The electric bill is too damn high
October 10, 2011 7:55 PM   Subscribe

How much are your Con Ed bills? Help me work through some issues with my electricity bill in NYC.

I recently got a bill from Con Ed for about $1,100. I called and they told me that they just got their first meter reading in about 15 months and that was the balance I owed over and above the estimated charges. I hadn't really been paying attention, but apparently my bills had all been estimated charges since June of 2010 or so.

My bills have averaged around $35 a month, year-round. I live alone, in a small one-bedroom, am out of the house a normal amount, run A/C in the summer, and don't pay for heat or hot water. In retrospect, $35 a month, especially in the summer, seems low and I don't doubt I owe something. However, pro-rating that $1,100 over the relevant time period would mean that I was actually using something like $110 a month in electricity. This seems wrong to me.

So, question #1: What is a reasonable electricity bill in NYC for someone in my situation? I really don't know, I've only ever lived with roommates in bigger apartments before.

Question #2: I rent in an owner-occupied brownstone. I have a suspicion that my meter might accidentally (let's say) be rigged to something I shouldn't be paying for, like the common area lighting. What are my options for investigating this? This question has both a technical element and a human element; I'd like to know both what I can do, legally and physically, to determine whether I am being charged correctly, and how to go about doing so without alienating my landlords, who after all do live in the building and have been pretty decent to me.

Question #3: Are there other ways I should be following up on this that I am not thinking of right now?

Thanks folks
posted by dixiecupdrinking to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot the period at the end. Here it is: .
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:56 PM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Is this just for the electric or does it include the gas, too? Our first bill in our new apartment had an "estimated" gas reading, and it was outrageously high. Once they put in the actual reading, they fixed the bill. Our total bill for gas & electricity has been around $100-$125 a month.

Do you have access to a circuit box for your apartment? One night, you should check all the switches- flip 'em on and off and look in the hallway, see what's going on. A friend did so with her roommate and found out, as expected, that they had been paying electricity for the common areas in their building. They worked out some deal with Con-Edison where they didn't have to pay; I don't know all the details but it sounded like Con-Edison was helpful in the matter.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 PM on October 10, 2011

Response by poster: [Good question: Just electric, gas is separate.]
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:01 PM on October 10, 2011

If you have a good relationship with your landlord I would start with asking them in a friendly manner if they thought your new bill and old bills were out of the ordinary. Perhaps they have some insight, maybe they've been dealing with Con Ed too. At least they can give you an idea of what's normal right there in that building.
posted by bleep at 8:02 PM on October 10, 2011

$110/month to Con Ed actually sounds about right to me. If anything, I think it's on the low side. That's right around what I remember paying in the exact same situation (electric only, one bedroom in an owner-occupied brownstone) a few years ago. The bill at my current place, which is actually smaller than that apartment was, is never cheaper than that, and is significantly higher in the summer months when the AC is on.
posted by keever at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

$110 a month average would be maybe about right for us in our one-bedroom apartment (in a big building) in NYC. Summer was a lot more expensive, but we only run heat for about 2 months a year due to being surrounded by other apartments.
posted by gaspode at 8:32 PM on October 10, 2011

I have a large one-bedroom, don't pay for heat or hot water, and in the summer when the A/C's pumping out 18000 BTUs around the clock Con Ed can get up over $250/month.
posted by nicwolff at 8:34 PM on October 10, 2011

One-bedroom in a medium-age building, summer electric w/ AC def climbed to $200+ and that was with moderate use.
posted by prefpara at 8:37 PM on October 10, 2011

Yep - $110 a month sounds about right. Closer to $200 in the summer.
posted by omarlittle at 8:44 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm hardly home in the summer and I budget about that in the summer with the small AC I run only at night. I have a roommate, but she doesn't use AC because she's insane. I'm in Astoria. Your reading doesn't sound crazy to me. But it sucks that it's sprung on you all at once.

It also sucks that they were ESTIMATING readings for over a year. There should be some sort of crazy alert in place after a few months, like "HEY, WE CAN'T GET TO YOUR METER!?!" automated email. You're allowed to call if they misread high (I've done it, no problem), why can't they let you know that they're estimating readings? From what I've heard, it always works out so that the customer owes some crazy amount, you'd think they'd estimate high.

I'd be more pissed about the fact that they don't have access. Talk to landlord about that. Make sure they're able to read the meter every month.
posted by AlisonM at 8:47 PM on October 10, 2011

Chiming in that $110 sounds about right, as an average. Winter was more like $85, summer more like $140. You can send in a meter reading, if they're not able to look at it for a few months. There should be instructions on your bill.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:55 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

My last couple of bills for a 1 bedroom with two air conditioners (bedroom and common area), two laptops, a tv, and a few iphones were:

September - $90
August - $87
July - $117
June - $100
May - $70
April - $57
March - $59
February - $58
January - $62
December - $63
November - $59
October - $53

So an average of about $73 a month over the past year. I also don't pay for heat or water. Gas is usually a pretty fixed cost. I don't think I've ever been charged for actual gas 'usage' no matter how much I cook, its just been the fees every month for 'supply' and 'delivery' and whatnot. I see that I usually get charged about $21 a month for gas so if you're not including that in your electric charge it brings down my average to about $52 a month.

So to me the charges do seem a bit high, but not crazy I guess. I'd see if there's anything thats a huge energy drain like a computer thats constantly plugged in, old fridge, or something else that might be the cause before disputing the charges. Con ed should be set up with this kind of dispute and can likely send someone out at a prearranged time to check out that everything looks ok.

Good luck!
posted by jourman2 at 9:35 PM on October 10, 2011

Response by poster: Well damn.

These results are really quite surprising to me. A couple years ago with roommates, I seem to remember my bills were more like $50-75 (between 2-3 people). But you guys wouldn't lie to me. Very strange. Thanks for the data points.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:13 AM on October 11, 2011

Prices were raised in 2008, 2009, and 2011. Oil costs, yadda yadda. The 2011 hike alone was a 12% increase, so yeah, you probably remember your former bills correctly but it has all just gotten more expensive.
posted by rmless at 7:24 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Anyone up for some "Occupy Consolidated Edison" with me?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2011

Air conditioners make your electricity shoot WAY up. I have a floor-through at the top of a brownstone and am fairly conservative with the one AC in the living room (and have fans through the rest of the apartment; my electric bills still go from being $40-60 the rest of the year to being $120-200 for a couple months in summer. Last year I was much more liberal with the AC (I had an ailing cat and wanted to make sure he was comfortable), and the bill for that month was $350.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2011

Were you used to paying for utilities somewhere else and that's why NYC seems outrageously expensive? We have a 3 bedroom in Milwaukee, and electric plus gas is about $120/mo, with 2 air conditioners and 3 computers and one of us unemployed (i.e. at home) for most of the year.
posted by desjardins at 10:21 AM on October 11, 2011

Just to underline what AlisonM and peanut_mcgillicuty have said, definitely have a conversation with your landlords about ConEd's access to the meter. Even if the ConEd rep can't take the monthly reading, you can and should submit your own readings to ConEd to avoid estimated bills. My apartment's meter is inside the apartment and we miss our rep about half the time (she usually leaves a "sorry we missed you" card with instructions). I submit readings the other half and the bills all come out about the same ($75-$100 for a tightly packed three-bedroom with one A/C and plenty of electronics).
posted by meghanagain at 1:07 PM on October 11, 2011

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