electric bill too high troubleshooting

Why is my electric bill so high?

If you own a home, you’ve probably experienced the shock of opening your monthly electricity bill in the mail and seeing a dollar total that is higher than you expect. It’s a common part of home ownership, and one that you can hear homeowners lamenting as electricity rates increase – “Why is my electric bill so high? Why does it keep going up?”.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to find the source of high electricity bills and resolve them so that you can minimize the impact on your wallet. Here are some ideas to start the troubleshooting process, along with some suggestions on what to do about your high electric bill.

Key takeaways

  • High electric bills usually come from outdated appliances or inefficient appliance usage around your home.
  • Your utility could also be a factor – you may have been moved to a different pricing schedule or had an overall rate increase.
  • Looking for an easy way to reduce your electric bills? Try community solar to start saving.
  • If you own your property, one sure way to save money on electricity is by going solar – check out the EnergySage Marketplace for custom quotes today

Top reasons why your utility bill is high

There are several main reasons why you might have a high electric bill:

  1. You have old appliances
  2. You’re using your appliances in an inefficient way
  3. You’ve been moved to a new rate structure, like time-of-use
  4. Your utility rates are increasing overall

Importantly, for most U.S. households, electric bills are generally higher in summer months, as that is the time of year when most air conditioners are running for the most hours. However, if you notice your utility bills are higher than usual for the time of year (or compared to the previous month), you can probably take action and reduce your electricity demand.

Cause: you have old electrical appliances in your house

Over time, the electronic appliances in your home degrade and lose efficiency. In addition, older appliances weren’t made at the efficiency standards that are required today. Even in their prime, they will draw more electricity to generate the same amount of power that a comparable ENERGY STAR appliance today. Both of these facts can lead to older appliances becoming relative “energy hogs” in your home.

Solution: replace old appliances with ENERGY STAR appliances

If your house is full of older appliances, you may want to consider upgrading to newer technology to reduce your utility bill. Keep an eye out for ENERGY STAR appliances in the shopping process. This is particularly true if they’re appliances like refrigerators, dryers, and dishwashers that use a lot of electricity to begin with. Upgrading to more efficient appliances in your home could lead to significant annual savings: ENERGY STAR reports that a typical household can save roughly $450 per year on energy bills by using products with their certification.

Bonus: schedule a home energy audit for a professional opinion

A home energy audit can help you identify improvements you can make in your home to increase energy efficiency, which will lower your electricity bills over time. Typical measures suggested by an energy auditor may include adding insulation, installing LED light bulbs, adding weather stripping, and upgrading to energy efficient appliances. Making home improvements after an audit can save you anywhere from five to 30 percent on energy bills.

Cause: you’re using appliances inefficiently

Many homeowners have high electricity bills because of the appliances that are plugged into their outlets, even if they aren’t using them frequently. Many modern electronics continue to draw electricity from the grid even if they’re powered down or not in use. The easiest way to conceptually think about it is that these appliances are on “standby” until being turned on. These are sometimes referred to as “Vampire Appliances.” In your own home, this may include DVR systems, garage door openers, smart home devices like the Amazon Echo, or your microwave.

While appliances on standby don’t use as much electricity as when they’re in use, it can still add up, and it contributes to an overall higher electricity bill. Appliances on standby account for roughly three to 10 percent of energy usage in a home. You’ll notice that even if you spend a month away from home, you’re likely to still have a decent sized electricity bill because of some of these products.

Solution 1: clean your appliances and your fill dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer to capacity

If your appliances haven’t been cleaned in a while (especially your refrigerator and air conditioner), that might have an impact on your electricity bill. Cleaning the condenser coils at the back of your fridge (if your model has them) in particular is an easy way to keep it running at maximum efficiency. When it comes to air conditioners, just make sure you’ve been changing the filter on your unit at least once a month. The more build-up of debris in your AC filter, the less efficient your system will run.

In addition, you can save extra money on your utility bill by running power-hungry appliances like dishwashers and washing machines at capacity. Try to wait to run your dishwasher until it’s actually full, so you’re getting the most out of the wash cycle. The same goes for your clothes washer and dryer.

