Skip

Why is my energy bill so high?
September 14, 2007 10:09 AM   Subscribe

How do I find out if my landlord is scamming me on energy?

My energy bill each month is outrageous (about $170). My girlfriend, who lives in a place that is comparable in size, pays less than half as much in energy to the same company as me.

I have heard stories of landlords hooking up shared washers and dryers to individual apartment's power supplies and having the tenants pay for it unknowingly.

I live in a small, 3 unit building, and the bottom unit is a business. They have a big light up sign that is often on at night. I have a theory that the landlord is charging us to light the sign.

Or could it just be our central air?

The apartment is a 2 bedroom ( one is a big master bedroom), and is about 700-800 sq feet total. And we have high ceilings.

Please help me figure out what is going on!
posted by AceRock to Work & Money (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should have access to your meter. Turn off everything you can in your apartment (including the AC), consider even unplugging the fridge for long enough to do the test.

Next, go out and read your meter twice with one minute between them. Then start up the washer and drier and repeat the readings.

The rate of power consumption should jump big time when you start the washer/drier if they are wired in to your circuit.

The other clue: There should be one more power meter than their are apartments in your building if common areas are being metered separately and paid for by the landlord.
posted by Good Brain at 10:19 AM on September 14, 2007


I wish I thought that was outrageous for energy. Ours was $500 last month.

A few degrees on your air can add a lot. If your friend keeps it at 78 and you keep it at 74 that is a lot of difference. AC is 65% or more of your energy bill.

Have you talked to the other units, perhaps the other tenants have similar suspicions?

Do the meter test like Good Brain suggested, and if you don't think he's charging you unfairly, turn the AC up to 78 and get a fan ;)
posted by jesirose at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2007


On a previous AskMe, I said, (little more info added)

"If you can't get to the breakers for some reason, just unplug/shut down absolutely everything. I shared a house once where the landlord lived in the back half, and I was in the front - but there was a greenhouse at the front running a heater for his orchids and/or dual fans when it was hot. I started getting huge gas bills that winter (and increased electricity costs), and he swore up and down that the greenhouse was wired to his side. (Two separate meters for the house)

Long story short, no, it wasn't."
posted by Liosliath at 10:29 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Crap, I forgot to mention that I went out after I unplugged everything and eyeballed the meter. It was still turning slightly, so I knew something was drawing current.
posted by Liosliath at 10:31 AM on September 14, 2007


Does your girlfriend have central air? Does she use it as much as you? Does she also have high ceilings.

The price difference makes sense for AC usage.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2007


Unless you unplugged absolutely everything and cut power to the AC, there is probably going to be a minor current draw just from your own unit, if only for the AC system control circuit.

What happens if you repeat your test with a load going in the washer and dryer? The meter should be ticking over a lot faster than "slightly," if they are wired in to your meter especially if it is an electric dryer.
posted by Good Brain at 11:04 AM on September 14, 2007


Crap, I forgot to mention that I went out after I unplugged everything and eyeballed the meter. It was still turning slightly, so I knew something was drawing current.

The meter will always turn, albeit very slowly. It does not stop. It has a 'base rate' which is subtracted from the actual reading to get the amount of power you used.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:12 AM on September 14, 2007


$170 doesn't sound that high for a two bedroom apartment in Chicago. If you do go the unplugging route, make sure it is a true unplugging, especially of electronics, as things like televisions, etc. may look off but are merely in standby mode. Yes, unplug the refrigerator too. It will be fine for the time it takes to do this little experiment. If the meter is still turning record its progress over an hour or some period to assess how many kw/h are being consumed. If it is really low, like 100 watts or less, then you might have merely missed something in your unplugging endeavors.
posted by caddis at 11:14 AM on September 14, 2007


The meter will always turn, albeit very slowly. It does not stop. It has a 'base rate' which is subtracted from the actual reading to get the amount of power you used.

Forgive me, AceRock, for piggybacking on your question, but I'm having a similar issue. How much would the "base rate" be? I turned off everything in my unit at the breakers, and the meter went up 4 kwh in about 4 hours.
posted by amarynth at 11:33 AM on September 14, 2007


My friends were presented with huge bills for utilities after their landlord died and his wife became the property manager. She wanted them to start paying for utilities, but that doesn't matter. She showed them $300 monthly bills and scolded them for paying so much. I suggested that perhaps the late landlord had been tapping their energy supply, which didn't matter because the utilities had always been part of the rent. I said that perhaps he had hooked up his greenhouse to their property.

Anyway, I told my friends to call the Hydro company. They went over all their energy usage with the Hydro employee and were told that they were unlikely to be using more than about $125 of energy a month. The Hydro employee said he couldn't share info about the landlord's bills, but that he would strongly encourage them to discuss the energy audit.

So, call the energy company and see if they will help you estimate costs. Some utilities have these estimators on their websites.

You may also want to look at your energy usage. When I put in heavy curtains, closed curtains at night, installed a programmable thermostat and started turning off my computer at night, my energy bill dropped $50-$75 a month. And that's in Vancouver, which has really cheap energy rates.
posted by acoutu at 11:47 AM on September 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Another thing to consider is the accuracy of your bill. You might be receiving estimates of your usage based on your history (or the previous renters history) until they are able to get a proper reading. If they are overcharging you they will just give you a credit later on. Examine your bill to make sure they are actually doing readings and not estimates.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2007


The engineer boyfriend says:

there is definitely something else on the meter consuming energy, equivalent to ten 100-watt light bulbs.
posted by saturnine at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2007


This happened to both my sister and me separately. In both cases, although the landlord swore up and down that the meters were assigned correctly, they weren't. And the accounts for our small apartments were being billed for other larger units.

The electric company should be able to help with this. Have them send a technician and verify that the meters are actually monitoring the apartments they think they're monitoring.

In my case, once they realized the mistake, I was issued a refund of a couple of hundred dollars for the three months of overbilling.

While you're waiting for the technician, it can't hurt to follow the advice above and flip all the breakers and see if what you think is your meter is still spinning away.
posted by Gamblor at 2:33 PM on September 14, 2007


The base rate is tiny. I believe it's the amount of power that's used to power the meter, which is something like 2 watts - the disc creeps along, a snail could outpace it easily.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:15 PM on September 14, 2007


Ummm. That doesn't sound right. I'm in Chicago, have a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house with central A/C (and washer/dryer) and paid $165 to Com Ed for the month of July.

I would ask for an energy audit.
posted by jeanmari at 6:11 PM on September 14, 2007


"The meter will always turn, albeit very slowly. It does not stop. It has a 'base rate' which is subtracted from the actual reading to get the amount of power you used."

The disc was not creeping. I left all the power off for at least 15 minutes, and it didn't even move to the next mark on the dial. Stopped. Dead. Unless you mean that it would be outpaced by the tar drip that Parnell/Mainstone did. A snail would be blazing fast compared to this thing.
posted by Liosliath at 7:11 PM on September 14, 2007


Here's another guy who did a test and got the dial to be "totally still."
posted by Liosliath at 7:27 PM on September 14, 2007


Being on the top floor, poor insulation, drafty windows could all add to the electrical bill. It's amazing how much money good windows will save you.
posted by jujube at 1:38 AM on September 15, 2007


« Older I've heard rumors that there's...   |  How do I buy tickets in Phase ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post