Do you often wonder ‘why is my electric bill so high?’, especially during winter months? Are you confused about how your electricity bill works and what’s included? Or maybe you’re simply asking how to lower your electric bill?
You're not alone! We can all relate to heat and light bills that feel out of control. But even though this expense is a necessary part of life, very few of us actually understand how our electricity bills work and what's included in the monthly cost.
Good news is — there are ways to save! By making small changes, you can see a major difference on your electric bill. In fact, with the right technology, you can have more control than ever.
We’ve put together 10 common reasons for your abnormally high electric bill, along with some simple saving tips. But, let’s first start with the basics.
How Do Electricity Bills Work?
Breaking down an electric bill can be difficult for the average homeowner. Most of us glance at the final number, roll our eyes, and pay accordingly. However, for those wondering ‘what does my electric bill include’, there’s a list of charges that explains what you're paying for.
Whether you have an apartment electric bill or one for a single-family home, understanding your bill helps you make smart decisions to lower your electric bill. It will also help you answer the question ‘why is my electric bill so high’.
An electric bill is divided into two parts:
1) Delivery rates 2) and supply rates
Delivery rates are a fixed monthly cost charged by your provider. This includes what it costs to deliver your power and upkeep electrical equipment, pipelines, and powerlines. For the most part, this cost is non-negotiable.
It’s important to note that depending on your state or country, these charges may vary.
Supply charges will change from month to month. These are calculated monthly based on your household's energy usage (measured in kilowatt-hours or kWh). You have more control over these costs, since they’re directly related to your usage. If your electricity bill is too high, this is where you can make some changes.
The rate that you’re charged per kWh depends on your location and the specific terms of your plan. The average rate in the US is 10.42 cents per kWh and 17.9 cents in Canada. Your rate per kWh can be a consistent flat fee, or variable based on the market value of electricity or the time of day. Time of use plans charge higher rates at popular ‘peak’ energy using times throughout the day and lower rates at off peak hours.
What Costs the Most on Your Electric Bill?
Many things can lead to a high electricity bill, however, air conditioning and heating definitely cost the most. In fact, the two makeup 60-70% of the average electric bill. Your HVAC system (what heats and cools your home) can use anywhere between 28-63 kWh in a 24 hour period. This would be 850-1950 kWh at the end of the month.
So, this answers the question, ‘is heat included in my electric bill’. If you’re wondering ‘why is my electric bill so high’, how you heat and cool your home is an important thing to consider.
The second most expensive thing on your home electricity bill is the cost of having hot water. This often accounts for up to 14% of your total bill, on average.
So, if your electric bill has doubled or tripled over time, home heating and cooling, and hot water use are the first areas to make changes.
How Much Should Your Electric Bill be?
Wondering how many kWh per day is normal or how do you calculate kWh per day?
Electric bills will vary depending on location, size of property, and the time of year. In Canada, the average residential cost is 17.9 cents per kWh. This price takes into account both fixed and variable costs. Assuming a monthly consumption of 1,000 kWh, a normal electric bill in Canada would be $179 CAD/month.
In the US, the Energy Information Administration reports that the average electric bill is $117.65 USD per month.
If your electric bill seems way too high by comparison, keep reading to learn more.
Why is Your Electric Bill so High?
There are many causes of a high electricity bill. From heating, to lighting, to running the dishwasher, many things contribute to an unusually high electric bill. So, it’s important to be strategic about your home energy use to find the best ways to lower your bill.
What causes your electric bill to be high? Here are 10 common energy-sucking habits that contribute to a high power bill (plus some savings tips):
1) Inefficient Lighting and Control
Your home’s lighting and how you control it can make a difference on your electric bill. If you’re wondering ‘why is my light bill so high’, it’s possible that you could make some changes to save.
Lighting isn’t always strategically well placed in your home. For example, lights might illuminate space that isn't in use. Picture this: You're curled up on your favourite chair in the corner of a room reading a book and all overhead lights are on. Ideally, you would be able to control the section of lights directly above you, without having to light the whole room. Or, you could place a reading lamp nearby to conserve.
Another possible concern is the light switches and bulbs that you use. Traditional light switches and bulbs offer very little control and efficiency. Upgrading to more energy-efficient light bulbs or smart options can help manage costs. For example, LED light bulbs can use up to 90% less energy, which results in major savings.
Consider using lamps instead of overhead lights when you don’t have to light a full room.
Remember to turn your lights off when not in use.
Invest in smart light bulbs and switches to have more control over your home’s lighting. With this upgrade, your lighting can be controlled from your phone or smart assistant. So, no more worries about forgetting to turn off your lights.
2) Inefficient Home Appliances
Another possible answer to ‘why is my electric bill so high’ could be related to your home appliances. Which household appliances use the most electricity? Generally, your fridge, oven, and dryer are the biggest culprits.