Solution 2: use smart power strips and turn lights and fans off when leaving room

Smart power strips, also known as advanced power strips, address the problem of phantom loads by shutting off the power completely to electronics when they are not in use. Smart power strips can be set to turn off at an assigned time, during a period of inactivity, through remote switches, or based on the status of a “master” device.

Although it might seem obvious, another way to squeeze out more electricity savings is by simply turning off devices like fans and lights when you leave a room. Especially for larger rooms, this can add up over time.

Cause: you’re on a new rate structure, like time-of-use

Have you recently opted into, or been forced by the utility to adopt a time-of-use (TOU) plan? If so, this could be one reason why your electricity bill is higher than it’s been in the past.

TOU plans charge different rates depending on the time of day you’re drawing electricity from the grid. “Peak hours,” or the hours when the utility charges the most, are in the evening as most people return from their place of work. If you’re on a TOU plan and running electrical appliances during these hours, it will increase your monthly bill.

Solution: install a battery and adjust your consumption habits

Many homeowners are considering installing energy storage for their home not only as a source of backup power during grid outages, but also to combat time-of-use electricity rates during peak hours. With a backup battery, you can charge your battery during off-peak hours when electricity rates are at their cheapest, and then use electricity that has been stored during peak hours. In addition to taking advantage of a lower TOU rate, you can also get access to incentives to make investing in energy storage for your home more affordable.

Even if you don’t currently use much electricity during off-peak hours, do you have the flexibility to change everyday habits and decrease your electricity use during peak hours? This might seem difficult for homeowners who leave the house everyday for work and return in the evening when electricity rates will be higher, but there are still steps you can take to save money using time-of-use and schedule your energy usage outside of a peak time. For example, many appliances – including dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers – have scheduling functions so that you can set the time for them to run ahead of time. If you own an electric car, you can plan to charge it at night during off-peak hours.

You can also simply wake up earlier to start household chores that require a good amount of electricity, wait to charge appliances until it’s late at night, and generally try to be more conscious of when you’re using electricity. All of these actions help to minimize your use during peak hours and cut down on energy use.

Cause: your utility rates are increasing

The price of electricity fluctuates across the country, and retail residential electricity rates do typically increase over time. In the last 10 years across the nation, average electricity rates have risen approximately 4% per year (although it varies depending on where you live). As the rate you pay for electricity continues to rise, it will mean higher electricity bills, even if you aren’t using more electricity.

Below is data from a few states, and what they’ve experienced in regards to electricity price increases.

National Grid, PG&E, Duke Energy and other top utility rate increases

StateMajor utilitiesAverage retail rate, March 2022 (cents per kWh)Year-over-year rate change
MassachusettsNational Grid, Eversource24.70+12.85%
New JerseyPSE&G, JCP&L16.93+8.25%
New YorkNational Grid, Con Edison, PSEG LI19.74+9.42%
MarylandBG&E, PEPCO14.16+10.28%
CaliforniaPG&E, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, LADWP26.71+17.61%

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

This isn’t to say that homeowners in all states have experienced an increase in electricity rates each year. Rates fluctuate, and some states over the past few years have actually seen a slight decrease in electricity costs (though the vast majority have experienced large price hikes). In 2021, Overall, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) predicts that electricity prices will continue to increase throughout summer 2022.

If you think that an increase in utility costs may be the cause for your high bill, it’s worth taking a look at their information online or searching local news to see if this may be the case.

Solution: offset your bill with solar!

The best way to save on your electric bill is to install solar on your property. Over the course of your system’s 30+ year lifetime, you’ll save thousands of dollars in avoided electricity costs – and you can even start saving on day one by choosing a $0-down loan!

If you’re a renter or don’t have a good roof for solar, you can also get a discount on electricity by subscribing to a community solar program. With community solar, you’ll get credit for electricity from a local solar farm, usually at a lower rate than your utility. Electricity bill savings differ from program to program, and also vary by month. On average, most community solar subscribers receive a discount between 5-10% off of traditional electricity costs over the course of a year.

You can also save on electricity costs by simply comparing electricity plans. For example, WattBuy offers an energy marketplace where you can compare your available electricity plans to maximize your savings (up to 40%!) and/or environmental benefit.

