Sit tight and wait for a smart meter.
PSEG plans to complete the program roll out 6-8 months ahead of schedule, and get 95% of customers onto smart meters by next September. If you have a smart meter, you can request 15-minute interval data from PSEG to learn what times of day and what days of the week you’re using the most energy and get cues on how to curtail those energy loads.
Get an app that helps you monitor energy in your home.
A home energy monitoring platform, like Homesense, can help you learn different electric loads in your home and make informed decisions about cutting back on unnecessary usage.
Sign up for a Time-of-Use (TOU) rate
Savvy customers can save a few hundred dollars per year by actively managing their electric bills. For decades, our region has been used to one set rates – that is, you pay the same amount per unit of energy whether used at 6pm in the summer or 3am in the winter time, even though the utility company has a big swing in electricity costs during those times. Other regions and even other parts of the world have incentivized energy use at cheaper times of the day.
With TOU, you can do things like program your dishwasher to run overnight, or do laundry during weekday mornings, when the grid is less strained and pay less for electricity. Instead of shifting loads, you could even shed loads altogether during peak times by using a clothesline in the summer to save energy when the sun is ready to do the work for you!
Go solar and monitor!
On top of recognizing significant savings when going solar ($80,000+ for the average household) you also automatically get consumption and production monitoring. Using your smartphone, you can see exactly how much energy your home is using and how much energy your solar is producing. Real-time monitoring helps homeowners curtail unnecessary energy loads to keep usage down.
Switching to solar power also enables you to add an energy storage system to your home. With time-of-use pricing, a smart consumer could use solar and batteries to dynamically manage their energy habits and save significantly on electric bills by pulling from the grid only during times of day when rates are at their cheapest.
Sign up for an EV incentive program.
For a limited time, owners of electric vehicles (EVs) can get $50 cash back when they sign up for PSEGLI’s new Smart Charge Rewards Program. EV users with a home charging station get 5 cents per kWh back when they charge overnight between 11pm and 6am. This could save an EV owner an additional $100+ per year in charging costs.