Dealing With the Dreaded Electric Bill Spike Once and For All

This time of year, many of us start to tremble every time the air conditioner kicks on. We avoid setting the thermostat below 80 degrees out of lingering fear that our electric bill is going to spike. Some of us even turn the entire system off and swelter like we are camping outdoors in Florida during the middle of July. In any case, you’re doing all you can to prevent death by electric bill shock, but it’s just not enough. When you receive that bill in the mail, you might as well start blaring the theme song from Jaws – because it feels like you’re about to be eaten by the biggest utility cost of your life.

Customers on a fluctuating market rate electricity plan end up living in fear of the yearly rate spike, which inevitably comes when the season turns. However, a heat wave isn’t the only reason your bill makes you panic – there are other causes that you should be aware of. Thankfully, you can do plenty of things in your own home to prevent that money-eating bill. Plus, we’ve even got a secret weapon on hand to give you greater predictability: a fixed-rate energy plan that might give the final break you need to put your panic to rest once and for all.

What Can Cause Your Electric Bill to Spike?

When you’re paying for every kilowatt of electricity that hums through your household, you’re probably not being wasteful with it. You’re not leaving your refrigerator door open for two days straight, and your AC probably isn’t set to 60 degrees. You’re not actively running a thousand-gallon tank to hold actual, real life sharks. So why in the world is your bill so high all of a sudden? Here are some reasons your bill might spike year round:

Problem Solution
Inaccurate Meter. If your meter is located directly in the sun during the summer time, you could be dealing with a faulty read due to a malfunction. Of course, this can also happen any other time of the year. Call your utility company to double check that your meter is working correctly. It can’t hurt to request an audit. Some companies may even help adjust your bill if you catch the spike in time!
Appliance Failure. A super-high electric bill can be your first sign that a major appliance is on the fritz. If your refrigerator is working double time to cool, you’ll be paying for it. If it’s past time to replace your refrigerator, hot water heater, AC unit, or washer/dryer, now’s the time to evaluate. Use a watt meter to determine exactly which appliance is causing the huge load, and replace that one with an Energy Star model.
Seasonal Change. This is the most common cause of your annual panic. If you have a standard programmable thermostat and you leave it on your spring settings, your AC system will be working much harder. Invest in a smart thermostat, and make sure you’re checking your settings as the outside temperature changes. You may want to gradually raise your temp so that you’re already used to a slightly warmer setting when the heat wave hits.
Hot Water Overflow. You may not be taking many hot baths this time of year, but your hot water use (including dishwasher and washing machine, of course) can definitely be cause for wintertime bill spikes. A few things you can try: Only run your dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. Wash the majority of your clothing on the cold cycle. Going easy here saves water, of course, but it’s also great for lowering your electricity bill.
Outdoor Lights. If your holiday decorations are extreme, you’re looking at a massive electric bill. But you knew that going in, right? As fun as it is to celebrate Christmas in July, you might want to consider turning off (or taking down) your holiday lights during the summer months. And in winter, invest in a timer for your holiday lights so they’re only on for a few hours instead of all night.
Leaking Current. This is rare, but it could be the cause of a significant spike in your electric bill that’s otherwise unexplained. A live wire or leaking current in the breaker box will leech wattage at a significant cost. Plus, it’s really dangerous. This isn’t a DIY fix. When everything else related to increased usage is ruled out, you can do a simple test to see if you’re leaking voltage. Turn off and unplug every single appliance and electricity drain in the home, and check to see if your meter is still registering current. If so, you may have a leak and you’ll need to contact an electrician to deal with it further.

These are all things that can increase your electricity use, causing your bill to fluctuate and spike like the waves in the ocean. But sometimes the cause of your electric bill increase is a bit harder to find. In the past, I’ve actually had a utility company tell me that my 200% bill increase was due to my fridge or freezer being “less full than usual.” As strange as that sounds, it’s a common reason for increased electricity use.

But what if none of these apply in your situation? What if the true problem isn’t increased usage, but an increase in your electricity market rate?

Determine If Your Rate Spiked All On Its Own

Utility bills aren’t known for being detailed documents, but you can still get some relevant information from them. If you are still receiving paper bills, this step will be much easier. Simply turn back to the second page (with the graphs that you never look at) and find “kWh used” or “consumption.” You can also find this info online or on a pdf version of your e-bill if you search hard enough. (Note: there will be plenty of miscellaneous fees competing for your attention here. Don’t be fooled.) Compare this number to your previous bills in the past months – if you don’t see a change in your consumption, you’ll know that the increase in your bill wasn’t up to you.

Now, in the list of charges, locate where your market rate is documented (“first 500 kWh at $0.02801 per kWh”, for example) and compare that amount to past bills. It may not seem like a huge number, but even a three-cent difference multiplied across a month’s worth of your kWhs used can result in a real spike in your payments. These prices change as market rates fluctuate, and the market can be volatile. That’s why we recommend getting out of that system altogether.

Use the Fixed-Rate Secret Weapon

If the market rate plan, or variable plan, is giving you shark attack level anxiety, you need something to protect you. If you’re looking for a secret weapon that will scare those sharks away, you’ll be much better off choosing a fixed-rate electricity plan from your energy supplier. It’s as simple as it sounds: your electric bill will only change based on your usage, and your rate will remain as stable as the concrete your home rests on. You’ll see those dorsal fins swimming away sooner than you thought possible.

Keep in mind that a fixed-rate plan is based on an average of the market prices over a year’s time, so the rate may be higher than that of your cheapest month. However, this expense will even out over the course of the year when you’re not paying double at the drop of a hat. Your sanity is worth a few cents, I’d wager, especially when it means you get to swim in calm waters from here on out.

Want in? Liberty Power offers fixed-rate plans that will work perfectly to reduce your yearly electric bill shock. You’ll never have to worry about a rate-related spike in your electric bill once you’ve got our secret weapon.

Check pricing in your area now to get started on the best year of your life– free from shark attack level anxiety, and free from the terror of inconsistent bills.


Photo Credit: Elias Levy

Liberty Power CorpThe Editorial Team at Liberty Power is a swashbuckling group of passionate and creative Energy experts bringing you the hottest topics on exciting market trends, booming products and services, and the latest news in the industry.
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