Start your solar journey today through EnergySage

The best way to save on your solar system (and ultimately your electric bill) is to compare quotes. On the EnergySage Marketplace, you’ll receive up to seven quotes from our network of pre-vetted installers. Unable to install solar on your property? Check out our Community Solar Marketplace to see if there are any available projects located near you!

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About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry is an expert in all things solar! She's worked in the industry for more than 6 years, starting her career as an Energy Advisor dedicated to helping customers compare their options and make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

31 thoughts on “Why is my electric bill so high?

  1. Michael

    My bill went from 87 dollars to 362 dollars I live alone and all I have on is one TV no lights on and my bill still came out last month for 311 dollars. The electric company need to check my apartment and the problem but they don’t care

  2. Brenda kay Spears

    My energy bill last month was 315.00$. I live alone. I’m 78 yrs. Old. I have an energy efficient heating unit. Installed two yrs.ago. Energy bill has never been over 223.00$. Someone needs to come and check this out!
    Thank you!
    Brenda Kay Spears

  3. Lisa lonsdale

    Regarding 68 Banksia terrace ,need to know why price hike up $200 and no new appliances is something wrong .

  4. Beth Takacs

    My first bill was over $300 so over the last 3 months I’ve been making adjustments and now my bill is $408! My house is set on timers. From 10:30pm to 10:30 am 7 days a week my houses ac is set to 80! From 10:31am to 10:29pm it’s at 77! We have all brand new energy saver appliances… including the ac unit and use LED bulbs throughout the house. My family is lights out at 9pm and gone all but myself before 8am, during this last peak my husband was gone for the entire month. We use power strips that are turned off when not in use and we don’t use the dishwasher/washer/dryer until 5am, and still it’s jumping. All of my neighbors have solar but when I tried to have it installed the power company REFUSED to comply. They charge me .24 cents a unit and solar was locked in at .12. But here in am doing everything possible to make this more affordable and they keep hiking it up.

  5. Nancy

    When i was living in an apartment-my electric bill was outrages. I was rarely home and used very little electricity. Hardly ever used my AC in the summer. Left my windows open at night. Hardly ever used my washer and dryer and still had high bill. I think what may be going on is because you are connected to the entire complex, the electric company takes the daily usage and divides it equal among the apartment units. So you all may be paying the whole rate. Who knows, since you get an individual bill. But i would check usage amount. It sucks–it’s a rip off. I was angry about it too. But when i call the electric company their like–well you typically use more electricity in the summer. I disagree. I did not. So, i think that may be going on. I would check with the neighbors to see what they are paying every month to find out what the issue could be. Just a thought.

  6. Keri

    So our bill goes from $150 one month to over $700 the next!!! This last bill was over $700 and we had the air conditioners running less. It was as much as in December with the furnace and all of the Xmas lights. What can cause such a HUGE fluctuation???

  7. Neil Parpart

    I had questions on my power consumption and with some research found an awesome device called Sense. I installed it in my breaker box by installing 2 current clamps on the feeds from the meter and connected two leads to a 220 volt breaker and mounted the Wi-Fi antenna. Used the sense app to login the Sense to my network. I have had my Sense for about 2 years and we trimmed our power bill considerably. Now we have solar and Sense caught problems with the inverter which impressed the solar vender, they asked me to work with them to install Sense on solar installs for their customers. Reach out if you are curious about your energy comsumption. Sense is very responsive to questions also. http://www.sense.com

  8. Eli Richardson

    I liked how you said that older appliances consumption could be affecting the electricity bill. My mother has been out of home for the spring and her bill seems extravagant. I will have to contact an electrician to determine if the appliances are working properly.

  9. Brandy Fenstermaker

    I rent a small one bedroom apartment now i do leave my light on at night only my bedroom and kitchen but i cannot stsnd it when its hot and i have low ceilings. How the hell is my tiny one bedroom apartment cost me 500 a month in heat when im really careful about how much i use my heat???? I am outraged. How is my heat almost the same size as my rent? I have friends who own houee with 5 kids and they have to use their heat alot more and their bill is much l lower?


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