very high electric bills

27 Replies

my tenant had a $350 electric bill last month, almost 3000 kwh. 1600 sqft brick house built in 2005.  What is the most likely culprit for this? I have someone coming to check out the ac this week anyways. Any other possibilities or things I should check? He said he's had a bill like this before.  He also has in the office 4 computer screens and multiple computers running 24\7 for his business.  I didn't believe him at first but he showed me the bill. It wasn't even that hot in Houston last month. 

All ideas are appreciate. Any electricians opinions here? 

probably not what's going on with your tenants, but I had a neighbor getting my bill and me getting theirs once.  Something to do with how they crossed the reference numbers, so when they did a reading, the computer thought it was for the wrong house.  They would never have caught it except their house was vacant.  My bills were quite nice for a few months there.  

Not saying he's doing this, but if they are growing any type of plants (I won't mention which type), the lamps will kill the electric bills...Hopefully that's not the case.  There are GREAT deals and kickbacks tax wise and installation wise for Solar in my state.  Might be worth looking into as well.  Good luck.  Let us know what the outcome was. 

Usually the highest energy usage for any home is the heat pump/air conditioner.  Unless this person is cranking down the air to keep his business servers cool, there must be a glitch in the billing or the meter may be broken.  I believe you can call the electric company and have someone check out the problem if it happens to be the meter. 

thanks.  I thought about grow lights but I've been there twice in the last couple of months and no sign of anything suspicious.   I wouldn't think the ac would drain that much unless something was stuck on drawing electricity. ..maybe an appliance?  sounds like a good reason to go buy one of those electric measuring gadgets.  

Make sure a neighbor isn't running an electrical cord from your tenants outside outlets to power their entire house. Ive had this happen to one of my rentals.

Also check for water leaks. If the hot water is leaking somewhere then the water heater will run constantly to heat the water back up.

I guess the most important questions to ask are:

Is the water heater electric or gas?

Is the clothes dryer electric or gas?

Is the range/oven electric or gas?

Is the heating unit electric or gas?

Just as an example: Our highest electric bill here in Katy (west Houston) has been $230 last August when the outside temp. was in the 100s for several days. Family of four, house is 1,900 Sqft and our AC and clothes dryer are electric (that's were most of the electricity goes to). Our oven/range and water heater are gas. Our house was built last year so that helps with efficiency. 

Sounds like there's gotta be something wrong with your bill or those computers are very inefficient. If the clothes dryer is electric (like ours), the tenant might be washing/drying clothes almost everyday. 

Hope this helps.

@Mike Landry

Im curious to what you find out as we are having a similar issue with one of our units.


I'll keep you guys updated. As of right now I am suspecting it's the water heater. Its electric and he says it only puts out enough hot water for one person to take a short shower. It's the original one, 10 yrs old, and has never had any MX done on it. But first the ac guy is coming out for a tune up, check up. 

Originally posted by @Mike Landry :

I'll keep you guys updated. As of right now I am suspecting it's the water heater. Its electric and he says it only puts out enough hot water for one person to take a short shower. It's the original one, 10 yrs old, and has never had any MX done on it. But first the ac guy is coming out for a tune up, check up. 

 Electrical resistance heating devises (Like a water hearer) are 100% efficient until the day they die. If you lose one heating element, it will use less electric, and make less hot water.

Look more to your AC-Heat Pump

Other than that, unless you have current flowing to ground (Very Rare) your tenant is doing something stupid, and with tenants, stupidity is boundless

I can't speak for TX but, here in NOLA, on three different occasions I've caught the electric company misreading the meter.  Twice was for my residence and once was for a business I worked at.

The worst one was I lived in a 750 sq ft. 1-bedroom apartment.  For April's bill one year...which is a nice month...they sent me a bill for $800.  I bet the electricity for ALL the apartments in my three-story building would not have been that much, lol.!  At any rate, they sent someone out to re-read the meter.  Yep, my bill should have only been for $40, so they fixed it.

thanks for the thoughts. @Joe Cummings

 @Victor Wooten

It is an all electric house. My thought on the water heater is that it either has a leak or broken thermostat making it run continuously. We have very hard water here if that can reduce efficiency?  How do I go about troubleshooting the hot water heater myself before I get a plumber/ handyman involved. I'm somewhat handy? 

@Mike Landry  If the water heater is leaking usually you can see water around it or in the pan if it has one but if its a hot water pipe leaking then it may be happening under the house. The best way to see if you have any leaks is go to the outside water meter and there us usually a little dial that spins when the water is running if that thing is spinning and you don't have any water on in the house then you have a leak somewhere. If you can't find the meter outside then put your ear up to the pipes on the top of the water heater and you can usually hear the water running through them if its a bad enough leak. Also check  the t&p valve either on the side of the water heater or on the top of it and I have had them malfunction and when they do they stick open and just leak water outside the home so you wouldn't see any water inside anywhere. 

@Mike Landry

Do you have an AMP Clamp?

Start clamping around and see what's drawing high amprage.

As far as the water heater goes, does it have one element or two?