The type of home appliances that you use can make a difference. Energy-efficient or energy star appliances are made to use less energy, which means more savings on your electric bill. This can especially make a difference for appliances constantly in use like your fridge or washer and dryer.
There’s even the option to get smart appliances to help improve the efficiency of how you use your appliances (more on that next).
Invest in energy-efficient or energy star certified appliances for easy savings.
Consider smart appliances for even more control and savings.
3) Wasteful Appliance Use
How you use your home appliances can also lead to a high electric bill. Homeowners often make the mistake of always leaving their appliances plugged in while not in use. If you’ve wondered, 'does unplugging appliances save electricity’ or ‘should I unplug my charger when not in use’, the answer is: Yes!
Of course, appliances like your refrigerator and freezer will be plugged in all day, since they’re constantly in use. But, what about your toaster or dated TV that’s rarely used? For those appliances, it’s best to unplug them so you don’t waste electricity.
Smart appliances can also help you schedule your usage to save. If you live in an area with time of use electricity rates, it’s more expensive to use electricity during popular times. With smart appliances, you can schedule appliances to run during off-peak hours (with cheaper rates) to save. For example, you can load your dishwasher in the morning and schedule it to run during the middle of the day while you're at work.
Unplug any appliances not in use.
Schedule smart appliances to run during off-peak hours with a cheaper electricity rate.
4) Excess Hot Water Usage
Heating hot water is the second-highest consumption of energy. It’s still OK to enjoy a hot shower, however, quick showers can lead to savings. Ideally, everyone in your family should aim to keep shower times to 5-15 minutes, for savings (and better skincare). Also, be mindful of using the bath since it uses a lot of water to fill.
Upgrading sink faucets and shower heads can help minimize consumption too. Look for low-flow faucets that don’t use as much water while in use.
Finally, appliances like your clothes washer also use a lot of hot water. But, washing in cold water can be just as effective.
Take quick showers and limit using the bath.
Switch to low flow sink faucets and shower heads.
Wash your hands and brush your teeth in cool water.
Use cold water to wash your clothing.
5) Your Heating and Cooling System
What uses the most electricity in a home? Home heating and cooling; it contributes as much as 60-70% of total costs. When wondering ‘why is my electric bill so high’, let’s first consider your home heating and cooling system(s).
Generally, home heating systems can be broken down into two categories: low voltage central HVAC systems and high voltage electric systems.
Central HVAC Systems
Central home HVAC systems use a variety of heating fuels such as water, gas, oil, wood, etc. Furnace heating, forced air, and boilers are all different types of central heating. The most energy efficient option for central HVAC systems is a ducted central heat pump.
Since many of these heating types require ductwork, there’s a lot of potential for heat loss and wasted energy. Central HVAC systems also typically only have one or two thermostats for your whole home. This makes it difficult to control the temperature in each room individually to save.
High Voltage Electric Heating
High voltage systems are generally electric. This includes electric baseboard heaters, fan-forced heaters, in-floor heating, and in-ceiling radiant heating. An efficient electric heating option is a ductless mini split heat pump.
Without any ductwork, these systems have the potential to be more efficient, if controlled properly (more on that next). Also, they’re naturally a zoned system, which means rooms can be controlled individually.
In terms of cooling, many homes have central AC. Since this involves ductwork, you may run into efficiency issues. Other options include portable or window air conditioners or ductless mini split heat pumps. These systems have the potential to be much more efficient, especially when controlled properly.
Consider electric heating and cooling options without ductwork like ductless mini split heat pumps.
Monitor how much you use home heating to understand why your electric bill is so high in the winter.
If you’re evaluating heating or cooling options for a new home or a remodel, we would recommend electric heating, especially a ductless mini split heat pump. This could be a costly upgrade, but don’t fret. You can also make changes to how you control your home heating and AC for big savings.
6) Inefficient Home Heating and AC Control
Inefficient home heating and AC control is another big reason why you’re wondering ‘why is my electric bill so high’. Luckily, small changes can make a big difference.
For example, many homeowners ‘set and forget’ their thermostat and never change its temperature settings. If you’ve asked yourself ‘why is my electric bill so high when I’m not home’. This is one explanation. Decreasing your thermostat setpoint at night or when you’re not not at home can lead to BIG savings.
The same can be said about AC. If you have a high summer electric bill, consider how you use air conditioning. Some homeowners wonder ‘is it cheaper to leave AC on all day’ and the answer is no. Do you leave your AC blasting all summer long? Or do you have windows open while using AC? Instead, consider only using your AC when needed and keeping your windows closed. This can lead to savings.
A smart thermostat can help automate your home heating and cooling control. Having to turn down the dial on your thermostat or find your AC remote can feel like a chore. But, a smart thermostat can do this work for you. With a smart upgrade, you can create custom heating and cooling schedules or use Geofencing when your schedule is unpredictable.
