Why is my ConEd bill so high?
February 9, 2007 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Why is my ConEd bill so high?

from my gf:

"I live in an apartment in a house in Queens, NY and my Coned bill has always been inordinately high. The apartment is 2 levels, 1500 sf, and 3 people live together. We have 2 fridges, family size washer and dryer. We keep the heat on at minimal and the heat system is your typical water pipe system that runs throughout the house. We have 3 computers, 3 tv's and nothing else out of the ordinary. But why did our ConEd bill come to about $450 last month? Is the meter just wrong? Or is our hot water turned up too high? What could it be?"

thanks for your help!
posted by cgs to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Is your hot water heater electric? You imply it, but that's not very common in my experience. If your heating system is all-electric that's going to cost you.
posted by Skorgu at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2007

1. Is it all electrical, or is this a dual bill for gas and electric?
2. If it's all electric, try to determine what, if any changes have occurred since the last bill. Call ConEd and get a history for that aparment, going back at least a few years. Look for usage trends.
3. If it's gas/electric, figure out which is driving the high bill. It's it's gas, check all of your gas appliances. Have the furnace filters been changed recently? Is the hot water heater properly jacketed? Is your thermostat set correctly.?

There are just some quick ideas. report back and let us know more.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2007

This actually does not sound all that high for that size and number of appliances.

I lived in a 3 person, 1 level 800 sq ft place with:
3 laptop (less electricity than desktop), 1 tv, 1 fridge, NO washer/dryer place and we hit $300 in winter quite regularly in upstate NY. Electric heat.

Currently living in a 1-person, 1-level, 300-400 sq ft place..
2 laptops, 1 tv, small fridge, NO washer/dryer, free heat/hot water and I am hitting $50 or so right now in Manhattan.

Considering the size of your place, number of people, and number of appliances, I would almost say thats not all that high.
posted by gomess at 9:52 AM on February 9, 2007

woop..hot water heat. That should be relatively cheap. Did a grow op move in next door and start leaching power from you?
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:52 AM on February 9, 2007

Sometimes they overcharge you based on estimated readings. Check your bills. I had this happen to me last year, then all of a sudden they gave us a $300 credit when they actually came to read the meter.
posted by footnote at 9:57 AM on February 9, 2007

Do you use hot and/or warm water to wash your clothes? Cold generally works fine, and can save you some money.
posted by alms at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2007

Set your computers to go to hibernate (not sleep) at night, or whenever they're not normally being used. Use cold water for laundry. If your heat is electric, get a programmable thermostat to lower your temp at times when nobody is home or the occupants are asleep.

Look carefully at the bill to see if it was an estimate or an actual meter read. If it was a read, are they charging you for several months' overage? See if they offer a "seasonal billing" plan, which will average your usage over 12 months and adjust your bill to smooth out the peaks and valleys.
posted by Merdryn at 10:40 AM on February 9, 2007

We have 2 fridges

That might be part of the problem right there. Are these two full-size fridges? If a fridge is generally pretty empty, it'll run more often because all it has inside is air instead of anything with a significant heat capacity. Our local energy company did an audit of a friend's place once (at her requrest) to help her save energy costs, and their main suggestion was to just put a few water bottles in the freezer. Also, all the "vampire" appliances, like any item that has a clock or some other standby function that will suck electricity continually even while not on, end up making a bit of a difference. If you have 3 people with all their stuff in there, that could add up.
posted by LionIndex at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2007

What footnote said, and also: sometimes they undercharge you based on estimated readings. If they don't read your meter for a few months and their estimate is low for those months, the next bill after they read it will be large.

On the bill there should be a little bar graph of how much power you "used" for the last year; shaded bars for actual readings, hollow bars for estimated.
posted by equalpants at 11:05 AM on February 9, 2007

yeah i'm gonna go with equalpants and footnote. I have a similar apartment (1 fridge though) and it only comes to about 90 a month. (in nyc as well)
posted by alkupe at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2007

Check the AskMefi archives- It seems like this comes up every month. ConEd sometimes WAY overcharges us and only backs down when questioned. Other months, they way UNDERbill. Keep records and ask them for details.
posted by GilloD at 11:43 AM on February 9, 2007

Really obscure ACPI tip: In your bios set the Standby method to S3(STR) not S1, it'll put your computer's state into ram and use only enough power to keep it resident. The difference between a system in S3 and one turned 'off' (i.e. still plugged in) is very small.
posted by Skorgu at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2007

If you get a bill from Con Ed with estimated readings and you have access to your meter, you can call them and read the meter to them, and they will adjust your following bill. You don't have to wait for them to finally come out and get access.

