Author Topic: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!  (Read 5008 times)

notmyhand

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New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« on: November 01, 2016, 02:38:53 PM »
We just got our first month's electricity bill and it was almost $430.  2663 kw used.  We don't do anything crazy so this is unexpected and obviously need some help.

It is a 2800 square foot ranch with an A-frame attached (so lots of very large floor to ceiling windows).  Everything is electric, no other fuel source.  We also have a few outbuildings (barn, garage, and chicken coop being used right now, none of which have the heat on). 

We have switched about 25% of our bulbs to LED so we have to finish the rest.  We keep the home at 68 degrees.  We leave for work at 8 and come back between 6-8.  Lights are off during the day.  New washer/dryer and water heater.  We use a dishwasher but it is just two of us so it isn't high use.  Older fridge, stove, and microwave.

What steps do we need to take asap to fix this?  This is far too high!

Thank you for the help!

What steps shouldw

terran

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2016, 02:43:42 PM »
Some utilities bill based on an estimate every other month, so first confirm that this bill was based on actual usage, not past usage.

What is your climate? Electric is a really inefficient way to heat, so if you've got the heat on that would be my first guess for the major culprit.


boarder42

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2016, 02:47:33 PM »
68 degrees be it winter or summer is alot of extra heat or cooling in a house that size.  if you're cooling to 68 you should up that 10 degrees at least... if you're heating to 68 i'd drop it down to 62

neo von retorch

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2016, 02:48:47 PM »
I've had exactly one electricity bill that high - it was January/February time range. All electric house. And I don't live there... tenants do. (Let's not get into a debate of the stupidity of "all bills paid" landlording!) Anyway, I assume they used too much heat. Not much else can explain that. In your case, I'd definitely have the heat turned down to the 58-62 range when you're not at home. A $30-50 5/2 day programmable Honeywell thermostat might serve you well. Then check out windows (double-paned?) and insulation.

JLee

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2016, 02:50:48 PM »
What are the outdoor temperatures?  Do you have a time-of-day electric plan (i.e. more expensive during certain hours in exchange for better rates in off-peak hours)?

I was able to drop my peak summer electric bill in Phoenix from $397 to nearly half (about $210) by replacing my old single speed pool pump with a new variable speed pump, and by installing a programmable thermostat and basically shutting AC off during my peak cost hours (2pm-5pm).

farmerj

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2016, 02:52:14 PM »
Do you have a programmable thermostat? Not one of those "Nest" things, but something minimal. Set your weekday daytime temperature to 62 or so.

Have you replaced the air filter in your heat pump? Is it a heat pump of recent vintage, and not an electric furnace?

How old are the windows? Are they leaky? What about the doors? Is the weatherstripping still good?

BigHaus89

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2016, 02:54:20 PM »
What type of heating does your house use?

Mine has electric baseboard and I only turn it on when I'm home and need the heat. Otherwise, the baseboard turns on, heats up the house to temp, baseboard turns off, the heated air flows out cracks in windows/attic/doors, and repeat all day long. In the dead of winter, I think the highest bill I had(with electric water heater, dryer and heating) was under $250.

Converting to a different heat source(wood stove, pellet stove) and seals the air leaks should help drastically.

zephyr911

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2016, 02:54:28 PM »
Finish the LEDs ASAP, at least all the ones you regularly use. The rate of return on those can be staggeringly high, as much as 50% in some cases.

Check your thermostat. I don't care which season it is, 68 is silly. Work on your tolerance, spend time outside, adjust clothing, etc. And *definitely* use a programmable one so the system adjusts by a few degrees while you're gone. Don't buy the old wives' tale about using more energy to bring it back up/down for your arrival. Physics says it's bullshit.

Thermal curtains would probably help with those big windows.

Consider an energy audit if you have any local programs that are free or cheap. Or just walk around and feel for hot/cold spots. It can be fairly intuitive. Look in the attic. You want well over a foot of insulation. Check doors for weather stripping, gaps, etc.

MMM has a whole blog entry on this, with some other ideas too.

mskyle

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2016, 02:57:37 PM »
Heating 2800 sqft with electricity can be really expensive. I would at least turn the heat down to 60 or 55 while you're at work (and also while you're asleep!). You can do this with a programmable thermostat or you can just have the first person who wakes up/first person who gets home be cold for a while until the heat first comes on (this is the way we did it when I was growing up).

