In our most recent post, GAMA Air started a topic on what to do if you are concerned about how high your electric bill is. Let’s pick up where we left off: what if your usage is higher recently.
First, what if it has spiked recently? An important step, although often overlooked, is to verify that the reading on the bill is accurate. The kWh amount on your bill should correspond to what you yourself can read on your own meter. Of course a couple of weeks may have passed since the meter reader came by so don’t expect it to be exactly the same. So, do a quick check, and remember your meter won’t go backwards, or count down. What you see should be slightly higher than what is on your bill because you have been using electricity since the last time your meter reading was recorded. However, if the amount on your bill is higher than what you see on your own meter then it shows that the meter was read wrong. It doesn’t happen very often, and utility companies are moving to digital meters and electronic readers so typos and transcription errors are even less common. But mistakes happen, and a call to your utility provider will likely clear up the mistake.
More than likely, your meter was not read wrong meaning you weren't overcharged. Your next step is to verify that your meter isn't running when it shouldn’t. To do so, turn off all the circuit breakers in your electric panel. Then see if the meter is still running. (If it is an older style meter there will be a disc that spins to show usage. If it is a digital meter than there will be electronic indicators that change, flash, or alternate to show usage.) The meter should come to a dead stop if you have shut off all the breakers. If the meter still shows electric use, even at an extremely slow rate, then something is not quite right.
Do you live in a duplex or another type of multi-family dwelling? Then there is the possibility that something was cross-wired between your meter and a neighbor’s circuit. Fixing that is not a DIY project. Hire a qualified and licensed electrician to fix it.
If your home is a single-family dwelling and the meter still runs when all the breakers are turned off, then your meter is broken. That is a very unlikely scenario, but not out of the realm of possibility. What can you do? Being such an unusual case you might meet up with doubt when you visit your Electric Company’s office. But they will surely have a method of logging this type of complaint and following up on it. If you want to have some back-up, you might consider hiring a licensed electrician to confirm what you have found out, and ask him/her to sign a statement verifying the problem found. This may go a long way to convincing your utility company to give you a refund.
Those of course are the unlikely, however possible, reasons why your electric bill may have recently spiked. More likely causes are changes in how you and your family are using electricity. Did you recently install new appliances that you didn’t have before? Did you recently have out-of-town guests spending a week or so in your home? Are you and your family spending more time in the house due to changes in work/school schedules, holidays or vacations? Any one of these possibilities, or a combination of them, are more common reasons that will increase your electricity usage.
Is it possible that a problem with your central heating and air conditioning system is causing a spike in your electricity usage? Yes, and that topic will be our next installment in this series. Plus, we’ll discuss what if your usage has been consistently higher for some time than what you would expect for the size of your family and for living in or around Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino.
Do you have a question that’s been nagging you? Visit our “Ask an Expert” page, fill out the form, and the resident expert here at GAMA Air will get back to you quickly with the answer.