April 2017 – High Bills

Posted: April 25, 2017

Every year, we get several complaints about high bills, but the worst of the complaints generally come during the winter. It is not uncommon to hear from someone who has a $900 bill and is outraged at AVEC’s high cost of electricity.

Why does anyone receive a $900 bill? In an average AVEC community where electricity costs $110 for the first 500 kilowatt-hours, and 50 cents or more for use above that, a consumer would have to use about 1,400 kWh to get to a $900 bill. In a community with higher-than-average electricity, such as in our northwest region, they would have to use about 1,200 kWh.

What causes such high use? Multiple freezers to store subsistence food could be the reason. But even four or five freezers would not account for all of the high use. An older chest freezer may use 100 kWh a month. Five freezers could account for 500 kWh a month, although newer chest freezers may use half that amount. Upright freezers typically use more electricity than chest freezers. Save money by making sure you use energy-efficient Energy Star-rated freezers. Consolidate your frozen food into the fewest number of freezers and unplug empty ones.

Constantly running heat tape to keep water and sewer lines thawed also can cause high bills. According to an Alaska energy auditor, typical heat tape uses electricity at 6 to 9 watts per foot per hour. A 50-foot tape would use 300 to 450 watts per hour. If it were on constantly, it would use 216 to 324 kWh a month. Make sure your heat tape is only on when needed.

The biggest culprit is often electric heaters. Ceramic heaters are small and deceptive in their design. One also hears a lot about Edenpure and other “quartz” heaters. Despite their claims to reduce the cost of heating your home, both types of heaters use 1,500 watts. If used eight hours a day, one of these heaters will consume 360 kWh in a month!

We have heard accounts of consumers who could not afford to buy a 5-gallon jug of stove oil so they turned on the oven and opened the door to provide warmth. With electric ovens typically using 4,000 watts of power, doing this for eight hours would use 32 kWh or almost 1,000 kWh a a month! That oven is costing $15 to $20 a day when used as a heater.

We also heard an instance where a homeowner left the hot water faucet open to prevent the pipes from freezing and ran up a $2,000 electric bill.

The bottom line is that it is not AVEC’s fault if someone’s home uses so much electricity that their electric bill costs $900 or more. We can, however, help you track down what is using so much electricity. We have devices you can use to find out how much electricity any individual appliance is using in your home. We also have a few “Energy Detectives” you can install at your breaker box to see what your whole home is using—momentarily or in an hour or in a day. We will provide either of these to you at no charge to help you be your own energy detective.

Give us a call at our toll-free number, (800) 478-1818, or drop us an email at memberinfo@avec.org. We are always happy to help.