Anyone have any novel theories on why my utility bills are so high?

For as long as I can remember in my current house, my utility bill has always been crazy high compared to my peers and neighbors, even though my house is smaller in comparison. Every month when I get my bill I get motivated to investigate, and do, but I never get anywhere in solving the issue. I think I know every common cause of high energy bills from years of researching online, so I’m not starting from scratch here.

My bill this month was $370. My two co-workers who I share this with every month: $170 and $190, and both of them have older but larger houses.

I used 2,815 kWh and 10,600 gal of water. I have a house of two adults and two kids. My HVAC is 10 SEER 3.5 ton, I have decent, not great insulation in my attic (~8" of blown-in fiberglass insulation).

I’ve monitored my energy usage with one of two clamp-on power/energy recorders. The biggest users are my water heater (4500W) and HVAC (6000W or so). When both of these are off I am using around 1 kW - 3 kW. When both on, around 13 kW. I use about 100 kWh of energy per day.

Is this normal? It can’t be, because others don’t. No one else I know has a bill anywhere near what mine is. Anyone have any non-obvious ideas on why our consumption is so high?

That does seem extreme. I’m in south Texas, with a 3 ton AC(it’s old so no SEER rating) for a 3100 sq.ft. house, and my last bill was $53.00(meter last read on 5/15) for 601kWh. But I have two gas water heaters, not electric, and no kids(my two-person household used 3,000 gallons last month). Is it possible that there’s a leaky hot water faucet somewhere that is primarily used by the children, and you might not notice the leak?

Also, it looks like you’re paying 13.1 cents/kWh. Is it possible that your co-workers and neighbors have better electricity provider contracts? I switched providers a year ago and now pay 8.7 cents with no service charge. And cheaper rates than that are possible.

If you have a clamp-on power meter, you have the the tool necessary to figure out your high bills.
What is the duty cycle of your AC?
How do your bills vary from summer to winter. There is probably two months when you use little AC or heat - what is the bill during those months?

BTW, SEER 10 sucks. I cut my bill by 1/3 when my heat pump died and I replaced it with a SEER 16.

Yeah I know 10 SEER is relatively inefficient, and if I knew it was going to be an indestructible beast that would last over 15 years, I would have replaced it long ago. I keep waiting on it to die so I can replace it with a better unit but it’s hard to justify the $$ to replace it while it runs fine (I realize a more efficient unit would have paid for itself by now, but hindsight is 20/20).

Regarding the water usage, I’ve checked our water meter with all of our taps shut off several times… there is no movement in the flow indicator, so I don’t think it’s a leak. I marked a 5 gal bucket with a line @ 2 gals, watched the meter as my wife filled the bucket to the line, and the meter matched (2 gals) so I don’t think it’s a calibration issue.

Something weird happened about 10 years ago that I don’t know if has any thing to do with this, but I can’t explain it: I walked outside to the get my mail at the end of the driveway and I suddenly heard the sound of high-pressure water hitting vinyl, and I turned around and saw a stream of water spraying straight up from the ground, hitting the eves. My water inlet pipe had burst. In order to repair it, I had to dig down to it and pump out the water to dry it off as much as possible. Well, I have a dirty water pump, and it pumped out water for about 8 hours, probably a thousand gallons or so, from the hole because it kept filling up from water coming from beneath my house (slab). I don’t know where the water came from and just kind of ignored it because it didn’t make any sense.

-also, my water is noticeably colder when it’s raining outside. I can tell if it’s raining when I have to turn the water warmer in the shower to make it comfortable.

-outside water spigot: everytime I turn it on, it spews out foamy water for several seconds, meaning the water has tons of bubbles in it for some reason for a few seconds.

Those are a couple of things I just can’t explain that may or may not have anything to do with my ginormous water and power bill.

Is there any possibility that the insulation in your walls is not up to snuff? I used to have those kind of bills with a small house and even at the time I knew that the main cause was having NO insulation in my walls. It took awhile to fix that.

ask for an usage audit …here in so cal electric and gas and water will come out and look over your house and detail where and how your using them…

You don’t mention if you have a set-back thermostat or water heater timer. You may want to consider reducing the the temperature of your water heater to 120 or so and possible increasing the a/c temp. If you have already considered this there’s a remote chance your utility meter is running fast.

When first reading your issue, I thought the a/c might keep the home cold enough to store meat.

