How often do you look at your energy bill? If your interest stops at AMOUNT DUE, you may be missing out on some ways to save energy and money.
Energy bill basics
Each utility company has its own way of invoicing you, but here are some fairly universal points you’ll find on most energy bills:
- Meter readings. You should see a current estimated or actual meter reading and a reading for the previous month. The difference between the two numbers is your energy usage for the month. Electricity is typically measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), a unit of measurement equal to one kilowatt expended over the course of one hour. Natural gas service is measured in therms. One therm is the energy released by burning 100 cubic feet of natural gas.
If your home has solar panels or other power-generating technologies, you may find that your monthly energy use is a negative number. That means your home created more power than it used that month. Congratulations! Depending on your power company’s programs, you could be credited for that extra energy.
- Energy cost or rate. This is the amount each kWh or therm costs you. The amount may vary depending on how much it costs your provider to produce or purchase the energy. If you’re interested, you can read about current US energy price trends here »
- Your historical energy use. Some power companies provide information about your average energy use for the season or the year to date, compared to your usage data from the previous year. This historical data can help you identify trends in your energy usage, and even spot costly problems you might otherwise overlook.
Unseasonal spikes in your energy use, for example, could just be the result of unusually high or low temperatures that make your heating or cooling system work harder. Or, they could indicate you have an HVAC or insulation problem, a failing appliance, new energy vampires or other preventable, energy-wasting problems in your house. Ask your energy company to check your meter for a reading error or malfunction; if it’s accurate, start tracking down the cause of the extra energy use in your house. A plug-in energy monitor could help you spot the culprit. They’re available to borrow from some local libraries and power companies, or you can buy your own online for as little as $25.
- Service details. In this section, you may find a variety of fees, charges and taxes. Between all the “Transmission Charges,” “Franchise Fees” and “Electric Commodity Adjustments,” you may find yourself overwhelmed by the jargon. Don’t be afraid to ask your utility company about any items you don’t understand.
Looking for other ways to save on your energy bill? Check out more Energy Wise articles »