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Is my electric bill too high?[SOLVED, Page 2]

CognisseurCognisseur Registered User regular
edited September 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey guys,

I just moved into a one bedroom apartment in NYC with my girlfriend. It's 650 square feet in size. There's recessed lighting with dimmer switches in every room. There's central air/heating which we don't have to pay for, but we do have to pay for the fan that pushes that air into our apartment when we turn it on. We don't pay for gas or water.

So we got our first bill, and covering only 13 days, it's $112.52. I'm told NYC electric prices are quite high, so here's the breakdown:
Supply: 499kWh @ 8.5311c/kWh = $42.57
Delivery: 499 kWh @ 9.6533c/kWh = $48.17
Various other fees make up the extra $20.

I've never had to pay electric bills before but this seems quite high for only 13 days; I was expecting like $50 tops for 2 weeks. I turn my computer, speakers, and monitor off every night. We only keep the lights on in the room that we're in, and usually dimmed too. Other than that... we periodically use the microwave and coffee maker? We don't even have a TV.

Air-wise, we have it on 74 during the day so it turns on sometimes to cool the place down but is usually off. We leave the fan on all night to block out noise. It's on at night, and a bit during the day. But it's just a fan, it can't possibly use that much electricity, can it?

So I'm just confused. One of three things is going on:

1. I'm using an absurd amount of electricity and paying a ridiculous price for it, but I can't figure out what I'm leaving on so much to suck up so much electricity. Are my computer/speakers/monitor still sucking up an absurd amount of juice even though I turned them off but I didn't physically unplug them? This seems like too high a bill even for that though.

2. The fan that pushes air into our apartment is physics-law-breakingly-power-hungry and completely throws our electric bill up, but I can't figure out how a single fan could do that.

3. My landlord messed something up and I'm currently paying for my AC, and maybe even the person's above me too.

Experienced PA'ers, help me out with this conundrum.

Cognisseur on

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    ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I'm in a similar sized apartment, in Texas. Pretty sure my electric rates are a bit higher than yours and I'm cooling more to boot. I'm paying less than $90/mo.

    Those usage levels look pretty high.

    EDIT: You might want to have a look at your meter. Check it around the same time for a couple of days and extrapolate your usage. Also check to see if what you're seeing on the meter is the same as what's on the bill.

    ProPatriaMori on
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    FatsFats Corvallis, ORRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Those usage levels are super high, I use less than 500kwH a month with two computers always running along with everything else. It's possible that you're paying for your A/C, but I'm not sure that'd account for all of it. Do you have any leaky faucets? I had a hot water drip that doubled my electricity bill for a bit.

    Edit: For comparison's sake, I'm paying 3.5¢/kWh for delivery and 3.8¢/kWh for supply, but that's due to all the hydroelectric around here I suppose.

    Fats on
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    EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Here's an average per-state comparison, so some of the numbers you get from other people can be put in perspective:

    http://www.neo.ne.gov/statshtml/115.htm

    Note that NY is, on average, a nickel more per kw/h than Texas.

    But yeah, something is screwy with the bill, it appears. I wonder if you're actually being charged a full month, or if, like said above, you're actually paying for the HVAC. I personally keep our house thermostat on 79F in the summertime, because there's no sense paying for it when you can just wear shorts.

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    NeadenNeaden Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Was it an actual reading or an estimate? Here they just actually check it every other month. When I first moved in to my current place the estimate was literally twice as much as we actually used and we only ended up paying like 8$ the next month in user fees.

    Neaden on
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    PracticalProblemSolverPracticalProblemSolver Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Yeah that's pretty out of control for an apartment of that size if you aren't paying for ac, my house is 2700 square feet and we use electricity at about the same rate as you right now, 1000 kwh/month.

    Three options I can see:

    1. someone is stealing electricity from you(least likely but not unheard of)
    2. billing mistake: meter was read incorrectly, clerical error etc
    3. unexpected usage: paying for ac, do you have a breaker for hvac? or a faulty appliance

    You can buy a clamp type multimeter that will go around a hot wire in your panel to see how much electricity it's draining(doesn't work on cords with the entire circuit in them though) and they make little 'killawatt' (named something like that) meters that you can easily see how much a normal plug-in appliance draws over time.

    PracticalProblemSolver on
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    JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    That sounds pretty high. My apartment is 40% bigger in the tropics during summer, and my bill is no higher than 90 dollars... and my carrier is considered one of the most expensive in Florida.

    Jasconius on
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    CognisseurCognisseur Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Neaden wrote: »
    Was it an actual reading or an estimate? Here they just actually check it every other month. When I first moved in to my current place the estimate was literally twice as much as we actually used and we only ended up paying like 8$ the next month in user fees.