We have our AC set kind of weird… it’s always set to 80, and we can stand it until it gets to around 76-78 and then we cut it down to 74 during the day or 72 during the evening. At night we cut it down to 70. But for a “scheduled” thermostat, it always moves back up to 80 after 4 or 6 hours.

My water heater is set to 120. It’s supposed to be a really efficient electric heater (har har), but my bill doesn’t reflect that.

-I’ve gone though most of the circuits by standing at the panel, moving the power monitoring clamps to each breaker’s output, and getting my wife to find what is causing any power on that breaker and turn it off. We did this for each circuit, and nothing crazy was found… so I’m thinking “am I really using at least 2x more power than anyone else?”. And I don’t know. I don’t feel like I do. That’s why I’m looking for any off-the-wall ideas about how the power bill is so high each and every month.

3kW with the HVAC & water heater off? That sounds really high.

Have you considered getting a real-time meter? I have a Sense and it’s been very useful. Though it takes many weeks before it learns and identifies individual appliances.

Here’s an off-the-wall idea that happened to me. I once lived in house constructed in 1924 with a detached garage built in 1948. While I didn’t know it at the time I moved in, electrical power to the garage was provided by an underground cable.

Fast forward about six years. I was barefoot out in the back yard after some rain, opened a hose valve, and felt a mild but distinct electrical shock. I had a another hose bib in the yard and grabbed it. Shock again.

The electrician I called in located a short in the underground cable from the house to the garage. It could have been that way for years had I not been barefoot after the rain and touched the pipe.

Your water usage is quite high. Only two of us but my wife uses as much water as two normal people… Last month we used 3300 gallons.

Your electrical usage is quite high. We average 700 Kwh per month and use the A/C a lot in summer.

We do use natural gas so that offsets some things but that is only $80 a month.


My 1 bedroom apartment uses both natural gas and electric (gas is for heating). Anyway, I only use about 200kwh a month w/o AC. Closer to 300-350 when using AC heavily.

So yeah something is wrong. Normal kitchen appliances and electronics shouldn’t raise your usage to 1-3kw an hour.

Does your usage drop a meaningful amount in spring and fall, or is it consistently this high year round?

Is natural gas available in your area?

A gas water heater is more efficient.

What’s with you people? The OP wanted novel theories.

Obviously, he has an incompetent Maxwell’s demon.

Well, you asked for novel theories and all you’re getting from this thread are conventional, boring theories.

Have you considered the possibility of gnomes living in a series of caves behind your basement walls who’ve tapped into your electrical and water? There could be a whole village of them, suckling at the teat of your utilities. I recommend a ground-penetrating radar scan to rule this out.

I’m not quite following the troubleshooting you’ve done so far. You said when the water heater and HVAC are off you’re using 1-3 kW. That’s a lot. Since you have a clamp-on meter, why can’t you track down what’s using that power? You said you did that and “nothing crazy was found”. I don’t understand what that means. Some circuit is drawing that power; surely you can’t mean that every circuit in the house is idle but your house is still drawing power? You should be able to isolate the circuit that’s drawing power (although there may be more than one), and then isolate which device(s) on that circuit are the culprit(s) by turning off devices one by one.

I would pull all the breakers except one and then measure the power of a single item on that circuit using a power meter outlet. You can get them for less than $20. Compare that to your house meter.

same thing with water. Make sure everything is off and check the meter. If it’s still moving then there is a leak between the meter and your house. flush the toilet 10 times and see what the meter says. You can measure the toilet tank by emptying it (with the water off) and filling it with measured amounts until you’ve established how many gallons it holds.

A slab house huh? That’s too bad, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that wasn’t more trouble than it’s worth.

Does your water main enter the house through a wall or does it run under the slab to come up from below?

Frinstance, my water meter is next to my deiveway, on the side away from the house. Fucking moron builders did this to every house in the subdivision. So everyone’s water main from the meter to the house runs across and nearly the length of the driveway and garage.

Anyway, if your main goes under the slab, well, my sympathies

I really need to just break down and buy that. I’ve been eyeing it for the past year or so. I have a Aeon smart power/energy clamps that, through a rube-goldberg connections of smart hubs and scripts and google sheets, I can get data and plot/filter it however I like, but it would be a lot less trouble to have a system specifically built for home energy monitoring.

That’s the kind of story I am interested in. During all this research I’ve read about some pretty obscure power drains like what you describe. One guy found that a laser printer was using an insane amount of energy because it was stuck in the “warming up” phase of it’s startup process.