Published onNovember 5th, 2020
Factors That Affect Your New York City Electric Bill
If you own property or rent in New York City, you may have asked recently: why is my electric bill so high? There are multiple factors that affect your electricity costs. Let’s take a look at what could be driving up your bill and how you could reduce expenses with a little bit of forethought.
How Your Electric Bill Is Calculated
Understanding kilowatt hours… and more
Consolidated Edison, known as Con Edison or Con Ed locally, provides the electricity to New York City. Billing from Con Edison can be complicated because fees are calculated differently for private homes, large residential properties, commercial spaces, industrial facilities, and the like.
You pay for supply, delivery, and taxes, and your electricity usage is calculated using kilowatt hours (kWh) as a base unit. The number of kilowatt hours used, as recorded by your electric meter, multiplied by the price per kilowatt hour determines your electricity cost. At present, the typical electric bill for a New York City resident using 300 kWh per month is $78.52.
However, this is just the simplest fixed rate. Some customers of Con Edison have other rate programs, which may be combined, such as:
- Incremental rate – any energy use over a certain threshold is billed at a higher rate
- Hourly rate – fees vary throughout the day, depending on the total demand on the power grid (capacity)
- Seasonal rate – another rate variation, based on the fact that electrical use typically goes up in the summer with high air conditioning use and goes down in winter due to heating with gas-powered steam
If you’re not sure how your rate is determined, you can contact Con Edison or use their rate calculator.
Electricity Consumption That Is Reflected in Your Bill
Heating and air conditioning
For most people, heating and cooling make up the largest part of their electric bill. In New York City, many buildings still use steam heat powered by a gas-fueled boiler, but they may supplement with plug-in electric heaters in chilly apartments. These electric heaters can draw quite a bit of electricity at the highest setting of 1,500 watts.
Air conditioning in summer also runs up many people’s bills, whether you’re a single-family homeowner using central air, a condo dweller using a window AC unit, or a large property owner running air conditioning for the entire building.
Size and location of your property
Of course, larger apartments and homes are more expensive to heat and cool than smaller ones, and that will be reflected in your bill. Even a reasonably small space with very high ceilings can take much more energy to keep comfortable than a compact living space would.
The location of your home or office plays a role here too. If the property receives a lot of sunlight, for example, it may remain warmer in winter but be hotter in summer. On the other hand, a building in a windy location may be colder in winter but more temperate in summer when temperatures climb.
Running electronic appliances and devices
In addition to HVAC, using electronic appliances and devices can also add significantly to your charges for electricity. Many apartments nowadays have dishwashers and in-unit laundry that draw lots of power, in addition to refrigerators and stoves.
Lights, televisions, computers, and charging stations also contribute. Some appliances even use electricity when you’re not using them if they have a clock or timer feature built in.
Using old appliances
Old appliances are generally much less energy efficient than newer ones. If you have a sudden bump in your electric bill that can’t be explained by an increase in the overall cost of electricity, this is one of the first places you should look.
Malfunctioning water heater
A failing water heater is another classic cause for a precipitous jump in electricity costs. This often happens as the heating element at the base becomes buried in sediment and starts cycling nonstop to try to keep the water hot. It’s worth having the heater inspected if you are looking for causes of mysteriously high electric bills.
We all expect to see a jump in electricity use during a winter cold snap or a summer heat wave. However, these days we’re seeing more and more extended extreme weather conditions. While these are obviously outside your control, they do influence your invoicing and can be mitigated with some of the tips below.
A poorly insulated space will be harder to keep warm or cool as the season warrants. Classic places where buildings lose energy are:
- Thin walls, especially with no insulation
- Attics and uppermost floors close to the roof, often uninsulated on top
- Around windows
- At the tops and bottoms of doors where there may be gaps
- Lobbies where people come and go through a single door rather than a double-door system
Tips to Reduce Your Electric Bill
Use efficient HVAC
One of the best ways to ensure your electric bill stays as reasonable as possible is by using efficient heating and cooling. Make sure everything is running smoothly, including maintaining steam radiators so electric heating supplementation is not needed. Routine maintenance for all systems is essential here, as is making sure your heating and cooling is adequate for the space.
Programmable thermostats can make HVAC systems more efficient. They allow users to change the temperature when they’re not home, set it in a way that will save energy at night, and automatically shift it to a more comfortable temperature at other times.
Close off rooms you’re not using
If you are able to close off rooms from your central heating or air conditioning, this will also help lower bills. Naturally, you need to keep some heat running in the dead of winter to prevent freezing pipes. But the rest of the year, make an effort to not heat or cool rooms you only use now and then. Consider portable heating and cooling for these spaces for occasional use.
Install ceiling fans
Ceiling fans are a great addition to nearly every space, and they come in a wide range of styles and with many features, like remote controls. They keep spaces cooler in summer and warmer in winter by circulating air properly and creating more even temperatures.
Improve passive heating and cooling
You can influence your electricity needs through passive heating and cooling too. Some of this overlaps with concepts of insulation. Use window treatments to conserve heat or air conditioning, and open them for the opposite effect.
If possible, shut off air conditioning and open windows during the evening to allow cooler air into the space. First thing in the morning, close windows again, trapping cooler air, so the air conditioning isn’t needed until later in the day. A row of tall potted plants can also provide additional cooling in summer.
If you’re a single-family homeowner or have a smaller property that gets a lot of sun, you might even want to harness the power of nature by using some solar power.
Turn off electronics when not in use
While you obviously can’t turn off your refrigerator and stove between uses, there are electronics you may want to unplug, like coffee makers, microwaves, and toaster ovens. Once communication devices are done charging, unplug them. Turn off lights when you exit a room and use timers for security lights when you’re not home. Be mindful of televisions and computers that run constantly even when no one is using them.
Change your light bulbs
It might surprise you to learn that changing your light bulbs can help you save big on electrical costs. This is particularly true if you have a large home or own a large rental property with hundreds of light bulbs. Although LED bulbs cost more upfront, they last many times longer than old incandescent bulbs and save on electricity as well.
Replace old appliances with energy-efficient ones
When you are able, swap out old, less efficient appliances for energy-efficient models. Look for appliances recommended by the Energy Star program run by the US Environmental Protection Agency. These will not only reduce your electric bill but you may also qualify for rebates or tax credit for buying them.
Check and repair or replace your water heater
If your water heater is the culprit, it’s time to either fix it or get a new one. You’ll appreciate having copious hot water, and you can avoid the emergency created by one day having no hot water or a burst heater.
Insulate your home properly
If you’re losing heat due to poor insulation, there are many steps you can take:
- Add insulation to walls and ceilings.
- Improve the seal around windows.
- Replace windows with energy-efficient systems.
- Use insulating window treatments.
- Seal gaps around doors and anywhere air is leaking in or out.
- Install storm doors in front of entrance doors.
- Add thick carpeting or heavy area rugs to floors.
- Insulate crawl spaces and under buildings.
- Install double-door systems in building lobbies to trap air.
If you’re not sure where you’re losing energy, consider hiring a consultant to do an energy inspection and catch problems that are costing you money.
Switch to submetering for multi-unit buildings
Finally, if you’re paying the electric bill for your office or apartment building, you may be shouldering the cost of your tenants’ bad habits. It may make sense to submeter your building, which creates an individual meter for each unit and makes each renter responsible for their own electricity costs.
Need help saving money with your electric bill? Puzzled by your Con Ed statement? Bolt Electric is here to help. We can switch your property over to submetered electricity, install programmable thermostats, and repair elements that are costing you more than they should. Call us at 212-434-0098 or use our easy online form to schedule an appointment.