Plus, a smart thermostat can be controlled from anywhere using your smartphone and there are a ton of other smart features. For example, Energy Insights shows reports on your daily, weekly, and monthly energy use and savings. Generally, a smart thermostat can save you up to 26% on your monthly electric bill.
Finally, it’s important to be conscious of when you use home heating and cooling. Instead of turning up your thermostat, bundle up in cozy layers. Or dress cooler in the summer instead of blasting the AC.
Bundle up in the winter and dress cooler in the summer.
Turn your thermostat down at night before bed and when no one is home (so you’re not heating or cooling an empty house).
Do not run your AC with the windows open.
Invest in a smart thermostat for easy heating and AC control, right from your smartphone.
7) Poor Home Insulation
Another thing that could explain why your electric bill is so high is poor insulation. Regardless of how efficiently you heat or cool your home, if it’s poorly insulated your heating and cooling systems will work on overdrive to maintain a setpoint. It’s kind of like filling a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Insulation helps keep warm air inside your home during winter months and cool air inside in the summer. Proper insulation can make a huge difference on your bill. In fact, improvements to home insulation can help you save up to 15% on your costs.
Some indicators of poor home insulation include varying temperatures between rooms, feeling drafts, electric bills going up, and icicles hanging from your roof. If you suspect that your insulation isn’t up-to-date, consider a DIY home energy audit or hiring a professional.
Do a DIY home energy audit or hire a professional energy auditor to do an inspection.
Insulate all areas of your home.
Look for rebates in your area to help with the cost of these improvements.
8) Drafty Doors and Windows
Drafty doors or windows can also help explain ‘why is my electric bill so high’. If you feel a draft in areas throughout your home, also check the sealing on doors and windows. It’s natural for weather stripping to deteriorate over time. Warped windows, loose door hinges, or issues with the frames can also cause issues.
Possible solutions can be simple. Hinges can be tightened on doors and weather stripping can be added. For old or drafty windows, you could invest in DIY plastic sealing kits or add more caulking (outside) or weather stripping (inside). Cellular blinds and curtains can also help trap heat and block the sun in the summer.
Tighten door hinges.
Add more caulking and/or weather stripping to doors and windows.
Invest in DIY plastic sealing kits for windows or cellular blinds and curtains.
Replace old windows to double or triple pane options.
9) Leaving Chargers Plugged In
Something else that can answer why your utility bill is so high is chargers that are left plugged in. When you aren’t charging your phone or laptop, it’s best to unplug the charging device. By keeping these devices plugged in, you're constantly using power, which can cause an electricity bill increase.
It seems like a small thing, but leaving just one charger plugged in aimlessly can burn up to 235 kWh per year!
Instead of plugging and unplugging all your charging devices, you could consider investing in a smart plug to minimize consumption. Smart plugs come equipped with an on/off switch to ensure you aren’t using electricity aimlessly.
Unplug all charging devices that are not in use.
Use smart plugs to turn outlets/chargers on or off remotely from your phone.
10) Unnecessary Power Wastage
Finally, another thing that can lead to you asking ‘why is my electric bill so high’ is unnecessary power usage or waste. For example, many homeowners don’t use their appliances to their full capacity. Some people may start a load of laundry or dishes before necessary or not know how much their dishwasher or washing machine can hold. It’s best to use appliances to their full capacity and not to overload.
The same can be said for your refrigerator. Overloading your fridge can cause this appliance to work even harder to keep everything cold. This ultimately draws more energy.
Other common energy-sucking habits include leaving the television turned on and long searches in the fridge for a midnight snack. Fixing these common habits are a great way to save!
Use appliances to their full capacity, but do not overload.
Turn off TVs, radios, etc. when not in use.
Do not overload your fridge and keep the door closed.
How Can You Reduce Your Electric Bill?
Instead of worrying ‘why is my power bill so high’, there are ways to save. Here’s a summary of our top ways to lower your electric bill:
Turn down your thermostat at night or when you’re not home.
Get a smart thermostat to make life easier and save up to 26% on your electric bill (remember: home heating and cooling contributes to your bill the most).
Upgrade to energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.
Reduce your hot water usage: wash clothes in cold water, use low flow faucets, and take short showers.
Invest in other smart home products like light bulbs, light switches, plugs, etc.
Do a home energy audit to find sources of heat loss and energy waste to make home upgrades.
Stop unnecessary wasteful habits like leaving appliances or chargers plugged in or lights and tvs turned on.
Time to Start Saving
So there you have it. Those are 10 reasons why your electric bill is so high, along with some saving tips.
By making a few quick and easy changes, you can see big savings on your monthly electric bill, so you no longer have to wonder ‘why is my electric bill so high’. Though some energy-saving solutions may come with an upfront cost, remember there are rebates available for energy efficient home improvements and these changes will pay off in savings long term.
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