What is the Average Electric Bill?

If you’ve been paying electric bills for the same house or apartment for several years, you probably have a good idea of how big your typical monthly electric bill is. But what if you’re moving to a new place, or to your first apartment ever? What is the average electric bill going to look like then?

The answer depends on far more than just the rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) charged by your electricity provider. The appliances in your new home, your local climate, your personal energy consumption habits and many other factors combine to determine how much you’ll eventually owe.

Cost of Electricity by State

There’s a good bit of variety among the states when it comes to the average electric bill and the average price for electricity per month. In 2016, New Mexico had the lowest average monthly electric bill at $75.96, while South Carolina clocked in at nearly twice that amount with $146.09, according to the US Department of Energy - Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Rates vary among the individual electricity providers as well, which means you could end up paying significantly more or less than the average kWh rate for your state. What’s more, many residential electricity customers are charged a variable rate, which means the rate is constantly changing based on factors like the ever-changing price of fuel and the demand on the electrical grid.

So while EIA’s data can provide some useful guideposts to help you understand the relative cost of electricity in your state, these figures won’t tell you what you really want to know: what’s the average electric bill for an apartment or home you’re planning to rent or buy?

Ask the Previous Tenants

The one number that will tell you the most about your expected electricity costs is the amount that the current or previous occupant paid for electricity in your future home. If you’re searching for the normal electric bill for an apartment, simply ask the landlord or property manager if they can estimate the cost of the monthly electric bill. If you can ask the current or previous tenants, that’s even better. When house hunting, ask the same questions to the real estate agent or seller.

With a little luck, you’ll be able to obtain totals (or at least estimates) for the previous year’s electric bills. Be sure to inquire about bills from the middle of summer (and winter, if the furnace is electric), because HVAC costs are usually the biggest drivers of residential energy consumption.

Unless the previous tenant or owner was unusually frugal or excessive with their electricity use, it’s reasonable to assume that your bills will be within $20 to $30 per month of theirs.

Energy Usage of Appliances

Your appliances and systems will use the most energy in your home and cost you the most on your electric bill. Below are usage and cost estimates for your largest energy users based on a 10 cent per kilowatt-hour rate:

  • Central Heating and Cooling: Your HVAC system is responsible for about 46 percent of your home’s energy usage. A 3500-watt HVAC unit costs you about $85-$195 a month depending on your system’s efficiency.
  • Water Heaters: Your water heater represents 14 percent of your energy usage. Running a 4500-watt water heater costs around $40.50 a month.
  • Appliances: Major appliances, including your washer, dryer, electric oven, electric stove, dishwasher and refrigerator account for 13 percent of your electricity cost. Cumulatively, these appliances cost about $38 per month on average.

Click here to read more on what uses the most energy in your home.

Tips to Lower Your Electric Bill

You can’t control everything. Unless your state has a deregulated electricity market, for example, you likely won’t have a choice in your electricity provider. And if you move into a space that is expensive to heat or cool because of its size, you can’t just remove a few rooms to lower your bill.

However, there are simple things you can do to bring down your electricity bill if it’s higher than you’d like. Try these tips to see how much you can save:

  • Seal and insulate. If you own your home, consider upgrades to your insulation and windows, and be sure to seal drafts with weather stripping or spray foam. If you rent, you can ask your landlord to make these upgrades, but you can also use simple hacks like covering your windows with plastic wrap in the winter and putting up blackout curtains for the summer.
  • Switch to LED light bulbs. Compared to incandescent bulbs and even energy-efficient CFL bulbs, LEDs draw far less energy. Each bulb will cost you a few dollars more, but LEDs are also built to last for years, so you can consider it a smart investment.
  • Upgrade to a smart thermostat. Because these thermostats are connected to the internet, you can control them from anywhere with your smartphone. This makes it easier than ever to program your heating and cooling schedules and make sure you’re never overpaying to treat the air in an empty home.
  • Upgrade to ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. This is another area where renters often have to play the hands they’re dealt, but if you’re a homeowner, you’ll need to replace most of your appliances eventually. When you do, look for the ENERGY STAR label to make sure you’re getting an energy-efficient model.
  • If you have a choice in electricity provider, shop wisely. A growing number of states have deregulated their electricity markets, which means that electricity providers compete for business. If you live in one of these states, you may have access to dozens of different rate plans from a range of companies, which better enables you to choose the terms that are just right for you. Check out electricity plans with Direct Energy for competitive fixed rates from a variety of plans to fit your home and lifestyle.

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