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Question DetailsAsked on 3/23/2018

I live in two bedroom apartment and everything runs on electric.

Every month my bill goes higher and higher. I'm hardly home during the day. I pay electric through the apartment. Is it normal for my bill range from $200-$400 a month.

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First check your bills for changes in rates and electricity usage - if your actual usage is the only thing changing then you have an issue you can address. If overall service charge or per-KWHr charge has gone up, assuming they are charging their approved tarriff rate, not much you can do - but neighbors would have same issue in that case. [Electric bills commonly have 3 parts to them - a basic monthly service charge to cover the installed equipment and basic operating costs, per KWHr (killowatt-hour) electric usage chargesfor the electricity actually used (may also be broken out between prime time and off-peak usage rates, or into several tiers for heavier usage), and some assorted regulatory fees and taxes. Compare older bills against your current ones to see what changed - rates or usage or both, because a lot of areas are seeing significant increases in all the thypes of rates and charges as inflationory pressure start up again.

Assuming weather has not been unusually severe (probably inordinately cold, not A/C usage, this time of year), then you probably need an Electrical contractor (your Search the List category to find well-rated and reviewed vendors for this type of issue) to investigate. Or if furnace or A/C has been running an awful lot or nearly continuously, a Heating and A/C contractor - normally except in near design extreme operating temp conditions, they should not be running more than about 1/4 - 1/3 of the time in significant usage periods, more like 10% in milder conditions.

Though of course, if this is a straight rental or lease (not triple net type) it may well be the apartment owner/manager's responsibility to solve any electrical problem, though you might have to pressure a lot to get him to seriously investigate.

VERY, VERY roughly speaking - with properly operating equipment, a house with gas or oil fired heating (water and house) may see a 10-25% increase in electric usage during heavy heating times due to more furnace fan run time - more like a 2-4 fold difference during times with heavy A/C or electric heating usage. Unusually heavy hot water use due to house guest or new baby in the house (lots of washer use) or such, with electric water heater only, can make for typically a 25-50% increase in electric use. If weather conditions have not been markedly different than before the increase, then commonly a major electric bill change like that is due to a malfunctioning A/C unit, which would normally be either hard-starting (so the lights would usually be dimming noticeably when it starts) or it would be running a major portion of the time because it is not cooling correctly.

Generally, an apartment with gas or oil or central building steam heat will have an electric bill below about $50-70 for normal 500-1000SF apartment. Electric heat can easily push that into the $200-300/month range in cold months, especially if your unit is on a corner or has a lot of outside walls, as can A/C - though over $200 or so for electric for a normal size apartment would be unusual.

You could talk to any friendly neighbors and ask what their normal bill is - be sure to clarify if they have A/C installed if you are in A/C season, as that can make a several fold difference in bill amount.

One other thing - take a look around by your meter to see if there are any extraneous wires - should be one wire or more commonly a slightly twisted bundle of 3 or 4 large (typically 1/4-3/4" diameter) insulated wires coming in from the utility pole (usually hidden in riser pipe out of the ground under the meter if underground service), and one large (1/2-3/4") wire going from the meter or outside main shutoff/breaker into the house to the distribution/breaker panel. Also one bare (commonly twisted) bare copper wire from the meter panel down to a rod driven into the ground. May also be small (about 1/8", bare or insulated) wires from that ground rod to telephone and/or cable TV connections.

Other than those, and telephone and cable TV cables (about pencil diameter almost always black with screw end connections for cable TV, about 1/8" diameter for phone), if you have any other electric lines coming off your outside boxes someone might be stealing power from you - marijuana grow operations are commonly a reason for such power theft. If you suspect that call utility and tell them about the bill issue (assuming power usage increase is the reason) and ask them to check your meter for proper function and for any power theft. Also, if you flag to the utility the increased usage (assuming your actual KWHr uage going up is the reason for the increase) if they find a meter problem they have to refund the overcharges, but sometimes only a month or two back from your complaint - so file complaint to get it on the record.

One thing - you say you "pay electric through apartment" - if you mean the apartment management bills you for the electric, then take it up with them. Also, call your Public Utilities Commission or similar name state agency about whether billing a variable rate that way is legal. Generally, it is not legal in many states - or at least if they do they have to have independent meters on each apartment, which you should be able to demand copies of the meter billing to see what the utility is billing (usually they have to priovide that to you are part of their billing of the power). Generally (though not universally) an apartment owner is not allowed to directly bill himself, or to prorate elecrtric charges off a central meter amongst the apartment renters - each unit either has to have a separate meter (so normally billed by the utility), or the electric rate can be set as a fixed $ amount in the rental agreement but not variable from month to month. In some areas even that is not legal for apartments - only for "room" rentals in individual houses where a separate meter is not practical because you are both living in the same house areas.

Answered 8 months ago by LCD

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