DIY: Electric & gas bill analysis

by Samantha Vercellino

Have you ever looked at your energy bills and asked yourself, “Why are they so high?” You frantically scan them in hopes of finding the problem but don’t know where to start. CUB analyzes thousands of bills a year. These are three key questions we ask about any electric or gas bill.

Are you with an alternative supplier?

Look at the supply portion of your bill to see if  you are with an alternative supplier. This is where you'll find it on a ComEd bill.

Look at the supply portion of your bill to see if you are with an alternative supplier. This is where you’ll find it on a ComEd bill.

ameren alt supplier

Alternative supplier, Constellation, appears on the supply portion of this customer’s Ameren electricity bill

First, check whether your electricity or gas is being supplied by an alternative supplier or the regulated utility. If an unfamiliar name appears in the supply section of your bill, then you’re with an alternative supplier. To determine the best deal, compare its rate to the rate you would be paying with the regulated utility. Also, check for monthly fees that can cause prices to skyrocket. If the alternative supplier’s price is better, stay with it but be wary of variable rates which can change unpredictably from month-to-month.  If the alternative supplier’s price isn’t better, investigate how to get out of your contract. (Be careful of cancellation fees.)

Is your bill being estimated?

Next, determine if your energy usage is being estimated by looking under the meter section of your bill. If a company did not read your meter that month, it should indicate so on the bill. If a utility estimates your usage two months in a row, that should raise a red flag. Call the utility and find out why. Estimations can be inaccurate, and that means you could get hit with high make-up bills later on. (Note: One advantage of the digital electric meters being installed by ComEd and Ameren is that the new devices should do away with estimated readings, because the meters can be read remotely.)

Bills will tell you if your meter reading for the past two months was "estimated" or "actual."  If you see two estimated readings in a row, contact the utility

Bills will tell you if your meter reading for the past two months was “estimated” or “actual.” If you see two estimated readings in a row, contact the utility.  ComEd’s bill is shown here.

On Ameren bills, look to the far right column to see if there is an "A" for an actual read, or an "E" for estimated read.

On Ameren bills, look to the far right column to see if there is an “A” for an actual read, or an “E” for estimated read.

Is your energy usage unusually high?

Finally, evaluate your energy usage to see if there’s been an unusual spike. If it seems unusually high, compared with past bills, that could mean there’s a problem with the meter. Call your utility for a free meter check. Big-screen TVs, multiple refrigerators and the size of your house also can explain high usage, so ask yourself if any of these apply to you. By signing up for energy efficiency programs, like Peak Time Savings and CUB Energy Saver, you can learn how to cut your utility bills even more.

If you’ve read over your bills and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, at 1-800-669-5556.

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