Utility Bill FAQ
Utilities are the necessities of everyday life. They’re delivered to our homes, businesses, and industries where we use them based on need and convenience. Your energy usage changes from day to day and month to month, causing fluctuations in your monthly utility bills. Reasons for change can be caused by many factors, some of which are out of your control.
Most Common Causes of Month-to-Month Bill Fluctuations
Typically, around half of your utility bill comes from heating and cooling your home. High summer heat and low winter cold can cause the greatest fluctuations in your monthly bill, as they require more energy to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. While you can’t control the weather, you can control your thermostat. During the day, keeping your thermostat at 68° in the winter and 78° in the summer will provide your best energy savings. The smaller the difference between the temperatures inside and outside, the lower your overall energy usage will be.
Billing Cycle Changes
Utility meters are typically read around the same time each month and usage is determined by subtracting the previous month’s read from the current month’s read. The billing cycle can range anywhere from 28-32 days, depending on holidays and weekends. One month you could have 28 days in your billing cycle while the next month there were 32 days. Always refer to the “Compare Your Use” section on your utility bill for the amount of days in your billing cycle.
More People at Home
The greater the number of people there are in the house, the greater your increase in energy usage. What used to be a normal day of having an unoccupied house during work, school or vacation hours has now changed to having a fully occupied house 24/7. The way we work, educate, and live is changing our everyday energy habits. More time is being spent at home, leading to more utilities being used and increased bills. Always refer to the “Compare Your Use” section on your utility bill for the period of usage (current month, last month, one year ago).
Inconsistent or Inefficient Thermostat Use
The way you use your thermostat can affect your utility bill. Most people adjust their home thermostat based on how warm or cool they want to be, just like in a vehicle. While it may be a great idea at the time, it’s an inefficient way to control the temperature of your home and causes fluctuations in your utility bill. To save up to 10% per year on your utility bill, try setting your thermostat back at least 7-10° lower than normal during an 8 hour or more period. When you leave for work, set it lower than normal and when you return, adjust it to normal or lower without sacrificing comfort. For best results, install a smart programmable thermostat and set it to automatically control the temperature of your home. Contrary to popular belief, setting your thermostat at a hotter setting than normal when you turn on the heat or after the thermostat has been set back does not warm your home faster. In the winter, the lower you keep the interior temperature of your home, the slower the heat loss. The lower the heat loss, the more energy you save. Get more information on thermostats by visiting https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats.
Water leaks happen and can cause a fluctuation in your water consumption reflected on your utility bill. While some leaks can be seen, others can be hard to detect. Most common areas for water leaks are around faucets, hot water tanks, toilets, hose bibs and at the meter. A good practice is to check these areas regularly, especially the toilet. A toilet leak can waste a range of 30 gallons a day to 4,000 gallons a day, depending on the severity of the leak. Visit the water leaks page on our website for more information on how to check for leaks.
Air leaks occur when the air outside your home enters and the heated or cooled air escapes through cracks, holes and openings, resulting in significant heating and cooling waste. Most common areas for air leaks are around doors and window frames, electrical outlets, switch plates, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, dryer vent pass-throughs, vents and fans, and plumbing. To help prevent air leaks and drafts, caulk and weatherstrip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside, install foam gaskets behind outlets and switch plates, replace door thresholds or use a rolled up towel at the bottom of the door, and keep the fireplace damper tightly closed. For more great tips on detecting air leaks and sealing your home, visit https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/air-sealing-your-home/detecting-air-leaks.
In order to effectively save energy and money on your utility bill annually, smart choices in your energy use throughout the whole house must be made. Taking the whole house approach will ensure the greatest amount of savings per year.
Most Common Causes of Energy Waste Around the House
Phantom Power (Standby Electricity)
The average American household owns at least 25 consumer electronic devices and those numbers are steadily increasing. Even when turned off, these devices and appliances continue to use energy, commonly referred to as phantom power. Your televisions, computers, chargers, lamps, gaming consoles, coffee maker, etc. all consume energy while plugged into the wall. Even though they are not actively being used, they are passively using energy. The best way to avoid phantom power is by using power strips. Plugging electronics/devices/small appliances into power strips and using the switch on the power strip will cut all power to them. For even more savings, unplug the devices that aren’t used as often. Phantom power may not cause an immediate fluctuation in your utility bill, it can add up throughout the year.
