Why is my gas bill so high?
July 13, 2021 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I moved to a new place and was shocked last week to get a my first bill there from ConEd at the new apartment for +$290 for gas (+~$60 for electricity) for a month of usage. This is a NYC ~500 sq ft apartment 1br / 1 person.

When I moved in the gas wasn't connected and had to be re-routed they did some construction work and moved the meter and line I think and it had to be re-examined. It's a very old unit overall. After that completed May 14th I had gas which is consistent with the statement.

For context this is May/June, so no heating, and I don't cook beyond boiling some water less than 5 times a week, and normal showers for 1 person.

Because the previous bill said "estimated" I called and they said they would take another reading because it's a new meter they could just read it electronically and adjust the statement. The cost went down by $1.

This is the statement.

Can you help me understand why this is so high and what I can do? I can stop using the stove but not the hot water (which I assume also is driven by gas but I really don't know about these things).

I've never handled natural gas myself but I had ConEd in Brooklyn with a shared roommate and I remember our costs not being near that for 2 people / 2br. Please help! This is something I'm not very familiar with.
posted by artificialard to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That does seem very high to me, but it's hard for me to compare directly because what the actual rates are in NYC vs. places I've lived. To make that kind of comparison easier, are you able to share how much actual gas was billed for, in addition to the dollar amount?

That said, my gut feeling here is that this is a billing problem rather than purely a usage problem. "Estimated" always throws up red flags to me, because if the estimates are too low, the next real bill can be a doozie. Something seems off here.
posted by primethyme at 2:52 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

are you 100% sure when you say they moved the line and meter and all that, you still ended up with just one unit on that line/meter? this really really sounds like they put the entire building on one meter and screwed it up.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:53 PM on July 13, 2021 [38 favorites]

That's not normal; I would guess that in the re-routing and construction, your unit it being billed for gas usage for a whole floor, or maybe even the whole building. Call your landlord (or, if you own, your building's management company) and get them involved.
posted by minervous at 2:53 PM on July 13, 2021 [7 favorites]

I don't know NYC ConEd rates, but that seems high. We pay under $150 for gas AND electric for a 2x as large place with 2 people showering with hot water. This is PSEG in NJ. Try comparing their rates to ConEd (they should have info online), and try looking at your past statements to see your actual usage to see what's typica for you to compare to your current bill.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 2:58 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Did they charge you for the work and just not make it clear? I moved my electric line (different state), and the charge was listed under usage charges on my bill instead of construction costs, I guess because they didn't have any other place to put one-time charges.

Because you need to know anyways, you should be able to check your hot water heater and see what type of energy it uses.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:03 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

I live in a 500 sq ft NYC apartment and my bill last month was 4 therms, $23. However, I don’t pay for hot water here. If you pay for hot water and your bill isn’t just an error, is it possible you have a hot water leak somewhere, causing the water heater to run nonstop?
posted by moonmilk at 3:10 PM on July 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You can request historical data for that address to try to get a sense of what it has been, assuming the gas wasn't off for more than 24 months. 122 therms is absurd and whatever the problem is, it's not your occasional pot of boiled water.
posted by teremala at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2021 [12 favorites]

Total Gas Use: 122 therms
This is too high for the size of your place and the time of year. Per conEd, the average monthly residential gas-heating usage in winter is about 172 therms.
conEdison, Shared Meter Signs
"You might be paying for someone else’s energy if you’ve noticed:

Your bills are suddenly higher and there’s no explanation
Steady usage that is consistently higher than expected
Wiring that looks unusual
Obvious meter tampering

If you notice any of these signs, and suspect your meter is being shared, call us. 1-800-752-6633

(The Shared Meter Law may be found in Section 52 of the Public Service Law of New York State; the Public Service Commission's regulations on shared meters are in 16 N.Y.C.R.R. sections 11.30-11.32.)"
Call them again, ask for a shift supervisor, & review usage for that apartment unit for a previous May-June period when the gas was hooked up. I agree, something went wrong with the recent 'reconnection.'
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:18 PM on July 13, 2021 [19 favorites]

Where is your hot water heater and how many units run off it? That would be my first investigation.
posted by phunniemee at 3:24 PM on July 13, 2021

I wonder how many Estimates there were in a row. Could you be getting billed a reconciliation bill that reflects usage from the winter months, for the previous tenant? Ask for a history of the meter reads and the dates.

