Electricity bill of doom
June 4, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

My electricity bill is out of control!

I posted this question a while ago, trying to get a rough estimate of what my hydro bill would be like in my new apartment...all told, the consensus seemed to be that it would cost around $35-40 per month. This estimate was also confirmed by my landlord, based on what everyone else is paying in the building (I think there are 120+ units in my building, so they've got a pretty wide sample to draw from). Anyways, long story short, I got nailed with a $70 bill this month. What happened?!? Am I doing something drastically wrong? How can I fix it?

A bit of background info on my electricity use:

-the lights in any given room are only on when I'm IN that room
-I only run my dishwasher once every 2-3 days, once I have a full load (and even then, only using the light drying mode)
-washing/drying of clothes only occurs once, maybe twice, per week
-I've been curbing my natural instinct to stand in front of the fridge and gaze longingly for much longer than necessary

The BAD:
-I leave my computer and 2 external hard drives running most of the time (although I can't imagine this being TOO detrimental to my bill)
-I use my George Foreman Grilleration G5 perhaps a little too frequently
-Although not left on, I have a few appliances that are likely acting as "vampires" and passively draining electricity

-I've left the air-conditioning on most of the time, although I was told by the landlord that heat exchange systems like the ones in my building are quite efficient and this shouldn't make a significant difference in my bill (was I lied to?)
-There are a lot of 10-12 minute showers that happen...between my girlfriend and I, maybe 3-4 per day

Anyways, I plan to talk to my landlord, etc., to see if there's a mistake, but if there isn't, what should I do about limiting this bill? (I've already started using my air conditioner only when necessary, but the showers are somewhat non-negotiable (they could be made shorter, though.))
posted by johnsmith415 to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The PC could be a major one, depending on the spec of the machine.

One of these is a damned useful tool, and helped us work out that our fridge was pulling three times the power is should have been.
posted by twine42 at 9:15 AM on June 4, 2007

It's totally the AC. ACs use a large amount of power; that's why blackouts happen in big cities during the summer (and seem to happen when the weather is particularly hot, which is one of life's crueler jokes). Your landlord didn't lie; he probably assumed you knew that your bill would go up during the summer, and $70 doesn't sound too expensive if the non-summer bill is $40.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:18 AM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your link has one too many https in it - it should go here: http://ask.metafilter.com/59803/.

The AC is central? If it's an individual unit, that can pull huge amounts of power if it's and older/less efficient model.

Little things add up: for a week or a month, try unplugging things when you're not using them (computers, toasters, cellphone chargers, etc.). If it's plugged in, it's pulling power, and a dozen or more plugged-in things pulling tiny amounts of juice can really add up.
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on June 4, 2007

Seconding the A.C. -- you can check it out using this calculator. For an average window unit with average U.S. electricity price (sorry, no Canada but they're probably comparable), running 24/7 for a month, electricity bill for that alone is about $66.
posted by one_bean at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2007

Both my bf and I have bills in the $30-$40 range, and about the only thing we do thats different from your usage is the AC. I'm almost positive that's your culprit. (Except for maybe the "heat wave" of the last couple days, I can't even really imagine needing AC in Vancouver...)
posted by cgg at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2007

The AC. Also, I'd think the 3-4 showers a day may be above average.
posted by Good Brain at 9:33 AM on June 4, 2007

How many killowatt-hours did you use? If your electricity costs $.012 per kwh, the $30 difference between your expected and actual bill amounts to 250 kwh. How many watts does your air conditioner use? Many window AC units use 3000 watts. If your unit used the same, it would use 250kwh over the course of about 83 hours (however it likely does not draw its full rated power constantly, so it would likely require more hours to use a given quantity of kwh).
posted by reeddavid at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2007

I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but I've been keeping the temperature in my place at around 20 degrees...and the AC is set to 'auto', so even though it's always on, it SHOULD only running when the temperature strays from that (given the general weather in Vancouver over the last month, the AC shouldn't be working TOO hard). But I have no idea how the system works, so who knows.

Also, my building is under 5 years old, so the AC shouldn't be some ancient energy guzzler (in theory).
posted by johnsmith415 at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2007

You're keeping at 20 C? I don't know what the weather's been like recently there, but forecasted temps for Vancouver this week seem to top out at 20 C. When I lived in Washington DC (so very very hot and humid from May-October), I kept a window unit in the bedroom (no AC in the rest of the flat) and set it at about 78 F (25 C) - I mean, when it's 95 F (35 C) out, a 10 C degree difference is notable.

Turn the AC up or better yet OFF.
posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on June 4, 2007

You'd be surprised at how many apartment dwellers rarely use their air-conditioner--the girlfriend and I have ours set at around 75 F/24 C, which is still warmer than we would prefer, and it is usually the only one in our complex we ever hear running. Most of our neighbors seem to keep windows open constantly and have lots and lots of fans, and from what I gather their electrical bill is about 10 or 12 bucks lower than ours. And your AC is set way below ours.
posted by Benjy at 10:30 AM on June 4, 2007

Our bill jumps about $40/monthly during the months where we run the AC.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:05 AM on June 4, 2007

20C? That's really quite chill! I rarely set my AC below 23 C. That alone will change your bills for the better.

Also, I don't know the way it works where you live, but I know that my electricity bills fluctuate some in response to gas prices. So, given that its summer time and gas prices are high everywhere, I wouldn't be surprised if this is also pumping up your bills.
posted by i less than three nsima at 1:16 PM on June 4, 2007

nthing the air conditioner. turn it off when you're not home, and keep it just low enough to be comfortable. honestly, during the day i keep my place around 78 and turn it off when i go to work. i turn it down a bit at night, because i sleep better when it's cooler.

i read that turning your pc off at night is actually more energy efficient than letting it just hibernate.

also, unplug anything you don't use very much.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2007

Thanks for the tips, y'all...the air conditioner is going off (at least most of the time).
posted by johnsmith415 at 2:21 PM on June 4, 2007

Where do you live? Mine is about $100 in the winter and up to $250 in the summer. So even twice what your were told sounds great.
posted by nimsey lou at 4:40 PM on June 4, 2007

One thing you could try would be putting the AC on some sort of timer; if you do get one just make sure it's rated for the watts/amps of your AC unit. This is assuming it's a window unit. If it's a thermostat controlled central unit they make programmable thermostats that don't cost too much ($30 or less). That way you can set it to turn the AC on an hour before you get home so it cools things off without running all day long.

And turn that computer off at night! It only makes things warmer so there's no sense having it warm up the place further when you're not using it.
posted by 6550 at 5:02 PM on June 4, 2007

First of all, double check and make sure your bill is not for two months-- when I lived in BC, I only got bills every second month.

If not that, my money is on the AC.
posted by synecdoche at 5:23 PM on June 4, 2007

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