SomedayStache

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2016, 02:57:48 PM »
We had an electric bill this high in a rent house that had only electric baseboard heaters.  After that month we stopped using the baseboard heaters, got a bunch of plug-in electric heaters and moved them around the house with us.  We were also cold all winter long.

Spork

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2016, 04:24:19 PM »
It's not the LEDs.  There's nothing wrong with switching them (especially the highly used ones) but... even awful incandescent lighting is pretty cheap in comparison to AC/heating/running well pumps, etc.  You would have to have 26,000 hours of running 100watt bulbs to get 2663kwh. 

I suspect (as was mentioned above) it's going to be an issue with an estimated vs actual reading.... or that the initial read on your meter was wrong.

If that doesn't pan out, I'd take a clamp on ammeter and start fishing through the electrical panel to see where the "leak" was.

libertarian4321

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2016, 04:48:10 PM »
Older fridge, stove, and microwave.

My first guess would be AC.  It's probably too early to have a heating problem?   This, of course, depends on where you live.  We tend to go with 63 in winter, and 80 in summer (this is in Texas, where cooling is the major cost).

But the fridge could be a problem, too.  Some older ones are very inefficient (both because of age and technology).  On top of that, a lot of the older ones don't seal well, so you end up running it a lot more often if you have air slipping out.

doneby35

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2016, 04:51:18 PM »
I can tell you this... 2800 sqft house, your bill is going to be high. Where do you live? are you in a state where you would mostly use heat or a state where you would mostly use cooling?
LED bulbs won't change much. Your biggest consumption is cooling/heating. 68 degrees is too low if we're talking about cooling.
I assume with a house that big, you also have a pool? pool pump is another energy hog if it's a single speed pump.
How old is your heating/cooling unit? the older ones consume a lot of energy, the newer ones with a higher SEER save you a lot of money.

I don't see $430 being too high for a 2800sqft, in arizona I paid $400 for summer months for a 2000 sqft house., but yeah your house is too big.

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2016, 05:48:58 PM »
Check and make sure the heater isn't using the "emergency heat" setting.  This uses dramatically more power.

mountains_o_mustaches

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2016, 08:29:02 PM »
This is a lot of money.  I live in a house not nearly that big (ours is 1800 sq ft), but our bill is $35-50/month, with the highest usage being just over 400 kWh.  It sounds like part of where your money is going is (literally) out the (very large) windows.  No matter how "energy efficient" they are you're going to lose heating/cooling through those suckers.  There's not much of a fix other than to move.  You can try things like not leaving lots of lights on, the heating/cooling suggestions already mentioned, potentially you could save some $$ my upgrading appliances to be more energy efficient, hang clothes instead of using the dryer, but honestly that will just be a drop in the bucket if you're trying to heat the house and you have large windows.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2016, 01:25:24 AM »
In your case, I'd definitely have the heat turned down to the 58-62 range when you're not at home.

Set your weekday daytime temperature to 62 or so.

I would at least turn the heat down to 60 or 55 while you're at work (and also while you're asleep!).

Why not just turn the heater off when not home? That might not be practical if the OP is in North Dakota in January, but why heat all that space when no-one's even there to use it?

I grew up in a house which didn't have central heating or aircon (and my current apartment doesn't have them either).

Can you convert your central heating to some other energy source? Gas (even bottled gas)? Even wood if you're rural enough.

slb59

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2016, 05:47:42 AM »
We got hit with a $700 electric bill the first month in a new house. We ended up challenging it with the electric company, and eventually figured out that the number on our bill had an extra digit than the number on our meter. It took a couple of strongly worded letters, but we were able to resolve it.

You should be able to figure out if this is an error or an issue with your home pretty easily by tracking your electric meter for a couple of days to get a sense of your daily usage and comparing it to the numbers on your bill.

mskyle

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2016, 07:42:25 AM »

Why not just turn the heater off when not home? That might not be practical if the OP is in North Dakota in January, but why heat all that space when no-one's even there to use it?


Turning the heat down to 55 degrees when you're away or asleep basically *is* turning the heat off in most houses, if you're heating in the morning and evening - this is what I do and my heat generally does not go on during the day or at night except maybe in January and February, and I live in a poorly-insulated old house in Massachusetts.

