Electric bills can be hard to read and most of the time we only look at the amount due and then put the bill in the “to be paid” stack.
Knowing how to read your bill will give you valuable information that you can use to significantly lower your monthly usage and cost. Using this electric bill help will contribute to lower electric bills, not just for a month or two, but for years to come.
What’s on an Electric Bill
Though electric bills can vary by state and by provider, there are a few elements that are common to all of them:
- Account Number. You will need your account number when switching to a retail electricity provider. This is generally on the top of the first page of the bill as well as the payment slip.
- Meter Readings. The electric bill will have two meter readings, stated in kilowatt hours (kwh):
- The previous usage reading
- Your current usage reading, which indicates how much electricity was used since the last billing period.
- Electric Supply Charges. This section will have the usage from the meter readings converted to electricity cost, stated in cent/kWh. This is the portion of your bill that you are able to shop around for.
- Electric Distribution Charges. This section generally includes one flat customer fee plus a distribution rate, stated in cents/kWh. This is charged to you by your utility, which you cannot shop around for.
- Balance due. This part of the bill not only tells you how much is currently due, but if you are up to date on your payments.
Other information on the bill might include:
- A reference key that explains the meaning of each entry on the electric bill.
- Other information such as special notes, extra charges or an announcement of some sort from the electric company.
Using Your Electric Bill Information
Once you are able to read and understand the information on your electric bill, you can track your usage and cost over time. If your electric company does not provide historical data for your account on their website, keep track for yourself by logging kilowatt hours used and bill amount on a monthly basis. Use past bills to accumulate 12 months of information if possible. Update the log each month when you get your electric bill.
This information will also help you compare electricity providers and electricity rates. To start comparing, just type your zip code into our free compare and switch tool, located at the top of this page. Once you enter your zip code and click search, you will find a number of providers, plans and rates you can choose from.
It can also be useful to know how your usage and costs compare to other homes like yours and in your location. Consumer information sites such as WattzOn allow you to enter key information about your home and electric usage, then provide a comparison with average usage and cost in similar households and with energy efficient homes in your area. This kind of comparison can be useful in comparing electric providers and making the decision to switch.