As to this specific problem, yes that does sound high, but I don't have a lot of sense of how bills scale. In 400 square feet (1 fridge, 1 laptop), my bills are $30-50. In 2000 square feet, one level (5 people, one fridge, 5 computers, TV), the bill was about $200.
posted by dame at 12:10 PM on February 9, 2007

Here's a graph of typical energy usage in a house. Double the refrigerator and TV categories, since you have so many, and throw in an extra large slice or two since you have three computers, which are notorious power hogs - probably about the same size as televisions.

So now that you know where your energy goes, you can start taking steps to reduce it. Here are some ideas for easy things to do - the "low-hanging fruit" of energy savings.
  • Invest in some compact fluorescent bulbs for your most-frequently used lights. Indoor lighting is about 15% of a typical bill, and they use about 75% less power
  • Turn off your computers at night and when you're at work - that's 16 hours or so, which lowers their consumption by 2/3
  • Computer monitors are also huge energy drains - don't just use a screensaver, set them to power down after 10 minutes
  • Turn your fridge's temperature up a notch if you can - most fridges are set to be colder than they need to be
  • Buy that plastic sheeting stuff to cover your windows and trap heat inside. Even using drapes will reduce heat loss by a whole lot, especially with single-pane windows
  • Get an extra blanket and turn down the thermostat at night to 60 degrees. Set it to automatically come up to a reasonable temperature before you wake up. Ditto with turning it down while you're at work.
  • Hang your clothes up to dry, then just "fluff" them in the dryer afterwards. Clothes dryers pull a lot of power, and it's better of ryour clothes too.
  • Put appliances that you don't use constantly on power strips. Many of them draw small amounts of current even when turned off, and are "energy-vampires" that slowly suck your wallet dry.
  • Put a lid on boiling pots of water. They'll boil faster and save you a little money. Don't laugh - these small things add up!
By doing a lot of this stuff, I cut my consumption by about 1/3. That extra couple bucks every month is pretty nice to have, and I get to feel good about myself for saving the earth.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2007

get a kill-a-watt and see where your money goes.

posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2007

In a typical apartment, assuming gas for the heat, and an "ordinary" amount of cooking on the stove, the biggest energy user is the frige. You have two. How old/inefficient are they? Do they leak cold air? Is something broken, making the frige run all the time.

Last time I checked, running a load through the washing machine cost about $1-2, same for an electric dryer. With 3 people, that could add up over a month.

For the time that appliances are running, the things that use the most energy are things that generate hot or cold (ie, stove, freezer, etc.). Usually mechanical things with moving parts (ceiling fan, automatic tortilla maker) are second. Lights and electronics are usually less, although computer servers with fans, etc. that are always on will suck up a lot, as do flat screen TVs/monitors.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2007

ps. I live in a 2200 square foot house, my wife and I are not overly careful about energy usage and our bill is *never* more than $125. Something's definitely up.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2007

I work for an electric company (not ConEd) and $450 a month if you're not heating with electric or cooling with central air is insane. If you're using anything with a pump or if you have any space heaters (regardless of how little you think you use it), it's not that insane. Things like lights and Tvs are not going to make your bill $450. Neither will having two fridges, especially in winter (unless you keep your heat at something ridiculous like 80 degrees).

If I were you, these are the steps I would take:

Check if your bills are being estimated. If they are, call ConEd and have them read your meter.

Turn off the main breaker to your apartment (obviously make sure that you inform the people you live with & turn off all sensitive equipment beforehand) when you know that other people in the building will be home. If anyone comes out to check what's up or if any common area lights go out, including outside lighting, call ConEd or your management company/landlord; your building has mixed wiring, which is illegal.

Call ConEd and have them test your meter. Do this regardless of what happens when you turn off your breaker and regardless of whether or not your bills are being estimated.

If you don't have mixed wiring, your meter tests within guidelines, and your bills haven't been estimated, try moving to a place that doesn't EAT electricity. Good luck.
posted by eunoia at 6:09 PM on February 9, 2007

I wanted to clarify that mixed wiring is illegal in Connecticut, but I'm not sure if this is also so in New York.
posted by eunoia at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2007

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