Another theory is that they did not correctly read the meter when it was installed. E.g., the meter read 222 when it was installed but they billed you as if the meter said 000.
posted by cranberrymonger at 3:49 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

There is such a thing as natural gas powered air conditioning. There are systems that both heat and cool using natural gas. Get a supervisor on the line to talk about this.
posted by Oyéah at 3:53 PM on July 13, 2021

For another comparison - your bill says you used 118 ccf in a month, which is 11800 ft³ = 334 m³. My flat in Scotland, with gas heating and hot water, uses about 45 m³ per month on average throughout the year. The price you're paying per kWh is only about 20% higher than mine, so it's definitely the amount of gas that's the problem.

Maybe the installer typoed the first reading from the new meter? (On preview: what cranberrymonger said.) You could try noting down a reading every few hours for the next couple of days and seeing how fast it's actually going up under normal use.
posted by offog at 4:07 PM on July 13, 2021

Do you have a dishwasher and/or washer dryer in the unit? That gives me a hair-raising gas bill but not close to this one.
posted by kapers at 4:48 PM on July 13, 2021

ConEd once attempted to bill me $70,000.00 (for electricity) so do not underestimate their capacity to get this totally wrong
posted by BungaDunga at 4:49 PM on July 13, 2021 [32 favorites]

If you hadn't noticed, the bill looks like you're paying about $40 for gas but there's a huge surcharge on most if it (the last 117 therms), which is most of your bill. I find, in summer, my water tank and cooking might scrape a therm a day, but typically is under that. In keeping with that you could quite easily be exactly 100 therms over.

Have you eyeballed the meter yourself? Even if the reading is right when compared with your bill, checking it for a few days would confirm how fast gas is going through it, which would narrow down the problem to 'there are other people on this meter' versus 'someone messed up the initial reading'.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 5:02 PM on July 13, 2021

I live in a 2500 square foot house with a gas stove, water heater, and furnace, and even in the winter our bill is less than $200. In the summer it’s like $17. They’ve done something wrong.
posted by something something at 5:12 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think something is way off on the bill. The May reading is from 321-336 for 15 ccf, and then the June reading is from 218-321. 321 being on both meters is super suspicious to me. I bet their initial reading for the new meter was wrong and that's why you're having so much trouble. How do you get a prior reading on a new meter anyway?
posted by possibilityleft at 5:39 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Joining the chorus, I live in a two-story, 1200 sq ft townhouse and I used 10 therms last month. 10. According to your bill, you used 122 therms. I realize we're in different states and different situations, but I don't know how you get to 122 therms for a 500 sq ft apartment. Most likely it's either you have a leak/share somewhere, or ConEd messed up your bill. At this point, with the info we have, I think it's about 70% likely ConEd, and 30% likely a leak/share. As others have suggested, maybe look into a comparison of the same month in other years, or even just back a month or two. If the apartment in the winter only used 80 therms, there's no way this past month should be 122.
posted by Meldanthral at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just nthing that the reported gas usage looks too high by a factor of 10. And seconding possibilityleft‘s suspicion about the 321 reading showing up in two places. It makes me wonder if someone wrote a wrong number in some field when they filled out your bill. If you can find the meter, see what it says. But something is very clearly wrong and it’s something you should keep after ConEd about.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:24 PM on July 13, 2021

Ugh, ConEd does this all the time. Sounds like they haven't actually read the meter in many months/years and they're charging you for the difference between the estimated and actual reading. I've had this happen to me and I just had to keep bugging them about it. At the very least you can get the high bill broken out into several small payments over the next few months.
posted by greenland at 6:28 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