So why do I bother setting a temperature at all? Because if the temperature of the house actually does get down below 55 degrees, it takes a long time to warm back up. It takes my apartment an hour or so to warm back up from 55 to 65, and I like to keep my home within an hour or so of a comfortable temperature. If I come home from work sick I'd rather not come home to a 47 degree house (I have a wifi-controlled thermostat so I could turn the heat on before I left work but it's only a 20 minute commute so the house would still be pretty cold).

notmyhand

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2016, 07:49:48 AM »
Few answers -> We live in Pennsylvania but I am perpetually cold (have a genetic condition that may be the cause, being investigated) so the heat was on.  BUT, the emergency heat was on for most of this time.  I noticed it and had changed it just a few days ago so hopefully that helps.  We do not have a pool as we bought this property for the 3 acre lake/pond.  However, we are in the middle of the woods and there are poles with what look like street lamps on them on the property but I know we are responsible for those.  They come on automatically and stay on all night - any ideas what those might be using electricity wise?  Before I send the husband to go scale them, figured I would ask.

We have central air/heat and the sellers just replaced the units during escrow but we also have electric baseboards in addition in some room.  I will go around and make sure the base boards are off, then we will start setting the heat way down and get me a portable heater.  We have to replace the roof in the spring so will be adding insulation then as well, for what I can tell right now in the attic, it looks like there is at least a foot of it if not more.  I cannot tell how well insulated the walls are but I cannot hear our dogs barking outside when I am inside.  All of the windows look like double pane but there are a ton of them.  The entire living room/entertainment room is wall to wall windows and doors with glass so I see we will be definitely losing some there.

We do have an amp detector so may use it this weekend as well and I will note the meter starting this evening.

Thank you for all of the help!  Any other suggestions?

Spork

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2016, 07:56:27 AM »
Do you have a heat pump with "emergency heat"?  If so, that emergency heat does likely have a pretty large amp draw.  You'll be running the compressor AND will be running a resistance heat coil at the same time.

SomedayStache

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2016, 07:58:13 AM »
We had two of those street light looking light poles when we bought our acreage.

Our electric company charges a flat rate of $15/month each for those.  Once we realized this we had the electric company come out and disconnect the bulb.  I like the dark and the money savings.  Besides our crazy neighbors have 6(!) of those lights causing enough light pollution to effectively light our area as well.

Enigma

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2016, 08:10:54 AM »
Sounds pretty normal to me...  2,800 sq ft is just a lot of house.  I would expect half the house (1,400sq ft) would cost around half the bill ($215).  And in comparison a 900sq ft house would be around $140 (15-16 cents per sq foot)

Be careful with leaving the temperatures in some areas around or below freezing.  The last thing you want to do is have the pipes burst in the middle of the winter.  (Example of good MMM intentions going horribly wrong)

Spork

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2016, 08:23:04 AM »
For everyone that thinks "thats a huge house, you should expect that much electricity usage..."  Not necessarily.

Our average for the past year is $99/mo.  Our big months are A/C in the summer -- $145 was our max bill.  Our house is 2350sqft.  We're a bit smaller than the OP, but our bills are pretty noticeably lower.

Of course, we're in the south, and heating cost is minimal (mostly done via a wood stove).  We also pay about $450 a year for propane, so that should be factored in as well.  (Yes, propane is ungodly expensive.)

boarder42

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2016, 08:56:45 AM »
if we want to talk home size and electricity use we own a 3800sq ft mcmansion ... our electric bill in the summer peaked at 200 a month.  in the winter we primarily use our heat pump to heat our house with supplemental furnace.  but our solar gain is really high.  so high that i'm trying to figure out how to eliminate it in the summer with outdoor blinds.  the costs to heat and cool are not linear based on sq footage ... we moved from a 1800 sq ft house and our energy consumption only went up 25%.

Spork

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2016, 09:25:53 AM »
if we want to talk home size and electricity use we own a 3800sq ft mcmansion ... our electric bill in the summer peaked at 200 a month.  in the winter we primarily use our heat pump to heat our house with supplemental furnace.  but our solar gain is really high.  so high that i'm trying to figure out how to eliminate it in the summer with outdoor blinds.  the costs to heat and cool are not linear based on sq footage ... we moved from a 1800 sq ft house and our energy consumption only went up 25%.

LOL.  We moved from a 600sqft apartment where we paid 2x what we pay for a 2350sqft house.  Yes, size isn't the whole factor. 

mskyle

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2016, 09:28:50 AM »
Few answers -> We live in Pennsylvania but I am perpetually cold (have a genetic condition that may be the cause, being investigated) so the heat was on.  BUT, the emergency heat was on for most of this time.  I noticed it and had changed it just a few days ago so hopefully that helps.  We do not have a pool as we bought this property for the 3 acre lake/pond.  However, we are in the middle of the woods and there are poles with what look like street lamps on them on the property but I know we are responsible for those.  They come on automatically and stay on all night - any ideas what those might be using electricity wise?  Before I send the husband to go scale them, figured I would ask.