    How can I tell if it's an estimate or not? It looks like it isn't but that seems so unlikely:

    Aug 28, 09 actual reading 72080
    Aug 15, 09 start reading -71581
    Your electricity use 499kWh

    Cognisseur on
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    Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I work for a power company dealing with billing, CALL AND TELL THEM. Like others have said, it could be an estimate, your meter could be reading a different unit (it's called crossed meters) or you just use more power than you think.

    Worst case, they should send someone out there just to take a look (usually free of charge).

    And I just had a 31 day reading and used 250 kwH with 2x computers, 2 tvs and lighting / ceiling fans.

    To help save more, you said water usage is free but how is your water heated? If you have a hot water tank, turning down a couple degrees can help. Also turn down your fridge/freezer. Those are the big consumers in the house. Lights are nothing.

    Gilbert0 on
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    CognisseurCognisseur Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Gilbert0 wrote: »
    I work for a power company dealing with billing, CALL AND TELL THEM. Like others have said, it could be an estimate, your meter could be reading a different unit (it's called crossed meters) or you just use more power than you think.

    Worst case, they should send someone out there just to take a look (usually free of charge).

    And I just had a 31 day reading and used 250 kwH with 2x computers, 2 tvs and lighting / ceiling fans.

    To help save more, you said water usage is free but how is your water heated? If you have a hot water tank, turning down a couple degrees can help. Also turn down your fridge/freezer. Those are the big consumers in the house. Lights are nothing.

    Hot water is free too :p And the fridge/freezer is on the second to warmest. Nah, it's definitely a mistake of some sort. Thanks for the advice, I'll call tomorrow.

    Cognisseur on
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    KivutarKivutar Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    For what it's worth, I live in an 800 sq. foot apartment (alone) and I have a usage of 190-220kwh/month, higher in the summer due to having to run the cooler constantly.

    Also, if the bill says "actual reading," that does mean that they sent someone out to read the meter.
    That still seems incredibly high for 2 people for 13 days though.

    I used to live in a place where the landlord installed a new cooling system for the building without informing any of the tenants, apparently ran the electricity for it from my unit's meter, and lo and behold, I got a 300% increase in usage the following month. I would look into something along those lines.

    Kivutar on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2009
    Holy christ. I live in Seattle, and I pay $7-8 a month for electricity for a 740 s/f apartment. No, I did not leave off a digit.

    Doc on
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    RaneadosRaneados police apologist you shouldn't have been there, obviouslyRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Doc wrote: »
    Holy christ. I live in Seattle, and I pay $7-8 a month for electricity for a 740 s/f apartment. No, I did not leave off a digit.

    what about in the winter when you run heaters

    Raneados on
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    DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2009
    Raneados wrote: »
    Doc wrote: »
    Holy christ. I live in Seattle, and I pay $7-8 a month for electricity for a 740 s/f apartment. No, I did not leave off a digit.

    what about in the winter when you run heaters

    We have central heat that's built into my apartment price. It's pretty reasonable since the entire building runs off of the same furnace.

    Doc on
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    HedgethornHedgethorn Associate Professor of Historical Hobby Horses In the Lions' DenRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    500 kWh is what I use in electricity in a month. For a three-bedroom house. With central air conditioning.

    I think your bill is messed up. There's no way you should be able to use that kind of power in a 1-bedroom apartment in 13 days.

    Hedgethorn on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Yeah, your bill is fucked son. Something's on your power circuit that isn't supposed to be.

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    GanluanGanluan Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Wow I'm using a shitload of power compared to everyone else. We have a 3100 square foot home at used over 2000 KWh last month. Of course, the average daily temperature was 100 degrees and we have an AC unit on each floor...

    Ganluan on
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    SimpsoniaSimpsonia Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I have a 1000 sq ft apt in Chicago and with 2 computers on 24/7 and the AC on 24/7 at 73 I used 818kw for the last 30 days. We have central AC which we do pay for (new units though no more than 5 years old.) Definitely seems like you are paying for your AC costs. But what they charge seems outrageous. I pay $.024 for distribution and $.065 for supply per KW.

    Simpsonia on
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    SeptusSeptus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I'm in a similar sized apartment, in Texas. Pretty sure my electric rates are a bit higher than yours and I'm cooling more to boot. I'm paying less than $90/mo.

    Those usage levels look pretty high.

    EDIT: You might want to have a look at your meter. Check it around the same time for a couple of days and extrapolate your usage. Also check to see if what you're seeing on the meter is the same as what's on the bill.

    What's your usage? In the winter months, mine is roughly 450 kwh. In June of this year it was 517 when it was plenty hot, and then it skyrocketed to 730 in July and 664 in August. I keep the temp at 83 when I'm gone and at 78 or 79 when I'm there, most of my bulbs are CFL, but I do have my computer on often and I do wonder just how much energy it generates directly, and through extra heat that needs to be cooled.

