High Bill Concerns

Electric usage varies from day to day and month to month, depending upon a variety of factors including your daily habits, the weather, and the time of year. An increase in your electric usage could be caused by a variety of things.

Winter Bills Are Usually Higher

Bills are generally higher during the winter months, due to both the increased energy requirements for home heating and fewer daylight hours, which leads to increased use of lighting.

Read more about how cold weather affects your bill.

Sudden Spikes in Energy Usage

A sudden spike in energy usage may indicate a repair problem with an appliance, heating system, or water heater. A spike can also be caused by a period of very cold weather in the winter. Don’t forget that since billing cycles are about a month long, sometimes it can be a few weeks before the effect of really cold weather will be seen on your bill.

Here are some of the more common reasons that bills increase, and what you can do about them.

Changes in the Weather

Your heating system is the largest energy user in your home. As the weather gets colder the heating system operates longer, increasing your bill. Since winter weather is unpredictable, so is your utility bill.

What you can do:
In the long run, the best solution to high heating bills is to insulate and weatherize your home. Our Energy Experts can help you determine what steps you can take to make your home as energy-efficient as possible.

In the short run, your best bet is to set your thermostat as low as comfort permits. Each degree you lower it saves about 2% in space heating costs. Set it even lower when you are away or asleep. We recommend setting your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees.

Heating System Malfunctions

If your heating system malfunctions, it could mean longer equipment run times and higher bills. This is particularly true of high efficiency systems like heat pumps. An improperly functioning heat pump operating only on its back-up heat sources can increase heating costs by as much as 40%.

What you can do:
Maintain all central heating systems regularly. This is particularly important for high efficiency systems. Have an annual check-up by a qualified technician and clean filters monthly.

Taking a Long Vacation

If your home is empty for extended periods of time during the winter, you won’t necessarily use less electricity. Your daily activities when you are at home generate a fair amount of heat. When you are gone, the lack of activity means your heating system must work harder to keep the house warm.

What you can do:
Set your thermostat at 55 or 60 degrees when you are away.

More People Living in Your Home

If the number of people living in your home increases, your energy use can go up. More people means more showers, cooking and laundry, which can significantly increase your energy use.

What you can do:
Take shorter showers and run only full loads of laundry and dishes. Wash laundry in cold water when possible.

Longer Billing Cycles

The length of the billing cycle also affects your total bill. Our billing cycles can range from 28 – 34 days in length. The good news is that when a billing cycle is a little longer one month, it’s likely to be a bit shorter the next.

What you can do:
Sign up for our Budget Pay Program, which gives you equal monthly payments all year round. The amount of your payment is calculated based on your previous 12 months of usage. Budget Pay is a great way to take the sting out of the winter months when your usage is higher.

Is It the Meter?

Your electric usage is recorded by a digital meter that automatically sends information to the PUD so that we can prepare your monthly statement.

Digital electric meters are extremely accurate. It is rare, but occasionally a meter will fail. This won’t result in a higher bill for you because a failed meter doesn’t record your usage.

Get Help With Controlling Energy Costs

Understanding where your energy dollars go is the first step toward controlling energy costs. If your bill is consistently high, our Energy Experts will also provide a free energy use analysis for your home or facility. You can also fill out our DIY Home Energy Audit to learn more about ways you can improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Low-Income Assistance

Several programs are available to help income-qualified households manage heating costs. Contact Customer Accounts at (503) 397-0590 or  for information about any of these programs:

  • The Special Waiver Program provides a discounted monthly Base Charge for qualified households.
  • We partner with Community Action Team for income-qualified weatherization services to qualified households.
  • Community Action Team administers funds for the federally-funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For more information about LIHEAP, contact Community Action Team at (503) 397-4951.