We have central air/heat and the sellers just replaced the units during escrow but we also have electric baseboards in addition in some room.  I will go around and make sure the base boards are off, then we will start setting the heat way down and get me a portable heater.  We have to replace the roof in the spring so will be adding insulation then as well, for what I can tell right now in the attic, it looks like there is at least a foot of it if not more.  I cannot tell how well insulated the walls are but I cannot hear our dogs barking outside when I am inside.  All of the windows look like double pane but there are a ton of them.  The entire living room/entertainment room is wall to wall windows and doors with glass so I see we will be definitely losing some there.

We do have an amp detector so may use it this weekend as well and I will note the meter starting this evening.

Thank you for all of the help!  Any other suggestions?

If you have a heat pump + emergency heat I bet just switching to using the heat pump without the emergency heat will help a lot. Hopefully you can keep the house comfortable with just the heat pump.

JLee

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2016, 09:34:05 AM »
if we want to talk home size and electricity use we own a 3800sq ft mcmansion ... our electric bill in the summer peaked at 200 a month.  in the winter we primarily use our heat pump to heat our house with supplemental furnace.  but our solar gain is really high.  so high that i'm trying to figure out how to eliminate it in the summer with outdoor blinds.  the costs to heat and cool are not linear based on sq footage ... we moved from a 1800 sq ft house and our energy consumption only went up 25%.

It depends dramatically on where you are, too.  I'd be really impressed if you could cool a 3800 sq ft house in Phoenix for $200/mo.

boarder42

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2016, 10:38:11 AM »
if we want to talk home size and electricity use we own a 3800sq ft mcmansion ... our electric bill in the summer peaked at 200 a month.  in the winter we primarily use our heat pump to heat our house with supplemental furnace.  but our solar gain is really high.  so high that i'm trying to figure out how to eliminate it in the summer with outdoor blinds.  the costs to heat and cool are not linear based on sq footage ... we moved from a 1800 sq ft house and our energy consumption only went up 25%.

It depends dramatically on where you are, too.  I'd be really impressed if you could cool a 3800 sq ft house in Phoenix for $200/mo.

correct but you also dont have to heat yours and you have dry air at night so i would think that outside of 3-4 months of the year you could use a whole house fan and windows.

zephyr911

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2016, 12:31:27 PM »
BUT, the emergency heat was on for most of this time.
That alone could represent half the consumption, or more.
Quote
However, we are in the middle of the woods and there are poles with what look like street lamps on them on the property but I know we are responsible for those.  They come on automatically and stay on all night - any ideas what those might be using electricity wise?  Before I send the husband to go scale them, figured I would ask.
Send him up. If they're some old halogen or HPS lamps, they could easily be 100W or more apiece, which could be $0.10-20 per night for each one of them. Assuming they're standard sockets and you can reach them, that portion of the bill could be reduced by 80-90% with LEDs.

More than one comment above said your inside lights probably aren't a big portion of the bill. This is true, but it's so cheap and easy relative to the savings, that there's still no reason not to do it. Whatever you do spend will probably come back to you within 1-3 years, depending on the duty cycle of each fixture.

Spork

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Re: New home - first electricity bill - $430?!! Help!
« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2016, 01:40:37 PM »
BUT, the emergency heat was on for most of this time.
That alone could represent half the consumption, or more.
Quote
However, we are in the middle of the woods and there are poles with what look like street lamps on them on the property but I know we are responsible for those.  They come on automatically and stay on all night - any ideas what those might be using electricity wise?  Before I send the husband to go scale them, figured I would ask.
Send him up. If they're some old halogen or HPS lamps, they could easily be 100W or more apiece, which could be $0.10-20 per night for each one of them. Assuming they're standard sockets and you can reach them, that portion of the bill could be reduced by 80-90% with LEDs.

More than one comment above said your inside lights probably aren't a big portion of the bill. This is true, but it's so cheap and easy relative to the savings, that there's still no reason not to do it. Whatever you do spend will probably come back to you within 1-3 years, depending on the duty cycle of each fixture.

Before you just unplug or replace them... really look at your bill closely.  Tons of utility companies charge flat rates for these lights (which includes changing out the bulb if it burns out.)  My point being: you may still get flat rate charged if this is not coming through your meter.  And if it was coming through my meter... the first thing I'd install was a nice "off" switch.