Water Heater Temperature
Water heaters often come from the factory with high temperature settings. Set your temperature at 120° for comfortable hot water. For each 10° reduction, the water heater energy consumption is reduced 3-5%. For even greater savings for a tank-style water heater, wrap with an approved insulating blanket, being careful to avoid the thermostat on electric models and the top, bottom, thermostat and burner compartment of gas models.
While the older appliances in your home may be in good condition and still run, eventually they degrade and become inefficient. Despite their good condition, these older appliances often use more energy to generate the same amount of power as newer models. Efficiency standards have changed and appliances have become more energy efficient. If you have appliances that are 15 years old or older, making the investment in newer, energy efficient models could significantly reduce your utility bill. Be sure to refer to the bright yellow Energy Guide label before purchasing to get an average annual energy consumption and operating cost. Get more information at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0072-shopping-home-appliances-use-energyguide-label.
New or Seasonal Appliances
Adding new appliances or using seasonal appliances can cause changes in your utility bills. Seasonal appliances often include space heaters, humidifiers, fireplaces, and electric blankets in the winter months and irrigation systems, window air conditioners, fans, dehumidifiers, pool heaters and hot tubs in summer months. Being aware of the appliances you use throughout the year will not only help you understand your energy usage but also take actions to conserve it.
Faulty Heating or Cooling Units
Heating or cooling units that operate inefficiently can lead to an unwanted fluctuation in your utility bill. To get the most out of your unit, make sure to clean or change out air filters monthly and keep return air vents free of dust. In the summer, your air conditioner condenser unit should be free from grass clippings, weeds and debris. Preseason checkups by a licensed contractor on heating and cooling units can help detect problems and avoid system failures.
Your home’s insulation can have an impact on your utilities as over half of your monthly utility bill is from heating or cooling your home. Cool air is dense and sinks while warm air is light and rises. Inside your home, warm air flows from warm areas to cooler areas until there is no longer a temperature difference. The heat flow can be from room to room or through floors, walls and ceilings, causing you to lose valuable heated air. When your home is properly insulated, the insulation helps provide a barrier to prevent the heated or cooled air from escaping and the hot or cold air outside from entering. The Department of Energy offers great information on home insulation. A Home Energy Evaluation from TVA EnergyRight® can offer advice on energy savings and connect you to qualified contractors.
Utility Bill Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve been on vacation away from my home and not using energy. Why am I getting a bill?
While you get a break to enjoy a vacation, your home does not - it’s always “on.” Your house works every day to maintain the comforts of our everyday lives. Even though nobody is home, the hot water heater works to keep your water warm, your refrigerator and freezer work to keep your food cold and frozen, and your heat and air unit works to keep air circulating and manage humidity levels. Any appliance that you leave plugged in or connected will continue to use electricity, even when turned off.
My house is the same size as my neighbor’s and my family is the same size. Why is my utility bill different than theirs?
There’s no comparing utility bills with friends and neighbors as no two households use energy in the same way. Do you use your oven for cooking dinner while your neighbor uses the microwave? Are your windows air tight while your neighbor’s are leaking? Do you use the space heater while your neighbor bundles up with a blanket? So many factors drive energy use, it’s best to compare your current use to your past energy use and consider all changes in your habits.
Why is my wastewater charge more than my water charge?
The major reason is that water distribution and wastewater collection are two totally different systems that follow different standards for processes. The process to pump, treat, and distribute source water follows rigorous state mandates, while the process of collecting, processing, and releasing wastewater back into the rivers follows stringent environmental regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The costs of treating wastewater to meet required EPA regulations are much greater than the costs of treating water. To protect the health and safety of our community, Jackson Energy Authority follows all state mandates and EPA regulations for our water and wastewater systems.
Why are there city garbage collection fees on my bill?
City garbage collection fees, billed to everyone inside city limits, are fees from the City of Jackson or the City of Medina for picking up your garbage. As a convenience to city residents, Jackson Energy Authority serves as a billing and collection agent only for garbage services and is not responsible for pickup. Questions must be directed to the respective cities. For resources on garbage pickup, visit the garbage pickup page in the support section of our website.