At the very least you can get the high bill broken out into several small payments over the next few months.
Is it really possible you'd be on the hook for a previous tenant's usage if they didn't do a reading before you moved in???
posted by kate4914 at 6:43 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is nuts. I've lived in smallish NYC one-beds on and off for years and I would normally expect a gas bill in the $60-$80 range. Of course, those have all been landlords that followed the NYC convention of covering heat/hot water, but in the summer, those items simply shouldn't be that much.
posted by praemunire at 7:05 PM on July 13, 2021

They screwed up your meter and you are definitely paying for other people's gas usage. You need to call them and demand they fix it immediately.
posted by Toddles at 7:47 PM on July 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

I once had an issue with ConEd charging me an exorbitant amount on my bill and it turned out that they didn't read my meter because of rats (there was a construction project nearby) and "estimated" my bill. It took months to sort it out. Definitely confirm that the meter was actually read.
posted by brookeb at 7:54 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

A similar situation happened to me when I moved into a new apartment about a year ago. Despite verifying the apartment number multiple times, they still had read the wrong meter. The super, another tenant, and I had to go to the meters in the basement, take photos of the meter numbers and provide the list to National Grid (I know you said your gas is through ConEd but maybe they use a similar system) along with the names of all the tenants in the building so they could match up which meter belonged to which apartment. Luckily there are only 5 apartments in the building, so it was easy to do that, but it still took two months and a dozen phone calls to straighten out.
posted by Fuego at 8:07 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

I hope you'll update; I want to know how it works out.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 AM on July 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

As many above have said this appears to be a billing issue possibly related to estimated billing. It also looks like they installed a new meter. New meter installs can also create billing issues.

You should start by calling the utility, but if they do not address your issue you should contact the consumer advocate at the New York Public Service Commission. They PSC regulates utilities and they may be able to help. The number for Consumer Assistance operated by the Office of Consumer Services is 1-800-342-3377.
posted by donovangirl at 10:17 AM on July 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just want to thank you everyone for all your answers. For whatever reason this made me a bit anxious because it's those situations to me where there isn't much recourse (the meter reads what it reads). I was having a bit of a "how much can a banana cost?" moment so thanks for dissuading me from just paying it.

I was confused by the first ConEd call because I got a second statement (one I shared) but when I called again he said it's definitely wrong, it should be about $30 and that I should wait 30 days to get an actual adjusted statement. So I'll wait (and update everyone after!) An unpaid bill makes me anxious but I have in email it's fine to not pay it at the moment.

I've marked the teremala's answer because it hadn't occurred to me to request historical billing so I have done so to equip myself in case the adjustment doesn't pan out.

Answering some other questions:
• There's no A/C powered by gas as it's a window unit plugged into the wall, no dishwasher or washer/dryer
• The meter is fully within the premises (another long story as it's really weirdly placed) so it's unlikely it's a shared usage issue but I guess I'll find out
• Hopefully there shouldn't be any confusion with the reading since I sent a image via email of the meter and they said it's a new one that also reads electronically, but I'm not eyeballing it
posted by artificialard at 10:21 AM on July 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi I was asked (and personally appreciate) updates/resolutions to Asks so here it is:

I won't even pretend to understand what's happened after a series of adjustments but I basically ignored it for 2 months until now and I'm happy I did because at some point there was $22-thousand owing?! That statement had a note about old meter exchange. I think it's some combination of the physical meter and I know the last tenant was delinquent on rent so it maybe carryover from there as well.

From the latest month it looks "normal": $28.26 for gas (just the basic charges essentially no 'usage' which is consistent with my occasional pot of hot water. And ~$50 for electricity which is about right for regular A/C and other electronic use in the summer. So my current balance owing having paid nothing yet is $248 for ~3 months which sounds about right based on what people tell me.

Statement summary (total balance owed, no payments made yet):
JUL-AUG $248.83
MAY-JUL $171.27
JUN-JUL $22,679.03
MAY-MAY $59.91

The actual summary so you can see it's not a typo.

Thanks for all the help and re-assurance. I'm pretty happy that I didn't have to fight with ConEd and they haven't hassled me for payment or late fees at all during this time.
posted by artificialard at 9:55 AM on August 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

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