Usage Concern

Citizens may have concerns with electric bills especially during periods of extremely hot or cold weather.  High bills are a direct result of usage.  The primary contributor of power usage during the colder months is heating.  Heating alone accounts for over 40% on average of power consumption during colder periods.  For typical residential homes the weather and more specifically the temperatures are a key factor for higher bills.

Electric meters are tested and calibrated at the factory before we install a new meter. It is physically impossible for a meter to turn without an electrical current or energy going through it. Power companies cannot push power through the meter. Power surges that can occur will make virtually no difference in usage. They typically last less than a second. If power is registered on the meter, it is being used somewhere. The process in determining the causes of high bills is to find where the current or energy is going. The energy will serve all electrical appliances in the home, but you must determine which ones are using the most energy. Appliances may perform exactly how they should, but could be running more often than one may think. There could also be problems with electrical appliances in the home that are causing them to use more energy than they should. This is not to say that there is never a time when something is wrong with the electric meter. Electric meters in general are very accurate and reliable. Statistics have estimated that only 0.1% of meters, or 1 out of every 1000, that are tested will have something wrong with them or will be reading inaccurately. Of the 0.1% that are inaccurate, the majority of those will be reading too slowly as opposed to too fast. The contributing factors that cause them to read too slowly are worn gears, corrosion, moisture, and dust, as well as insects that cause friction in the mechanical meters causing them to spin slower than they should. Meters can be damaged, and while it is possible this damage could cause them to spin too fast, it is extremely rare.

We have some tools on the bar to the left such as Energy Bill Forecast, TempTracker 365 and a Compare Billing Periods tool.

Items to check and recommendations to assist citizens with high electric usage includes:

  • Determine how many billing days are on your current bill.  Electric bill billing days should be similar from bill to bill but can fluctuate a day or two.
  • Look at the low temperature values for the billing period as well as the number of days with very high or low temperatures.
  • Lowering your thermostat even a few degrees will impact your electrical usage.
  • Heat lamps, space heaters, stock tank heaters, heat tapes, waterbed heaters, heaters for engine blocks for tractors/vehicles can have a substantial impact to electrical usage as well.  If possible make sure they do not run continuously.
  • Heat pumps:
    • While heat pumps can be a very efficient and reliable way to heat and cool your home, they do not work as well during very low temperatures.  Heat pumps generally use strip heat as a backup or supplement to the heat pump itself.  During very cold times heat pumps will not run as efficiently because of strip heating so the usage will be higher than one might expect.  If there is an emergency heat option on your thermostat and it is set to emergency heat, you are using strip heat exclusively and will not get any of the benefit from the heat pump itself.  Using strip heat exclusively can cause extremely high electrical usage depending on the temperature settings and how long it runs.
    • Check to make sure your heat pump is performing properly.  Make sure the unit has proper refrigerant levels, clean coils, and that your filters are clean.
    • A programmable thermostat can aid in reducing electrical consumption by adjusting the temperature automatically when you are gone and when you are at home during winter or summer months.
    • In some extreme circumstances a heat pump could be wired incorrectly and be cooling when it is supposed to heat.  This may cause the strip heat to come on more frequently to heat the home.
  • Electric hot water heating can account for up to 20% of your total electricity use.  Leaks, bad thermostats as well as heating elements that have failed can increase your electricity use.  Lowering the temperature on electric hot water tanks can help lower your electrical usage.
  • Turn off the main breaker to your home as well as any other breakers the meter is serving.  Check to make sure the meter reading is not increasing.  If it is still turning this can indicate a problem with any underground service conductors that are serving the home or other installations (barn, shop, well, etc.)
  • Keep in mind that many electronics (computers, TVs, etc.) will still consume power even when they are turned off.  They can go into standby mode.
  • Leaving phone chargers plugged in but no phone connected can also consume power.
  • Lifestyle changes can have a drastic effect on electric bills.  Kids returning home, or friends or relatives staying with you can have an effect.  Adding or using electrical appliances such as tools, pumps, additional refrigerator or freezer, or anything with an electric motor will affect usage.
  • Adding insulation and energy efficient windows will help make your home more energy efficient.  Also make sure no duct work has separated in your attic.  This can cause your heat pump to run much longer due to much of the hot or cold air blowing directly into the attic.  Also, if you live in a mobile home, check the duct work underneath to ensure the duct work is still intact.