    This apartment is roughly 760 sq ft, and was supposed to have been cheaper than my places in the past because it's newer and should be better insulated.

    Are there sites that have data on average local power usage? I assume those plug-in meters like the Killawatt won't tell you how much your AC is using since there's no handy outlet for it?

    Septus on
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    exmelloexmello Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Last time I had an error on my bill because the meter was misread, the bill the next month was proportionally lower. I could afford the temporary hit, so it wasn't really a problem.

    The problem with getting them to re-read the meter is that they make it extraordinarily difficult to make an appointment.

    exmello on
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    GanluanGanluan Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    One other note - many buildings are now equipped with "smart readers" that are actually electronically read every day. With my electric provider, I can actually go online and see exactly how much power was used every day (Google is also creating an application to show you how much power you're using on a minute-to-minute basis based on these readers). Check if your provider has a similar setup, and it should be easy to profile if you're using too much energy or if there was some kind of mistake.

    Ganluan on
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    ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Septus: on my August bill, I used...470 kWh, apparently. Paid $75.48, which comes to an average of 15.6 cents per kWh.

    Still, OP's usage is roughly twice as high as mine, considering mine was over 31 days. And I'm cooling down here in Houston.

    ProPatriaMori on
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    HedgethornHedgethorn Associate Professor of Historical Hobby Horses In the Lions' DenRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Cognisseur wrote: »
    2. The fan that pushes air into our apartment is physics-law-breakingly-power-hungry and completely throws our electric bill up, but I can't figure out how a single fan could do that.

    One thing I forgot to mention earlier, furnace fans are actually quite power-hungry. I'm not entirely sure why, but the fan on our AC/furnace uses more electricity than nearly everything else in the house combined (lights, LCD TV, computers, etc.), with the sole exception of the air conditioning condenser.

    (Roughly, the A/C condenser takes about 3 kWh, the furnace fan 1.5 kWh, and typical usage of everything else is around 1 kWh.)

    Hedgethorn on
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    SeptusSeptus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    To what extent might a dirty air filter increase AC usage? I haven't changed mine in forever, and I need to do it regardless, but I wonder if that's contributing to what seems like crazy power usage.

    Septus on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Septus wrote: »
    To what extent might a dirty air filter increase AC usage? I haven't changed mine in forever, and I need to do it regardless, but I wonder if that's contributing to what seems like crazy power usage.

    If it's trying to force air through a blocked or clogged filter, it's going to need more pressure to do it, which means more current drawn by the motor. Also, it's probably not the best for your health. Replace the filter. :P

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    ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Raneados wrote: »
    Doc wrote: »
    Holy christ. I live in Seattle, and I pay $7-8 a month for electricity for a 740 s/f apartment. No, I did not leave off a digit.
    what about in the winter when you run heaters
    Personally, I don't bother with heaters in the winter. Just doesn't get cold enough to be worth it.

    My two-bedroom apartment runs about $30 a month, but I think electricity in Seattle is hella cheap.

    Thanatos on
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    cooljammer00cooljammer00 Hey Small Christmas-Man!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    This thread concerns me, as a NYC resident. I wonder if OP ever got his shit fixed after calling?

    My parents are the type who would just pay instead of ask questions about their electric bill, which seems to fluctuate oddly. My brother was trying to figure out if we were somehow paying for our neighbor's electricity as well.

    What's your opinion on that so called "phantom drain" of electronics, those which are left plugged in at night?

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    CognisseurCognisseur Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    This thread concerns me, as a NYC resident. I wonder if OP ever got his shit fixed after calling?

    My parents are the type who would just pay instead of ask questions about their electric bill, which seems to fluctuate oddly. My brother was trying to figure out if we were somehow paying for our neighbor's electricity as well.

    What's your opinion on that so called "phantom drain" of electronics, those which are left plugged in at night?

    Good news. I called them up and it's all solved. Apparently the prior resident didn't get a final reading or something so they "estimated" my start reading. I guess the "estimate" was that she didn't use any electricity in the last month that she lived there or something.

    Anyway, my bill went down from 499kWh to 170kWh over 13 days. Still a bit more than I thought I'd be using but really I'm not complaining.

    Thanks all!

    Cognisseur on
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    ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    "Phantom drain" (which would usually be energizing one side of a transformer bringing the voltage down out of the wall) should only be watts of power. Remember, your electric bill is in kiloWatt*hours.

    A month has about 24*30=720 hrs. So all your electronics might add up to...what, small tens of kWh even in the worst case? Wouldn't make a dent in my bill, though of course the aggregate effect across a city or a state is a metric fucktonne of joules.

    EDIT: Good for OP!

    ProPatriaMori on
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