We’ve all experienced that moment where we’ve opened up a bill from the energy company and found an unpleasant surprise. A higher electricity bill is another expense that you’ll have to fork out for and it can be especially worrying if you’ve got no idea why your bill might have risen.
It may be the case that you have simply increased your consumption or there may have been an error made somewhere in the process.
Here are five reasons why your electricity bill might be higher than you were expecting and what you can do about it.
1. The meter reading is wrong
The first thing to consider if you get an electricity bill that seems too high is to check exactly how that bill was calculated.
Your electricity supplier uses meter readings to establish how much electricity you used over a certain period – it could be that at some point you submitted a reading that was incorrect. To check whether this is what happened you can look through your bill – somewhere it will show you the figures that have been used to calculate your bill.
Using these you should go and check your meter to see if you may have submitted a reading incorrectly. If the meter readings don’t seem to tie up with those that have been submitted in the past this could well be possible. You should talk to your supplier about the mix-up. This may take some time to fix, however, so you are likely to have to pay the additional cost for several months while it is sorted out.
2. You received an estimated bill
It could be the case that you have missed an opportunity to submit a meter reading and as such your supplier estimated your bill. If this is what has happened you may simply be facing a higher rate until they have accurate readings and can amend your bill accordingly.
Of all of the options, this is perhaps the one with which you have the least to worry about; you should simply tell your supplier the proper reading so they can bill you accurately.
3. Your electricity meter is faulty
Another potential option is that you could have a faulty meter.
Meters developing faults is actually relatively rare but it does happen from time to time. If you suspect yours might not be working properly you’ll need to gather evidence to prove it.
The following information applies to UK residents only.
For properties with a prepayment meter
Find the meter and check the screen. If it’s blank or shows one of the following messages: error, call help or battery, there’s a good chance the meter is faulty.
You’ll need to contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. If they can’t fix the problem remotely, they must send somebody out. In both situations, they must send somebody out or fix the problem within:
- Three hours on a working day (Monday to Friday except for bank holidays)
- Four hours on a non-working day
For properties with a credit meter
There are two simple checks you can carry out to see if your meter is faulty:
- Switch off all the appliances in your home including any pilot lights
- Check the meter’s display to see if the numbers are still moving
If the meter stops, switch on one appliance at a time and check the meter after doing so. If the meter starts moving very quickly, the appliance could be faulty.
If the meter keeps moving after you’ve switched off all appliances, it’s probably faulty.
4. Your supplier changed its prices
It might be possible that your electricity provider has changed its prices. If this is the case your supplier should have informed you of changes to your tariff but it may be that you missed the letter or email.
If you find yourself in this situation you can change suppliers and may be able to get on to a better deal. Use price comparison sites and check with a range of providers.
5. Billing method of your provider
Finally, the amount you pay might sharply rise due to the way that your provider bills you.
Many providers bill customers by estimating their levels of usage over a period of months and taking a fixed monthly fee in the meantime. When the period is over the provider checks the meter reading and then changes the bill depending on whether what you actually used was more or less than their estimate.
This means that if your consumption rose, for example over the winter, you might not be billed for that rise until the spring. This gives the false impression that you are paying extra for your usage in the spring.
Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry – working together on this occasion with Sussex-based specialist Outram Research, who were consulted over the information in this post.