How to Figure Out Why Your Utility Bill Spiked


Existence is expensive, especially if you enjoy things like heat and clean water. The fact that fundamental resources like water, gas, and electricity are just pumped into our homes is kind of amazing, but when the bill comes you might regret every hot shower and the sauna-like temperatures you maintained all winter long.

Most of us have a pretty good idea how much a typical utility bill will run, and we take reasonable steps to keep those costs under control. We turn the thermostats up or down depending on the seasons and we try not to waste water unnecessarily. So when a shockingly high utility bill shows up, it’s cause for panic—and an investigation. A surprisingly high water, gas, or electricity bill isn’t just an immediate financial concern, it could indicate a larger problem that you need to figure out before you go broke. Here’s how to figure out what’s going on.

Note changes

Your first step is to examine your behaviors and usage patterns for recent changes. A few things to consider:

  • New devices or appliances. Have you added new electronics to your home? Replaced an old appliance recently? While new devices and appliances will usually be more energy-efficient than older ones, any new equipment might be malfunctioning or may have been installed incorrectly, so that’s a good place to start. Try disconnecting the new stuff and see if the spike in usage stops.

  • Different patterns. Life isn’t static. If your utility bills are suddenly higher, ask yourself if your patterns have changed. Did you have guests in the house, swelling water and power usage? Have you started working from home, using more resources than normal? Has the weather been more extreme? Sometimes an unusually hot or cold period can lead to a shocking utility bill. If your life’s patterns have been different recently, wait until things go back to normal and see if your bills drop back to previous levels.

  • Recent projects. Did you recently renovate part of your home? Any change to your home’s infrastructure can have an impact on your energy profile, and if you accessed the electrical, water, or gas lines in the house something may have gone wrong. From an incorrectly-wired appliance to a punctured water pipe in the wall, damage from home projects can lead to spiking energy bills.

Look for problems

If you haven’t changed anything recently that might explain your sudden energy spike, it’s time to look for other kinds of problems:

  • Malfunctioning meters. Call your utility company and have them inspect your meters. Your super-high bill might be the result of a meter that’s gone wonky. You should also ask them to review your bill to ensure that mistakes weren’t made on their end.

  • Check for leaks. Even if you haven’t done any work around the house recently, you might have a leaking water pipe—or, worse, a leaking gas pipe. Most utility companies add a chemical called mercaptan to natural gas to make it smell like sulfur—if you smell something like rotten eggs, call your utility company immediately. For water leaks:

    • Look for signs of water damage: standing water, stains on walls or ceilings, warped floors, or loose tiling.

    • Go into your basement or crawl space and inspect the pipes running under the house, where small leaks can go undetected for years while running up your bills.

    • Inspect the water heater for leaks, and make sure it’s not set too high, which can run up gas and electricity bills.

    • Check all the toilets in the house for leaks. If you have toilets that run constantly, that’s wasting water and costing you money. They may need repair or replacement.

    • Check all the faucets in the house. A steady drip may not seem like a big problem, but that wasted water can add up, and drips can indicate a larger problem.

  • Strategically hit the breakers. One way to troubleshoot high electricity usage is to turn off the breakers one at a time and observe your energy usage. If you hit a specific breaker and the meter suddenly slows down dramatically, you may have isolated your problem. For example, if you hit the breaker associated with your HVAC system, it might be a good idea to have someone come out and take a look at your compressor.

  • Check your supplier. Utility bills typically show three fundamental costs: Delivery costs, taxes, and supply costs. The delivery is the rate your utility company charges for getting the gas, water, and power to your home. These rates are usually set by the government and don’t change often. Taxes also don’t change often. The supply cost, however, can change dramatically if you change suppliers. If you don’t recall changing your supplier recently, look back at older utility bills to see if anything’s changed—if your supplier was changed to a much more expensive one without your knowledge (a scam called Slamming), you’ll need to contact your utility company to lodge a complaint and get it switched back.

  • Utility theft. It’s rare, but it does happen: Someone may be stealing your utilities. This is most commonly seen with electricity, but it’s possible to install an illegal gas hookup to steal natural gas or to tap into your water line. This could be as simple as someone running an extension cord from your outdoor outlet into their home, or it could be much more complex. An easy way to see if someone is tapped into your utilities is to turn off at the mains and then observe your meters—if they continue to show usage even when your house is cut off, it’s time to call the utility company.

If you’ve tried going through all of these steps and still don’t know why your bill is spiking, it’s time to consult with some professionals: Have an electrician and/or a plumber come out to inspect everything.

Source

Leave a Comment

MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld MnFld