If it has two, amp clamp the leads to the elements when it's calling for heat. The dead element will read zero or something close to zero. If you find a dead one, double check to see if it has voltage with a volt meter.

We had a problem once where the electric company couldn't read the meter so they estimated the bill. It was way out of line so they came out & manually read it. Corrected bill was more in line. A lot of energy companies will do an energy audit. Might be worth having them do one since you're all electric. In TX the main draw is usually the a/c. When our electric hot water heater was going out it just took longer to heat the water but didn't raise the electric bill that much. 

@Mike Landry  I was curious for a comparison so I just family of 3 used 1,114 kwh last month in an all electric house and we run the dishwasher at least once per day and the washer/dryer at least twice each (don't ask).

Anyway, if it's not too big of an inconvenience, ask your tenant to start isolating things.  Continue as normal with nothing changed for 2-3 days.  Check the electric meter at the same time every day and record the reading.  What's the average daily?  Assume it to be around 100 kwh based on the report of 3,000 per month.  Then target some systems one day at a time and see what happens.  Ask your tenant to kill the hot water at the panel when they leave for work and turn it back on in the evening.  Did that change the reading?  Look for a mild day in the forecast (if there is one coming) and kill the hvac at the panel (not at the thermostat) and see if that affects anything.  Next, ask if they can go a day without dishwasher, washer and dryer.  Ask if they can shut down their computer/office set up for the day, possibly on the weekend.

My gut tells me that it's the hvac, or as someone else mentioned, the grow lights.  Other major systems/appliances should just break down but should not consume more energy before they do so.

@MikeLandry its all about the consumption due to the fact that they are passing your current electric provider 2000 limit they tend to pay an average price for what "Wholesaler" they use lower the heater is a totally different thing call the company and find out the avg rate are charged at and the rate and negotiate a lower rate best cast senerio. Worst cast change companies who offer things like free weekends or install the Nest thermostat it automatically lowers consumption. I did d2d sales and it helps when people have rent houses or big family homes today. 

@Mike Landry

Go to and find a company with a better rate.  If you are using Reliant or TXU, chances are your tenant is getting rip off. 

update for those following. The ac guy said everything is running fine. He told us that the electric heat will use 4 times the electricity than the ac. A neighbor of his said that he has had $500 electric bills but his house is 2500 sqft. Right now I'm thinking it's just from an entry level non energy efficient build and having all electric appliances. He also has no cfl light bulbs.....I know what I'll get him for Christmas. He does have a small water drip from a shower but it was dripping cold water.  Water heater wasn't overflowing or anything.  I'm going to take a better look in a month or so when I finish my other rehab project. The tenant isn't overly concerned. 

Hey Mike, 

I live in the Houston area and a little over a month ago I was shocked to get a $355 electric Bill. It's usually under $180 this time of year. But I believe it was due to the cold weather and running the electric furnace a lot. Probably what happened there. I wouldn't spend any more money on it if I were you. 

I just started purchasing my first home but rented for a year first. All electric heat... my bill went from under $100 to $540 when I was running the heat & it is under 1700 sqft all electric heat pulls ALOT more energy when running. Also the house was built in 70's and didn't have insulation (which is about to be done) heat rises you may want to check the insulation in the attic 

As an energy auditor, I get these calls all the time,

Popular things are:

-extra fridger/freezers in the garage (typically a free or old one they dont realize uses a ton of electric),

-Hotwater tanks & Heating (is NG an option) If not look at airleakage and insulation

-Failed wel lpumps or sump pumps that never stop running,

-Non-Energy star Dehumidifiers,

-electric space heaters that get left on or forgot about

-A ton of Incidence light bulbs

And the biggest one, Is typically not the KWH at all, but people switching to other non regulated providers such as ambit who have a habit of slowly creeping up to double/triple the market rate.

This is an old post, but I will chime in on it.

We had a tenant that complained that her electric bill was way too high over the previous quarters. The electricity provider told her that the hot water heater is 1/3 of electric bills, whether 1 or 2 elements.

It is going to turn on each and every time the temp goes below the thermostat temp. In 2 elements systems, both the lower and upper need to be at the same temp, otherwise they work against each other and burnout one of the elements, usually the lower one, leaving the upper to work all the time. I don't know the exact science but they work in tandem.

It is true that leaks can keep it running as well. However, the age of the unit matters alot.... 

They are shipped with an empty weight notice. Over years, usually the warranty years where they are shipped (hell they know the amount of sediment etc., in water for a region, ask their lawyers) sediment builds up inside the unit and if after years of service the empty weight is significantly greater than the shipping empty weight, its a bunch of sediment in the unit, which also causes the electrical parts to work harder, raising electric bills, an unfavorable thingy for all bills paid, landlords, and those who like low maintenance assets..... Have the unit flushed out getting rid of the sediment.... It is what causes the unit's structure to leak within the inner core to the outer covering anyway. No sediment, no internal leaks, no high elec bills, happy tenant!  and change the supply lines to the water heater! or switch to pex.

Low flow shower heads also catch the sediment, causing the hot water to be turned up more, etc. etc. Replace them. 

You can't tell them to unplug the water heater when not in use, even though the bill could be reduced by 1/3.

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