Why is My Electric Power Bill So High?
Nov 23, 2020
by EmPower Solar
PSEG LI + ConEd Customers
“My PSEG LI bill is too high! It’s literally five times what it was last year.”
“Am I crazy, or did everyone’s electric bill more than double this month?! My Con Ed bill is too high, what am I supposed to do?”
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.
High Electric Bill: Causes
Individually these reasons might not seem like much, but when compounded they make a huge difference! We’re here to help explain why your summer and fall bills are considerably higher than the rest of the year.
1. More Home Electric Use
Staying home during the pandemic caused a huge spike in high energy bills last year, but what’s surprising is that those bills haven’t really gone down. Many people have shifted to working from home full time, and even those working from home part-time are still using more power to keep smart phones, laptops, and PCs running. Lights that may have previously been off during the day are now on for hours longer than usual, especially as many kids continue schooling from home.
2. Increasingly Warmer Weather
According to PSEG LI, 40% of the reason for bill increases is due to weather, and at seems as though each passing summer is getting hotter and hotter. For the third year in a row, we’ve seen extremely warm and humid weather, requiring AC units to crank overtime to keep homes cool and comfortable.
3. Old, Inefficient Appliances
Large appliances, like washer/dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators are so commonly used it’s easy to forget how wasteful they can be, especially through overuse that can drive your electric bill way up. If your appliances aren’t ENERGY STAR® rated, they can be up to 50% less efficient than newer models, meaning they use way more power.
4. Estimated Meter Readings
Due to the pandemic, 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.
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!
Top 10 Ways to Save Energy
1. 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 September 2021. 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.
2. Complete an energy audit.
Oftentimes, utility providers are able to conduct energy audits in your home. An energy audit is used to inspect the flow and use of energy in a home. PSEG LI offers a free energy efficiency home assessment to all of their customers, while ConEd customers can visit their website to learn more about energy efficiency savings available to them.
By completing a home energy audit, you’ll have greater insight into how you can save money on your energy bills. There’s often a visual component of the audit, which helps identify the places in your home that are the least efficient and recommended actions you can take to make improvements.
3. Change your lightbulbs.
Over the past few years, the use of LED lights has grown exponentially more popular, but some people have been slow to make the switch in their own homes. Are you one of them? If so, outdated incandescent bulbs can be wasting energy and driving up your electric bill. If you’re ready for a simple, money-saving changes, you should switch all of your lighting fixtures to be outfitted with LED bulbs, particularly those labeled with the ENERGY STAR® label.
Due to advances in LED technology, you can easily find energy efficient bulbs for a variety of needs, including smart bulbs that can be controlled remotely and even change colors! Some of those smart bulbs are equipped to work on timers or through smartphone apps. For example, you can program your lights to only turn on when you pull into your driveway.
4. Use natural lighting.
Did you know that lighting alone accounts for about 10% of the average home’s energy usage? If you are concerned about the amount of energy that is consumed because of consistent light use then try to use natural light instead. During the summer, Long Island and New York City get a lot more daylight hours, which you can use to your advantage! By using light provided by the sun to brighten your home, not only are you conserving electricity, but reaping other benefits of natural light, like boosting your levels of vitamin D and increasing productivity. This is critical as many continue to work from home!
5. Install solar panels.
Speaking of the sun, you can significantly reduce or completely eliminate your electric bill when you go solar! For $0 down you can benefit from immediate savings on your electric bill and expect significant savings over the life of your solar system. A solar system will pay for itself in just 4-7 years if the homeowner purchases them with cash, and a homeowner who finances or leases their system can expect to save upwards of $100,000 over the life of their system. Plus, there are federal, state, and local incentives available to go solar which can cover up to 50% of the total system cost. These savings become even greater when you complete your solar array with a home battery backup system, like the Tesla Powerwall.
6. Eliminate hidden energy waste.
Oftentimes, homeowners don’t know that electronics that appear to be “off” aren’t really off at all. For example, if you happen to have a cable box or DVR and you turn it off, it still consumes energy. You would think that turning off electronics would help save energy, but that’s not the case at all. Televisions aren’t the only thing to worry about, however; microwaves also consume energy even while not being used, along with laptops/computers, phone chargers, speakers, printers, scanners, and more. In fact, 25% of the power used by these electronics is consumed when they’re “turned off.” This is known as “phantom energy.” If you are able to unplug these appliances, do it! It will help you save a lot of energy in the long run.
7. Wash your clothes in cold water.
Many believe that washing your clothes in hot water is the way to go, but it takes a ton of your washing machine’s power to simply heat that water. Not only that, but washing with hot water increases the chances of your clothes shrinking and fading, both of which can destroy clothing, whereas cold water protects color fabrics, is more effective for stain removal, and reduces wrinkles, which means less time and energy spent ironing. Keep that in mind the next time you do laundry!
8. 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. PSEG LI customers and Con Ed customers are generally charged one flat rate, paying the same amount for energy whether it’s consumed at 6:00 pm in the summer or at 3:00 am in the winter, even though the PSEG LI and Con Ed 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!
9. 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.
For $0 down you can benefit from immediate savings on your electric bill and expect significant savings over the life of your solar system. A solar system will pay for itself in just 4-7 years when purchased outright. Plus, there are federal, state, and local incentives available to go solar which can cover up to 50% of the total system cost. These savings become even greater when you complete your solar array with a home battery backup system, like the Tesla Powerwall.
With TOU 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.
10. Sign up for an EV incentive program.
For a limited time, PSEG LI customers can receive a $500 rebate when they install a Smart Charger for their EVs, and Con Ed customers can earn up to $1000 a year when participating in their EV Charging Rewards Program.