Why Is My Electric Bill So High?

If you are like many people, you still hold your breath when your electric bill arrives. Why? Because the amount due is often a surprise. Alongside natural gas, it's one of the highest monthly expenses in American households, so when the balance due for your power bill is significantly higher than expected, it can be hard to stomach.


And the question is always the same: Why is my electric bill so high?


The short answer – it can depend on multiple factors, including:

  • The season
  • Sudden changes in usage, and
  • Additional or inefficient large appliances


Fortunately, why your electric bill is high typically boils down to a handful of possibilities, depending on if the bill spiked suddenly, or is consistently higher than you think it should be. Troubleshooting your high electric bill starts by analyzing your total electrical use (total kWh) over time to understand your normal usage, then taking action to address the issue or reduce your electrical usage.

Five likely culprits for why electric bills spike

If there was a recent spike in your electric bill, these are the most likely reasons:


1. Moving to a new home or apartment with significantly more square footage or less efficient appliances.


2. Seasonal weather changes like heat waves or cold snaps that suddenly and temporarily increase usage.


3. A change in total residents. For example, a long-term visitor, or a kid coming home from college for spring break or summer vacation. More people under your roof means more loads of laundry, dishwashing, television-watching, charging phones and laptops, and lights in use, all requiring more power. 


4. Sudden changes in the performance of a major appliance. For example, moving an older refrigerator to the garage and buying a new fridge for the kitchen may double refrigeration costs.


5. An electricity rate increase from your utility, or “time of use” charges.


What is ‘time of use’ charges? If you’re not on a fixed-rate plan, some utilities or suppliers may charge you higher rates for consumption during “peak” hours when more people are using electricity. The more electricity you are using during this time, the more you may be paying per kilowatt-hour. Consider locking in a low fixed rate by choosing from several affordable Energy Harbor plans.

More reasons why your electric bill is so high

If your electric bill is regularly high, review these common reasons, then work to lower your consumption to save money.

You're Using Older or Less Energy-Efficient Appliances

Large appliances like your washer and HVAC system consume the most home power. If the majority of your appliances are 10 or more years old, they may be using significantly more energy than newer, high-efficiency models.

What you can do:

When purchasing new appliances, be sure to research the amount of power they will use. Look for the Energy Star efficiency rating on the display of every new washing machine, fridge, or even TV and select more power-efficient appliances that use less energy. You can also hire a professional to service your appliance or consider a DIY home energy audit to identify specific opportunity areas.

You’re Using Your Lights Inefficiently

Many homeowners use lighting to increase the brightness of an entire room, which can contribute to high electric bills. You’ll also pay more on your electric bill if you keep lights on when nobody is using them. Consider placing a few lamps with Energy Star LED light bulbs around your home, and using these in place of overhead lighting.

What you can do:

Use lighting more strategically to provide direct light to specific areas of a room where more light is needed, such as couches, kitchen tables, and workspaces. And be sure to turn off lights when not in use. Try saving energy when lights are on by changing out inefficient incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs.

Your Home is Not Properly Insulated

If your house is not well-insulated, you will be constantly wasting money through lost heat and conditioned air through the attic, windows, doors, and fireplace. You may also notice a spike in energy bills when you crank up the heat on cold winter nights or blast the AC during a summer heatwave.

What you can do:

Invest in energy-efficient windows, add insulation to your attic, and weatherstrip or caulk windows and doors to prevent drafts and leaks.

Voltage Vampires are Pulling Power

The average phone or laptop computer needs around two or three hours to fully charge, not a full 10-12. And many electronics continue draining energy even when they are in standby mode.

What you can do:

Be aware of charging times and try to remind everyone in the home to unplug electronics at night. Phone cases with built-in battery packs can extend battery life during the day, making overnight charging unnecessary. Plug televisions, video game consoles and other electronics into power strips you can click off when not in use.

You are Paying More for Energy During Peak Hours

The hours each day when people are using the most electricity are known as peak time or common usage hours, typically 10am - 8pm on weekdays. Remember that your local utility or supplier might be charging you "time of use" rates for energy used during those peak hours.

What you can do:

If you commonly use a lot of energy during peak hours, you may be able to save money by running certain appliances outside of peak time. Try doing a few loads of laundry first thing in the morning or later at night. Or consider switching to a fixed-rate plan to lock in a low rate regardless of when you use the most electricity.

Your Home Has Faulty Wiring

Faulty wiring is a less common occurrence that could cause your electricity bill to rise. If damaged wires come in contact with conductive objects or other wires, they may heat up, causing higher energy usage and higher monthly electric bills.

What you can do:

If you suspect this may be your issue, immediately hire a professional to investigate. Signs may include frequently tripping circuit breakers, flickering or buzzing lights, or discoloration around outlets or switches. Proper wiring is necessary to avoid high bills and – more importantly – ensure electrical safety within your home.

You Keep Your Water Heater Temperature Too High

The water heater is another appliance that can significantly impact your electric bill every month. Why? Your water heater continuously heats water in your tank, even when you are not using hot water.

What you can do:

If you have an electric water heater, adjust the temperature to 120°F to reduce energy consumption and prevent scalding hazards. Upgrading to a higher-efficiency model or insulating the tank and exterior of the surrounding pipes can also reduce the energy needed to keep your water hot.

You’re Overpaying for Electricity

For many homeowners, this can be the reason behind a consistently high electricity bill. If you find yourself in this position, and you’re in a state that offers energy choice, it may be time to switch suppliers.

What you can do:

In energy choice states you can compare the electricity prices of utility companies and alternative suppliers to choose the energy plan that best fits your needs.